18 December 2006 | Bunuel1976
THE BLACK ROSE (Henry Hathaway, 1950) **1/2
I know this was shown on Italian TV during my childhood but I'm not sure whether I had watched the film in its entirety - after this viewing, I certainly didn't recollect much of anything and, therefore, consider it as a first!
Anyway, I decided to catch up with it now as an accompaniment to star Tyrone Power's most popular vehicle - THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940). Unlike that one (shot in black-and-white on studio sets), however, this was splashed with color and had the benefit of location photography: still, it's a much inferior spectacle, and the main reason for this is that the plot itself singularly lacks excitement - despite being basically an amalgam of Ivanhoe (starting off in medieval England with our Saxon hero opposing the Norman rulers) and Marco Polo (he eventually travels to the Orient and brings back samples of their exotic heritage). Also, despite the imposing presence of Orson Welles as a fearsome but noble Mongol warrior, there's precious little action in this two-hour film (though it's never actually boring)!
Despite the Fox banner, this was a British-based production and, consequently, the supporting cast and technical credits are nothing to sneeze at - the former including such stalwarts as Jack Hawkins (an unlikely but amiable bowman and Power's sidekick), Michael Rennie, Finlay Currie (as Power's proud and cantankerous grandfather), Herbert Lom, James Robertson Justice and Laurence Harvey (impossibly young as a Norman prince), as well as Alfonso Bedoya (whose voice was allegedly dubbed by Peter Sellers!) and child actor Robert Blake; behind the camera were such talents as legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff, composer Richard Addinsell and production designer Paul Sheriff. The weakest link in the film is clearly leading lady Cecile Aubry, who struggles too hard to be winsome but results only in being irritating most of the time (not surprisingly, her career wasn't a long-lasting one).
While certainly watchable and generally entertaining in itself, Power was better served by some of his other historical epics (among them the film that directly preceded it, PRINCE OF FOXES , another - though more modest - collaboration with Orson Welles).