11 May 2005 | James_Byrne
Perfect Sunday afternoon family entertainment
The major stumbling block in this all-star version of Mark Twain's classic children's story is Mark Lester, he just does not convince as a begging urchin, he lacks the street-wise cunning of a young man who has been dragged up, beaten up and abused by his monster of a father. There is no disguising his cultured and well-spoken dialect when attempting the pauper's lower class diction, and the Harpo Marx hairstyle doesn't help his cause. Charlton Heston, the only American actor ever to play King Henry VIII, gives a towering performance as the gout-ridden Tudor monarch and completely dominates every scene he is in. Oliver Reed is great as Miles Hendon, and proves to be a rollicking good swashbuckler in his clash with fellow British 60's hell-raiser David Hemmings.(It's sad when viewing GLADIATOR and seeing what twenty years of hell-raising did to these two talented actors). Coincidentally, Errol Flynn, the daddy of all hell-raisers, made a better version of THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER in the 30's, and also a terrible turkey called CROSSED SWORDS, which was the American title used for this film in 1978. What this version has over all the others is the marvellous supporting cast, not just Rex Harrison, George C. Scott and Ernest Borgnine (who is frightening as the pauper's father) but the excellent British character actors who keep cropping up in the minor roles. Michael Ripper, veteran of countless Hammer horrors, does a fine turn as the servant of Raquel Welch; Ripper also appeared in the very good Walt Disney 1962 version of this tale, as a broom merchant. THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER is excellent family entertainment, the sets and costumes are superb, and this movie may inspire younger viewers to pick up and read the wonderful Mark Twain classic story.