on July 2, 2003
"Scaramouche" is the somewhat convoluted tale of a womanizing rogue, Andrea Moreau (Stewart Granger) who courts a gypsy player, Lenore (Eleanor Parker) but ultimately falls for the purity and grace of courtesan, Aline de Gavrillac de Bourbon (Janet Leigh). Mel Ferrer appears as the villain, Noel, the Marquis de Maynes. Andrea's heart is set upon revenge after Noel brutally assassinates his best friend in a dual. But the Marquis has powerful friends who attempt to hunt down Andrea. Masquerading as Scaramouche, the bit player of a traveling theatrical troupe, Andrea draws himself nearer to Noel's confidence, all the while falling in love with Aline, who is at first erroneously mistaken to be Andrea's sister. The swashbuckling climaxes with a death-defying dual inside an opera house (actually an MGM set). Both Granger and Ferrer do their own sword play and stunt work, often teetering three stories above the gathered crowd on the edge of their balconies. There's plenty of sword play, excitement and thrills in this lavishly produced spectacle from MGM which, quite frankly, beats most like-minded contemporary fluff by about a mile and a half.
Warner Home Video has given us an adequate transfer. Even though no attempt has been made to minimize or clean up the age related artifacts that are present throughout, this transfer has held up remarkably well over time. Colors are fully saturated, bold and, at times, incredibly life like. However, there is an inconsistency in the color balancing, not even from scene to scene, but shot to shot. The entire image has a decidedly "warm" look to it which is in keeping with the lushness of its original photography, but several scenes suffer from a mis-registration problem that creates ghostly halos. Nevertheless, pixelization, edge enhancement, aliasing and shimmering are all absent, making for a smooth visual presentation. During the darker scenes, black levels, though deep and rich, tend to lose fine detail, but once again, for a bare bones restoration effort, the visual quality holds up remarkably well. The audio is mono but nicely balanced.
Extras include Mel Ferrer recollecting the making of the film. You also get the film's theatrical trailer. I recommend "Scaramouche" as a swashbuckling highlight of the 1950's. Though nobody did this sort of picture better than perhaps Errol Flynn, Stewart Granger is an ample successor and the production values associated with this film set it apart from anything seen on the screen - before or since.
on March 30, 2003
What a great movie! Lesser known than many other great swashbucklers, "Scaramouche" is nonetheless a top-notch production in every way.
Stewart Granger stars as the quick-witted Andre Moreau, a charming drifter who after the murder of his best friend dedicates his life to the destruction of the murderer, the cold-blooded Marquis de Maynes (Mel Ferrer). Along the way he fights many duels, romances sweet Janet Leigh AND fiery Eleanor Parker, and has several close shaves.
"Scaramouche" features a solid script, beautiful sets, lush costumes and gorgeous cinematography. The cast is excellent, with Mel Ferrer in particular giving shading and nuance to the role of the villain. The last 20 minutes of the film feature a long, spectacular sword fight that is a must-see for fans of the genre. I highly recommend "Scaramouche" to any film buff and especially to those who love adventure films.
(As a side note, I have also read the novel on which this movie is based, and I found it very entertaining. The movie differs from the book in several key areas, so if you have yet to read the novel, don't worry, the movie won't spoil it for you.)
on April 11, 2002
When you go through life thinking that there are few classic fight scenes that compare to modern fight sequences, its always humbling to be put back into place.
For instance, take the different between the WWII films "The Longest Day" and "Saving Private Ryan". Though the Longest day has tense moments, its extremely slim by comparison. (That is my own opinion. I know some would rather watch The Longest Day than Ryan, but, oh well.)
If you had asked me yesterday to name some of the best sword-fighting sequences, I would have immediately said you could find them in "Rob Roy", "The Princess Bride", and "Ep. 1" Even though that is still true, I was amazed at the quick swordmanship found in Scaramouche. Of the many appealing qualities were the uses of the surrounding props, and how the swords effortlessly chopped up the scenery while the opponents took swift jabs at one another. I also enjoyed the interesting uses of blood. When someone is jabbed in the gut, they don't merely cover up the wound with their hand and fall to the floor, as found in most classics. No, there is an immediate blood dispersal and wet wring that forms and expands. When a long slice is taken on an arm, I had to remind myself how much time the fx took, because as the blade quickly hits the skin there are steaks of blood that appear. I just found it exciting to watch them dance around swinging their blades with seemingly effortless speed.
Now on with the cheeze. The story somehow created a love triangle then formed a square out of it. And of course everything is alright in the last minute, and I was running to catch up. There are scenes that make absolutely no sense. And as great as the fights were there were "mock-ups" where there should have been fight scenes. Ten second shots of two unrecognizable foes fighting - in a pasture - in the fog. You know its supposed to be the hero and a sub-villain, but the point is never made. This happens three times.
There is an inopportune "unvailing" of the hero as he removes his play mask, and the villain doesn't even recognise him until he says the infamous, "It is I...!" And in the end everyone is related. The hero ends up with the wrong girl, and Napolean has a cameo, buts thats alright.
Oh well, cheeze is cheeze, and most movies have it. But, the majority of the movies that do haven't the backbone of Scaramouche.
But, you tell me, if this isn't a great example of in-hollywood location shooting. There are castles and great halls that I could have sworn were actual locations. But, hey, that's tenseltown.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) presents "SCARAMOUCHE" (1952) (115 min/Color) -- Starring Stewart Granger, Eleanor Parker, Janet Leigh, Mel Ferrer, Henry Wilcoxon, Nina Foch, Richard Anderson, Robert Coote, Lewis Stone & Elisabeth Risdon
Directed by George Sidney
Who ever thought director George Sidney known for his musicals would be directing two of my favorite swashbuckling films. George Sidney with "The 3 Musketeers," and "Scaramouche" from Rafael Sabatini have superb direction. Both films have the quickness of light grace and the rhythm to match some of the most amazing choreographic swordplay ever filmed.
Stewart Granger and Mel Ferrer are both excellent. The entire cast presents the film while avoiding any slip into comedy and parody. The highly improbable story is presented seriously and here lies the beauty of this film. I must admit being a little biased as I have always been a Stewart Granger fan.
Victor Young's colorful score is a beautiful mixture of various themes, punctuating the proceedings with the required dash and eloquence. If swashbuckling romantic adventures are the kind of action films you admire, you'll have a grand time with this one. Grade A production values from top to bottom and directed at a fast clip despite its two hour running time.
"Scaramouches" is probably the best fencing movie ever made. Only "Don Juan" with Errol Flynn comes close, because of the fencing school sequences. Here it is the training of Andre (Granger) as he prepares to destroy the Marquis (Ferrer), especially in scenes with John Dehner as his first trainer. But if it was solely for the fencing it probably would not be as popular as it is today
1. George Sidney [Director]
Date of Birth: 4 October 1916 - Long Island City, New York
Date of Death: 5 May 2002 - Las Vegas, Nevada
2. Stewart Granger [aka: James Lablanche Stewart]
Date of Birth: 6 May 1913 - Kensington, London, England, UK
Date of Death: 16 August 1993 - Santa Monica, California
3. Eleanor Parker [aka: Eleanor Jean Parker]
Date of Birth: 26 June 1922 - Cedarville, Ohio
Date of Death: Still Living
4. Janet Leigh [aka: Jeanette Helen Morrison]
Date of Birth: 6 July 1927 - Merced, California
Date of Death: 3 October 2004 - Beverly Hills, California
5. Mel Ferrer [aka: Melchor Gaston Ferrer]
Date of Birth: 25 August 1917 - Elberon, New Jersey
Date of Death: 2 June 2008 - Santa Barbara, California
Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 5 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]
Total Time: 115 min on DVD ~ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) ~ (07/01/2003)
on December 10, 2003
One of the few instances where the movie is far better than the book which inspired it, this version of 'Scaramouche' has some of the most fantastic sword fights ever put on film.
A favorite of my childhood, it is still in my 'top ten' list of adventure movies; Hyperkinetic, humorous, it never gets dull.
Stewart Granger never has been better, even as in other favorites of mine as 'Prisoner of Zenda' or 'North to Alaska'. Mel Ferrer is the suavest villain you can get, Eleanor Parker never has been so attractive, and Janet Leigh is a vision of Heaven.
Why the current adventure movies are not so enjoyable anymore?
While the sword fights are wonderful, the acting styles and the costumes are a very dated. I think the cleanliness of the whole production is a big problem - the gypsies are spotless, the nobles all look dry-cleaned, and everyone's white wigs seem to be made of nylon. It's very distracting. This had been the first movie i remember from my childhood, and i only remembered the swordfights. I've been afraid to see it again, and i was right - if you love good swordfights, just fast forward and enjoy them. As for the rest . . .
on April 27, 2001
Admirers of 'Scaramouche' tend to exult in its action sequences, especially the 'longest ever' sword sequence; these are terrific, but it should be noted that they are also mocked within the film - e.g. the 'duel' between Andre and Lenore in the caravan with pots instead of sabres. What is just as interesting is the way the film takes the familiar swashbuckler trajectory - an essentially decent man is forced outside of society and must overcome a number of obstacles and tests before he is restored - and completely subverted. This is achieved by the use of theatre in the play (director Sidney was raised by travelling players, and the tavern scenes have a vividness rare in Hollywood), both as a source of fragmenting identity, and as a metaphor for the way the working class infiltrated, and eventually overcame the aristocracy (as the troupe move from a provincial tavern to a huge Parisian theatre) - we are on the eve of the French Revolution. The film IS 'lavish', but this is to mistake period detail with the much more fertile 'theatrical' artifice, which reflects the film's themes. Immense fun.
on July 9, 2000
This lavish and witty adventure was based (very loosely) on the once-popular novel by Rafael Sabatini. It had been filmed before as a silent, much more faithful to the original. This Technicolor "talkie" takes liberties -- and has a lot more fun, despite its themes of revenge and hopeless love. There's even a Napoleonic sight gag in the final shot. The cast is ideal: Stewart Granger is rugged yet suave as the cynical hero and Mel Ferrer is appropriately icy as his aristocratic nemesis. (Ferrer is dressed in whites and silvers, Granger in warm colors.) Granger is loved by both Janet Leigh and Eleanor Parker, the former a sweet Bourbon, the latter a sexy coquette. To complicate matters, Miss Leigh is adored by both Granger and Ferrer. (One contemporary critic sighed: "It's quite a plot!") The third female is Nina Foch, the most elegant Marie Antoinette you'll ever see. Unfortunately, her role was partially cut in the final editing. The picture moves on several levels. At !the beginning, Granger's character André Moreau ("Born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad", to quote Sabatini's famous first sentence) is a careless man who knows nothing about politics and cannot use a sword. In seeking vengeance for his friend's death, however, he joins the forces of liberté, égalité, fraternité; and, studying with masters, he becomes the most dangerous swordsman in France. Hiding from the authorities, he takes up with a seedy group of traveling players and, under his influence, it becomes a brilliant commedia dell'arte success (hence the title).The climatic duel takes place in a glittering Parisian theatre, the antagonists moving from the boxes, down a broad staircase, through the crowded auditorium, and onto the stage itself. All this to a dashing Victor Young score. One viewer has called "Scaramouche" a no-music musical. Actually, M~G~M originally meant this remake to be a musical starring Gene Kelly. The director George Sidney alternated between musicals and "straight" films. It isn't flawless: One of Ferrer's victims gets the fatal thrust twice in the opening sequence, once in long shot, then in close up. And don't dwell too long on the "surprise" ending (a variation of Sabatini's) or you may wonder why the marquis has to be introduced to the queen's protégée at the beginning. He would have known her or at least her name for years.
on August 14, 1999
Scaramouche is one of the finest films yet made, not in a highbrow art house sense, in a pure entertainment sense. The underlyingthemes of loyalty, equity and "the chances of life" are woven through the film and joined to the awakening spirit of the Pre Revolutionary French people. First the fun! Did I say this film is Fun!! There are many genuinely funny sight gags as well as some very witty dialogue. However, the primary thing that everyone remembers about this film are the sword fights, including the longest (and the best one) ever filmed. The climax of the film is a sword fight between two deadly enemies that even against today's high standards for special effects is very realistic and thrilling. The other neat thing is the casting of every highly attractive woman in Hollywood at the time. I had never appreciated how glamorous Janet Leigh was until I saw this film and Eleanor Parker looks stunning as an actress (in that time a courtesan with a day job).
Plot The film traces the how one chance meeting can completely change the course of lives bringing death, love, loss and ultimately atonement. Aside from revenge for the murder of your brother, there is a new twist on the boy meets girl, loses girl plot. Andre Moreau (Stewart Granger) begins the film as a man who knows how to have a good time. Events push him to take up a quest for justice; this literally turns his life upside down revealing the "fighter" inside the "lover". This quest forces him to explore his roots and makes him appreciate the utter contradictions which life sometimes throws at you.
The negatives. Lets face it all films have them (even Citizen Kane has weak spots). Andre has a sword fight with his enemy, which should have been fatal, and one or two more than lucky escapes. But, even though these scenes are a stretch they do help set up the final confrontation.
Finally, I recommend this film to anyone. I know you will enjoy it! Hopefully, the DVD will be released soon so I can get a good copy of it. I have nearly worn out the video tape!
on July 26, 2003
It's all about the story. Sabatini used to crank these out - Scaramouche, Captain Blood, The Black Swan - and they were great as books and they have made great movies. This is one of the best. Of course, they have to do some movie shorthand. Stewart Granger (Moreau) has to wind up with Janet Leigh (Aline), so what do they do with Eleanor Parker (Lenore) who has saved his life and has been sharing his adventures through the most of the flick? Watch her skirts getting shorter all through the final duel! I'm not making this up! She starts out floor length and winds up in a tutu! She's obviously not the kind of girl the hero settles down with at the end.
Ignore this, or don't. This is still a spectacular movie. The villain is vile. The setting is exciting. The tale is lurid. The acting is delightfully overdone. Sabatini could really spin a yarn and the old Hollywood could really deliver it.