19 December 2007 | bkoganbing
An Eternal Jury
The eternal fate of Lord Byron is decided in this film which seems to give the verdict already in The Bad Lord Byron. Byron's story and fate is decided and we see it by pieces in true Citizen Kane tradition.
The film flopped horribly for J. Arthur Rank and no doubt sealed the fate of Dennis Price as a leading man which began so promisingly in Kind Hearts and Coronets. In fact Price plays Byron in much the same manner he played Louis Mazzini in Kind Hearts and Coronets.
The film opens at the very end of Byron's life where he's lying ill of a fatal fever during the Greek War of Independence where he had gone to serve. As he's in his last stages of delirium, a heavenly court is convened to decide his eternal fate.
Citizen Kane is not the only influence on The Bad Lord Byron, the whole concept of the heavenly court is taken from The Michael Powell film, A Matter of Life and Death where David Niven was having his fate decided before a much more majestic heavenly judge.
Yet I think The Bad Lord Byron could have used the touch of an Orson Welles. The whole thing is rather too pedestrian.
Dennis Price does OK with the material and direction he got. Mai Zetterling as the Italian countess who awoke Byron's political consciousness and Joan Greenwood as the infamous Lady Caroline Lamb stand out as well.
The real Lord Byron wasn't a patch on what Dennis Price gives us. He was all the things his life shows us, an adventurer, a politician, a poet of the first rank, a lover of freedom. He was also one of the most notorious rakes in history leaving a trail of broken female and male hearts throughout Europe. He might also have had an affair with his half sister.
So if you were on Lord Byron's eternal jury where would you put him?