I first met LORNA DOONE in the late '70s, falling in love in turn with a 1976 BBC production as well as the original novel by R.D. Blackmore. It's a swashbuckling, star-crossed 17th century British romance which brings pleasure no matter how many times one has seen or read the story.
I've long wanted to see the early '50s Columbia release starring Richard Greene and Barbara Hale, and I was finally able to do so thanks to the help of my friend Mel.
John Ridd (Greene) is a farmer who chances to meet Lorna Doone (Hale), the "princess" of the powerful outlawed Doone clan. In a series of secret meetings John and Lorna fall in love, while at the same time John is leading his neighbors in an attempt to rid their valley of the cruelly plundering Doones.
The Doones are led by evil Carver Doone (William Bishop), who is determined to have Lorna for his own...and if he can't have her, he'll make sure that no one can.
If this version of LORNA DOONE is somewhat missing the lush and moody romanticism I associate with the original story, it's nonetheless a colorful and sturdily entertaining take on the classic tale which I enjoyed a great deal.
THE DESERT HAWK (1950), makes a fine John Ridd. The climactic fight to the death between John and Carver is notably brutal for its day.
Ron Randell plays John's good-natured highwayman cousin, Tom Faggus. The cast also includes Sean McClory, John Dehner, Carl Benton Reid, Onslow Stevens, Queenie Leonard, Lester Matthews, Ray Teal, Anne Howard, Sherry Jackson, Katherine Warren, Tudor Owen, and Myron Healey.
The movie was filmed in lovely Technicolor by Charles Van Enger. The matte paintings of Doone Castle are very well done.
LORNA DOONE was directed by Phil Karlson, a name more commonly associated with film noir titles such as KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1952), 99 RIVER STREET (1953), and THE BROTHERS RICO (1957). Other Karlson films reviewed here are THE TEXAS RANGERS (1951) and a Kay Francis crime melodrama, WIFE WANTED (1946), both seen earlier this year.
LORNA DOONE has been filmed many other times, including 1922, 1934, and 2000 versions, all of which I have in my collection. The 1976 version is only out on Region 2 DVD and isn't eligible for Amazon UK to ship to the U.S., but I hope to see it again one day!
The 1951 LORNA DOONE has had a Region 2 DVD release in Spain. I hope that at some point it will be released in Sony/Columbia's MOD line so that more classic film fans will have the chance to see it.