Saturday, April 18, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The King's Thief (1955) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

A splendid cast appears in MGM's swashbuckler THE KING'S THIEF, available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Ann Blyth stars as Lady Mary, whose father was unjustly executed for treason against King Charles II (George Sanders).

The execution was the plot of King Charles' trusted friend the Duke of Brampton (David Niven), who frames various members of the nobility and then skims some of their estates for himself after they're killed. He keeps the names of his targets in a little notebook, which soon falls into the hands of Michael Dermott (Edmund Purdom), the thief mentioned in the movie title.

There's quite a bit of action as the book changes hands back and forth, culminating in Michael and Mary joining forces and attempting to steal the Crown Jewels, only so they can gain the King's attention and tell him the awful truth about the Duke.

Few movie moments of the '50s are more pleasurable than widescreen color opening credits accompanied by a stirring theme composed by Miklos Rozsa, and the sequence here launches the film to a fine start. Alas, what follows is only a fair to middling adventure, though there are numerous nice bits scattered throughout the film.

The good things about the movie begin with the cast. I especially enjoy Blyth and Sanders, so they are reason enough to watch the film. Blyth is both lovely and spunky, no weak-kneed miss, while Sanders in his few scenes seems to be having a good time, surrounded by many small dogs.

Purdom, who had previously teamed with Blyth in THE STUDENT PRINCE (1954), is quite adequate in the title role, yet strangely lacking in charisma. I found myself much more interested in watching the sides of the frame to observe Roger Moore, whose character Jack is essentially Will Scarlett to Purdom's Robin Hood.

Niven curiously doesn't make much of an impression as the villain of the piece. He's a bad man, but he's not particularly scary or memorable. Niven did better work in many other films.

The supporting cast is marvelous, starting with John Dehner as the Duke's righthand man. Also in the film are a wonderful array of faces including Sean McClory, Tudor Owen, Melville Cooper, Alan Mowbray, Queenie Leonard, Ian Wolfe, Rhys Williams, and Paul Cavanagh.

Young players Peter Hansen (GENERAL HOSPITAL) and Robert Dix are also on hand; Dix and Moore became lifelong friends at MGM, which led to Dix playing the agent who is murdered at the start of Moore's first James Bond film, LIVE AND LET DIE (1973). He tells that story here.

Blyth's costumes (by Walter Plunkett) and hairstyles are lovely, though unfortunately the relatively pallid tones of Eastmancolor don't show them off to full effect. The cinematography was by Robert Planck.

The script by Christopher Knopf, based on a story by Robert Hardy Andrews, isn't particularly memorable, which might be the film's biggest failing. However, the movie moves along in a brisk 78 minutes, which works in its favor.

In the end the film is worth a look, especially for fans of the cast, but I couldn't help feeling that it could and should have been more romantic and exciting, especially given all the talents involved.

The film was directed by Robert Z. Leonard, who took over for the uncredited Hugo Fregonese.

The Warner Archive print of this CinemaScope film looks quite pleasing. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Peter Hansen in his Newton costume was both a shock and a delight the first time I saw this movie. It is one to enjoy on a gloomy day when you need adventure and spunk in your life.

6:12 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It's always fun to spot stars from my days watching GENERAL HOSPITAL when they were young. :) This is definitely the kind of film to put on to while away a weekend afternoon.

Best wishes,

5:17 PM  

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