6 January 2008 | blanche-2
Adaptation of the Dumas novel
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. are "The Corsican Brothers" in this 1941 film also starring Ruth Warrick, H.B. Warner, Akim Tamiroff, Henry Wilcoxin and Gloria Holden. Based on the Dumas novel, it's the story of Siamese twins born to the Franchi family (incorrectly pronounced frahnchee instead of frahnkey throughout the movie) just as the Baron Colonna arrives to wipe out the family and take over Corsica. He believes the twins perished in the fire that destroyed their home and the rest of their family; however, the doctor who delivered them (Warner) escapes with them. He is able to separate them, and it is decided that for their own safety, he will raise one, Lucien, and the other boy, Mario, will be raised in Paris. Lucien, however, is the empathic twin, experiencing all of his brother's emotions before he even learns he has one. They meet when they are 21 and vow to get revenge on Baron Colonna (Tamiroff).
This is a very good movie, but the beginning scenes at Colonna's house contain some of the worst acting ever put on film. Apparently the guests at Colonna's house were extras found wandering the set that day and were given lines. Pretty appalling.
Fortunately, the rest of the film isn't like that. It's fast-moving, exciting, and brilliantly acted by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. who should today be regarded as a much bigger star. Unfortunately, unlike his father, he was working at a time when there was just too much competition, and, like Brian Aherne, he just didn't get to appear in enough of the films remembered today. Handsome, athletic, with magnificent acting technique, Fairbanks creates two completely different characters in Mario and Lucien and has, of course, genetic ability with a sword. Whenever one reads about swordfights, the Tyrone Power-Basil Rathbone swordfight at the end of "The Mark of Zorro" is said to be the best. It's dear to my heart also, but Fairbanks and Tamiroff do a bang-up swordfight in this film. Tamiroff is a real buffoon as the villain - it's a great characterization - he doesn't seem to know he's an idiot. Ruth Warrick, Phoebe Tyler of "All My Children" is lovely as Isabelle, the object of Mario, Lucien and the Baron's affections.
Very enjoyable, if a little awkwardly filmed with dated effects.