The Prisoner Of Zenda (1952)

RICHARD THORPE

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

USA, 1952. . Screenplay by , , adaptation by , dramatization by , additional dialogue by , based on the novel by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by , . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

MGM remakes their 1937 classic with more or less the same script (and , reportedly, the same camera angles too), this time sending into the fictional country of Ruritania where his striking resemblance to the country’s king (also played by Granger) becomes very convenient not long after his arrival. The monarch, who is a distant cousin of the traveling visitor, is a habitual drunkard who is vulnerable to a coup by his enterprising half-brother (), who plans to take the throne when the king fails to show at his own coronation. The king’s closest advisors see the evil prince’s plans in advance and dress the visiting Granger up to participate in the ceremony instead, at which he meets his betrothed, the beautiful princess played by . She comes to love her fiancé so much more than she ever did before, not knowing why he is suddenly so much more interested in her and not in finding the bottom of a goblet of wine. Meanwhile, the bad guy and his entourage, which include as his partner in crime, eventually find out about the impostor and it leads to a breathtaking swordfight between Granger and Mason, one of the few times that this film really comes alive. It’s a splashy, expensive production but the sluggish direction by Richard Thorpe doesn’t match up to the original’s more gleeful spirit, while Granger isn’t nearly insouciant enough to play the part with the reckless abandon that Colman pulled off with such ease. Kerr does herself proud in her few moments as little more than a well-dressed doll, her dresses looking suspiciously more like fifties prom dresses than anything remotely accurate to the period. , who played the lead in the 1922 version, appears in a brief cameo as the Cardinal, while Peter Sellers would make the next version an outright comedy in 1979.

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