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Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Prisoner Of Zenda (1952)

On the eve of his coronation as King of Ruritania, Prince Rudolf (Stewart Granger) is drugged unconscious from a bottle of wine supplied by his half brother (Robert Douglas) who has designs on the throne. The King's aide (Louis Calhern) persuades the King's identical cousin (also Granger) to impersonate the King until the real King can be found and freed. Based on the 1894 Anthony Hope novel which had already been filmed four times, this film faithfully recreates near shot by shot of John Cromwell's 1937 film version, even utilizing the 1937 Alfred Newman score. Handsomely shot in Technicolor by Joseph Ruttenburg (MRS. MINIVER), the film is an above average entertainment but it still lacks the dash and wit of the best swashbucklers. Try as they might, MGM never could quite turn the nondescript Granger into an Errol Flynn. As the Princess, Deborah Kerr's considerable talents are underused but she has never looked more beautiful on film. But the best performance comes from James Mason, wickedly suave as the treacherous Rupert. Directed by Richard Thorpe. With Jane Greer, Lewis Stone (who played the lead in the 1922 film version), Robert Coote and Kathleen Freeman.

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