4 August 2013 | guy-bellinger
OK historical spoof
"Le bon Roi Dagobert" is one of the least appreciated Fernandel vehicles and I would say that it is rather unjust. Not that this comedy particularly shines but in comparison with the bulk of the routine standard "fernandellerie", this one holds up well enough. Not unlike Christian-Jaque's "François Ier", featuring a 26-year-younger Fernandel, Pierre Chevalier's film presents itself as the (joyous) slaughter of a page of French history, the main difference here being that the comedian dons the royal robe of King Dagobert while in "François Ier", he was a magus, not the monarch himself. So meet Fernandel as Dagobert I, king of Austrasia (623–634), king of all the Franks (629–634), and king of Neustria and Burgundy (629–639). Not quite a formidable figure actually as the " great king" of the film is in no way reassured by all of his flattering titles. On the contrary, he proves quite insecure , afraid to be forgotten by historians and to be remembered by all only the way he is represented in the French traditional children's song "Good Old King Dagobert" (composed in 1750, but never mind!), that is to say as the one that put on his pants back to front! So His Majesty (an anachronistic term, I know, but given the circumstances...!) spends his time trying to do something glorious, original or at least memorable and keeps failing miserably of course. Cheerfully mistreating official history, "Le bon Roi Dagobert" is replete with (intentional) anachronisms, such as "surprise parties", speaking clock, telegrams, lifts, cigarette-holders, pinup girls, advertising posters, ... and other incongruities that we accept all the more readily since we have been made aware from the start that the whole thing is being imagined by a little boy. Agreed, "Le bon roi Dagobert" is a far cry from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" but it nevertheless modestly succeeds in the league of harmless entertainments. If you have not decided in advance that this is an awful bomb, you will enjoy the performance of Fernandel obviously having a ball at embodying the lazy, unfair, self-satisfied, womanizing monarch. You will also like Darry Cowl as an executioner with exquisite manners. Pierre Chevalier's direction is serviceable on the whole but Robert Le Fèvre's cinematography proves surprisingly artistic in certain sequences, notably in the beautifully lit corridors of castles (at times you would think you are watching "Les visiteurs du soir"!). Well, do not expect the shock of your life (who would anyway?), but if you do not mind smiling without a second thought, you can become a vassal to Dagobert for one hour and a half.