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Royal Flash


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Product Details

  • Actors: Malcolm McDowell, Alan Bates, Florinda Bolkan, Oliver Reed, Tom Bell
  • Directors: Richard Lester
  • Writers: George MacDonald Fraser, Thomas Hughes
  • Producers: David V. Picker, Denis O'Dell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Shocking Videos
  • DVD Release Date: April 3, 2007
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000MQ54MQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,095 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Royal Flash" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Commentary with Malcolm McDowell and Film Historian Nick Redman
  • Featurettes:
  • Inside Royal Flash
  • Meet Harry Flashman
  • Isolated Score and F/X Track
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Based on the popular series of Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser, Royal Flash tells the epic tale of the cowardly Captain Harry Flashman (famous for bullying Tom Brown in Tom Brown’s Schooldays) a would-be playboy and socialite, except he doesn’t have the money or the breeding. Seeing a short cut to the society crowd, Flashman agrees to Otto Von Bismarck’s scheme to impersonate a Prussian prince and marry a duchess. But when the scheme goes awry, Flashman finds himself escaping via the European wars, in which his cowardliness gets mistaken for military bravery.

Amazon.com

The term "romp" could have been invented to describe Royal Flash, a boisterous 1975 comedy-adventure starring Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Caligula) as Captain Harry Flashman: Braggart, bully, coward, thief, womanizer, and all-around scoundrel. Having risen to heroic prominence through sheer luck, Flashman gets sucked into a scheme by German statesman Otto von Bismarck (played with a superlative scowl by Oliver Reed, Gladiator) and courtesan Lola Montez (Florinda Bolkan, The Damned) to marry Flashman to a beautiful duchess (Britt Ekland, The Man with the Golden Gun) to control her province. But the political machinations are just an excuse for a rambunctious mix of satire and derring-do, much like director Richard Lester (A Hard Day's Night) and screenwriter George MacDonald Fraser (who also wrote the Flashman novels, on which this film was based) had perfected with the enormously successful The Three Musketeers. Royal Flash suffers in comparison; the pace in the middle sags from too much pomp and not enough circumstance. But the movie builds to a vigorous conclusion, including some excellent swordplay between McDowell and Alan Bates (Gosford Park) as an unscrupulous Hungarian. The movie's skeptical view of heroism and politics are a welcome tonic in an era of spin and image management. McDowell reminisces fondly on the commentary track. --Bret Fetzer

Customer Reviews

There are just too many serious flaws.
Utah Blaine
It also still has the power to make a person think about the nature of politics and power without being unduly heavy-handed about the whole thing.
Maria Marius
True Flashman fans will be disappointed.
J. Michael

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By George W. Lynn on March 5, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A great satire of Victorian England and most especially Victorian era Hollywood movies. Lots of laughs in most unusual settings. Who would have guessed Bismark would make such a comic subject? Hard to imagine why this has taken so long to make it to DVD. The only thing too disappointing about this movie is that it was the only one done to date from the immortal Flashman series, certainly Flashman in Afghanistan would be very timely and on target today, but at least the author Fraser and the director teamed up again on the Three Musketeer movies. I'll be happy to challenge to a duel anyone who dares to question my devotion to the books as long as they allow my friend to load the pistols.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dave K on March 20, 2008
Format: DVD
I guess I am one of the few Flashman readers who liked this film. I agree that Royal Flash is one of Fraser's weaker novels (probably my least favorite of the series), but I think Lester, with Fraser doing the screenplay did a good job. The two had collaborated to even greater effect with their classic adaptation of The Three Musketeers a few years earlier, and must have jumped at the chance to work again. It is too bad they did not start with the first novel, but I imagine it would have required a huge budget, whereas Royal Flash is mainly about personalities.

I thought Malcolm McDowell made a splendid Flashman. I think he looked the right proper Victorian gentleman/soldier, and he excelled at depicting Flashy as the craven poltroon he was. His opening monologue, as he tells the students to do their duty, while flashbacks show what a coward he was, perfectly depicts the character. I think McDowell even resembles some of the original cover illustrations for some of the paperbacks, and I sort of imagine his voice when I read the novels. I know Fraser imagined Errol Flynn in the role, but Flynn died in 1959, and his like has really not been seen in films since his death. Malcolm McDowell in his youth really specialized in playing smirking anti-heroes who seemed to have some depth underneath but really, they didn't.

I also liked the use of the Wagner music. The film is set (more or less) during the time Wagner composed in Bavaria, and I thought his heroic music was a good counterpoint to Flashy's cowardice. The supporting cast is a dream, with Oliver Reed (as Bismarck), Florinda Bolkan (as Lola Montes), Britt Eklund and Alan Bates. It is beautifully shot in Bavaria with authentic castles making it a sumptuous production.

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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lumpen on September 27, 2006
Verified Purchase
Two great actors, Macolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Time After Time) and Oliver Reed (Tommy) are at their best in this hilarious movie. It's based on Otto von Bismarck's rise to power in Germany and a not-so-heroic English hero Thomas Flashman (McDowell).

Flashman, who gained fame after being found unconscious draped in the Union Jack, had actually been trying to tear it down to appease Afghani invaders. The movie begins with his near escape from a gambling risqué house (in true Victorian style, the women daringly showing their petticoats). After goading Bismarck into a hilarious boxing match in which Bismarck is beaten silly by one of "the lower orders." Bismarck swears to remember Flashman as Flahsh laughs gleefully at the mayhem he arranged. Later Bismarck lures and then kidnaps Flashman into posing as German count because the real one has caught "Cupid's Measles" and can't attend his own wedding. In humor typical of the movie, Flashman is captured after the woman he expects to sleep with is replaced by an overweight stranger. After momentary surprise, Flashman says "well, since you're here," and proceeds with the task until stopped.

Flashman makes a hilarious cowardly hero as he barely manages to shine after a cowardly or vice-inspired act. Particularly funny and original is the poking fun of Victorian morals. The movie also has some good scenery, including and a beautiful segment with Wagnerian overture at the beginning of a hunt ("have the doggies found the boar yet"). A great and underappreciated actor, Oliver Reed does an excellent job of the very serious Otto von Bismarck. It's only too bad that more movies like this weren't made. Flashman serves as the perfect anti-hero type that we so miss from the screen these days.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Maria Marius on December 29, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Royal Flash is more than just a slapstick romp with plenty of laugh-out-loud scenes. It is that--but it's also a well-crafted and humorous look at history which can be taken at face value or viewed as a rather cynical commentary on the nature of power and fame. It's a clever depiction of the possible (if improbable) backstory for Otto von Bismarck's rise to power by way of a sly retake on Anthony Hope's books, The Prisoner of Zenda and Rupert of Hentzau. Instead of a True Blue Victorian Hero, you get an ignoble Victorian anti-hero. Unlike many comedies filmed in the '70's, such as Altman's M.A.S.H., Royal Flash wears well and still has the power to make one laugh without being embarrassing. It also still has the power to make a person think about the nature of politics and power without being unduly heavy-handed about the whole thing. The film stands on its own. You don't have to be a fan of George MacDonald Fraser's wonderful Flashman books to enjoy this film, but it's likely you'll want to read a few of them afterwards.
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