By GRACE CONWAY 'Catholic Herald' Film Critic PRINCE VALIANT Carlton: Certificate U Director: Henry Hathaway "y HOPE," said Barry Jones to me Iafter the Press show (he plays the part of one of the British kings), "I hope that it won't be taken seriously over here."
I hope so, too. Although no doubt some pencils were already being sharpened ready for the stabbing.
It is just as well to know that this is the first of a small avalanche of King Arthur films—in CinemaScope —but I can't think that any of them will surpass this in dialogue or spectacle.
The dialogue? It is in the lingo of the comic strip. For "Prince Valiant" is a comic strip, syndicated all
through the United States and Canada by Harold Foster.
All the characters—yes, even Mr. James Mason—are made to conform with Mr. Foster's drawings. For instance, Prince Valiant himself is a Viking and ought to be fair of complexion. But in the strip cartoon he has a black page-boy cut.
"They wouldn't dare to change him," says Barry Jones.
If you close your eyes (which would be a mistake, for there is something happening every second) you can always see the talk coming out in those little strip cartoqn bubbles.
"A fine prince you turned out to be, flinging rocks like that," says Sir Gawain (Sterling Hayden).
"Yes, he crowned him with a rock," the latter tells King Arthur (handsome but surprisingly inactive, impersonated by Brian Aherne).
Need I say that in the true Hollywood tradition no expense has been spared in research and location-finding? Henry Hathaway himself came over and photographed backgrounds in Scotland (which has been made the stand-in for Norway), Wales and England—and in some ingenious way this superb scenery has been used and reproduced in CinemaScope with its usual breath-taking amplitude.
Mr. Hathaway's research team ob viously subscribes to the school that conSiders the Round Table was a hollow circle (see Tintagel) and not a solid circle like the one which hangs on the castle wall in Winchester. (Of course, it is all Mallory's fault for not being more explicit.) Prince Valiant himself is played by 26-year-old Robert Wagner, who leaps up and down battlements with the agility of a rubber ball. As the son of a deposed Viking king he comes to Camelot asking to be taken into the company of the Round Table.
The throwing of the rock at Sir Gawain was a tactical error. But he redeems himself towards the end by a mammoth. clashing sword-tight with James Mason, who, I am assured, did not use a "double."
In between these two encounters are tournaments, jousting and one of
the biggest, noisiest castle fires (not Camelot, I am glad to say, but over in the Vikings' country) in screen history, with great bladders of oil being swung from the ramparts and poured on the luckless people below.
No, do not go to this expecting the noble phrases or moods of Ten pyson. Go to look and to have fun, like the American children of all ages who devour this absorbing serial week aft week.
The note of chivalry through Ter wee
Christianity is sounded loud and clear—and, oh, you should just see Sir Galahad with his shining armour and smooth. golden hair. Lancelot is only a pale shadow beside him.
ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO
Empire: Certificate U Director: John Sturges IvHAT a horse and arrow week this is! Often the horses look more than human, and more than once I have caught a calculating look in their eye. As for the arrows, they fly through the air thick as leaves in that well-wooded country known as Vallombrosa.
One of the better Westerns is this tale of a beautiful Confederate woman spy (Eleanor Parker), who insinuates herself into the headquarters of the Northerners' camp (and into the heart of one of the officers. William Holden), in order to help some of their Southern prisoners to get away.
Attacks from the Indians compel the opposing sides to join forces and once again we witness the handful of white men by some miracle polishing off about ten times their number of Indians.
the spartan economy with a
I i like s.
which this picture has been made and I won't forget the visual poetry of arrows released from the Indians' bows in unison and curving against the sky like a flock of pelicans.
THE FRENCH LINE Odeon, Leicester Square: Certificate U Director: Lloyd Bacon SHOWN first in 3-D, it raised a storm of protest and even denunciation in the United States because It was sent out for exhibition minus the Breen certificate.
Surprisingly, the girl around whom the storm blew—Jane atussell—sided with the denouncers, saying she objected to the offending sequences while they were being shot.
You might wonder why she didn't refusc to act in these sequences. After all, she teaches Sunday-school and is known as a good girl, and is a perfect foster-mother to her children.
Now the film comes to us in two dimensions and is a gaudy, showy and at times vulgar piece. Miss Russell's nickname is "Chesty," which about sets the tone for the rest of the jokes.