The Flame and the Arrow
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Lighthearted adventure about an overlord, Count Ulrich - who takes it one step too far. It was bad enough when he kidnapped the pretty wife of the young archer Dardo. But when Ulrich takes the man's son - a rebel leader is born.
Still in his first flush of muscular stardom, Burt Lancaster romps through this costume adventure in full awareness of his movie-star dazzle. The story is a Robin Hood-tinged yarn set in 12-century Lombardy, where ace archer Lancaster finds himself an unlikely rebel leader against the evil lord (Frank Allenby)--actually, our hero just wants to get his kidnapped son back. Oh, and maybe win the hand of the fair Virginia Mayo. Nobody from director Jacques Tourneur on down seems to have taken the story very seriously, which leaves plenty of room for the odd strolling minstrel (Norman Lloyd in puckish form), good-bad romantic rival (Robert Douglas), or mute sidekick. The latter is played by Nick Cravat, the stumpy and swarthy acrobat who had performed alongside Lancaster in their circus careers (he would return in The Crimson Pirate, the best-known of Lancaster's swashbucklers). Here, the two men execute a series of glorious physical stunts, showing off their crack timing and willingness to risk life and limb. That's really the appeal of the picture, along with Ernest Haller's Oscar-nominated Technicolor photography and the lavish Italy-by-way-of-Burbank studio sets. --Robert Horton
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Top Customer Reviews
Recently received The Flame and the Arrow. The DVD was very good except for one thing. The end of the movie was almost too short. Need to work on completing the entire movie.
You might want to include the ending credits.
The plot? In the twelfth century, northern Italy is suffering under the iron rule of the occupying German forces. But, in the mountains of Lombardy, the fires of rebellion are still being stoked. We are introduced to the dashing, free-spirited Dardo (Burt Lancaster), a savvy huntsman and deadly archer (he's nicknamed "the Arrow"), whose wife had years before abandoned him for a life of ease and riches with the fearsome Hessian ruler, Count Ulrich, also called "The Hawk" (Frank Allenby). When Dardo, showing off for his son, shoots down Count Ulrich's hawk, Ulrich takes Dardo's son in retaliation. This act sets off the events which would ultimately transform Dardo into a leader of a peasant uprising against the Hessian invaders. Along the way, he also takes hostage and romances the beautiful noblewoman Anne de Hesse (Virginia Mayo), who is Ulrich's niece. This, in the midst of several unPC scenes of Dardo chaining up the Lady Anna. With another possible villain, the Marchese Alessandro (Robert Douglas) lurking in the wings, Dardo looks to be up against it. This just might call for a bit of chandelier swinging...
I'm a bit puzzled as to why this film isn't more well known. Yes, it borrows quite a bit from Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood (Two-Disc Special Edition) even as it holds to its tongue-in-cheek nature. And, true, it doesn't quite equal the polish, exuberance, and irresistible charm of Burt's later, more lauded THE CRIMSON PIRATE. But THE FLAME AND THE ARROW does offer its own share of lighthearted brio, colorful medeival pageantry, and, for its time, stunning action sequences. Perhaps, ultimately, the success of one and the forgetting of the other may simply come down to THE FLAME AND THE ARROW not being a pirate movie.
Burt Lancaster was definitely one of our most physical and agile American actors. He had that masculine magnetism going for him, abetted by his blinding, razzle-dazzle, con man's smile, his unruly shock of hair, and that rugged frame. And he had that bigger than life personality. Without a doubt, and with apologies to the gorgeous Virginia Mayo, Burt is the obvious centerpiece of this film. Your eyeballs can't help but track him as he smiles engagingly, waxes passionate, and performs with zeal his feats of daredeviltry. And, with him, just about step by step, somersault for somersault, and stunt for stunt is his partner Nick Cravat. Yes, they did their own stunts.
I've always been a fan of Nick Cravat, and this from only having seen him prominently in two films. Here, Nick Cravat plays another of his nonspeaking roles in Piccolo, faithful friend of Dardo's. It must be noted that Nick Cravat isn't mute in real life. It's just that he had such a pronounced Brooklyn accent, which he was never able to shake off, that giving him lines in a period piece would've been ruinous for the picure. Anyone recall Tony Curtis's horrid Brooklynese in The Black Shield of Falworth ("Yondah lies the castle of my foddah.")? Another trivia about Nick: he played the gremlin on the airplane wing of the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which starred a crazed William Shatner.
Directed with flourish by Jacques Tourneur, with rousing music composed by the ever dependable Max Steiner, and an Oscar nomination for best cinematography, THE FLAME AND THE ARROW doesn't deserve anonymity. I love swashbucklers. And, while Lancaster hadn't made but a handful in this genre (again, mostly because he was so talented he could and did dip his fingers in many other film genres), I count him as one of my favorite buckler of swashes. I saw THE FLAME AND THE ARROW when I was a kid and, dang, did I enjoy its brand of chest-thumping action and acrobatics. Back then, I was very much bowled over by Burt Lancaster and his swagger. I was never gladder than when I found out THE FLAME AND THE ARROW was finally coming out in dvd. This one's more gritty than THE CRIMSON PIRATE, but there's enough mirth, romance, and derring-do to make this a must get for me. If CRIMSON PIRATE is a five star flick, then this one's just below. Let's call it, four and a half stars.
By the way, for those with more padding in the wallet, this movie is also in Burt Lancaster: The Signature Collection (The Flame and the Arrow/Jim Thorpe-All-American/His Majesty O'Keefe/South Sea Woman/Executive Action). If you're a big fan of Burt Lancaster, you might as well get that one.
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