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SCARAMOUCHE ($20) is a great swashbuckling movie that offers, what is undoubtedly, the finest (and longest) single sword fighting sequence ever committed to celluloid. The climax of SCARAMOUCHE is a triumph swordplay, choreography, camera work, costumes, settings and Technicolor pageantry- a combination has never been equaled by any other film in the genre. Sure, there have been bloodier swordfights in the cinema, but nothing to rival this Hollywood classic for sheer style. Another thing that makes the climatic clash in SCARAMOUCHE so impressive is the fact that the film’s opponents, Stewart Granger and Mel Ferrer, perform the intricate swordplay and stunts themselves- without cutaways to obvious fighting doubles.

Adapted from the novel by Rafael Sabatini, SCARAMOUCHE tells the story of Andre Moreau (Granger), the bastard son to a French nobleman, who lives a comfortable life in pursuit of idle pleasures, in the years leading up to the French Revolution. However, Andre finds his life irrevocably altered, when it is discovered that his best friend Philippe (Richard Anderson) is the infamous author Marcus Brutus, whose writings have helped to spread the seeds of rebellion amongst the peasantry. As circumstances play out, Andre is forced to watch Philippe die upon the sword of the Queen’s cousin, the Marquis de Maynes (Ferrer), and then finds himself a hunted fugitive of the crown for his association with Marcus Brutus.

Although Andre goes into hiding as a player in a theatrical troupe, he swears revenge upon the Marquis de Maynes, and sets out to learn the sword from the greatest masters in France. While amongst the theater troupe, Andre also gains a level of fame as a masked clown called Scaramouche, in addition to his romantic pursuit of an actress named Lenore (Eleanor Parker). Andre also finds himself in a dangerous relationship with a beautiful young noblewoman named Aline (Janet Leigh), who is the ward (and later the fiancée) of his sworn enemy- the Marquis de Maynes. The fine cast of SCARAMOUCHE also features Henry Wilcoxon, Nina Foch, Rbert Coote, John Dehner and Lewis Stone, who portray the villain in the 1923 film version of the Sabatini novel.

Warner Home Video has made SCARAMOUCHE available on DVD in a wonderful looking transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. This presentation really captures the flavor of an IB Technicolor print, offering the viewer a world of vibrant hues that are a true feast for the eyes. Crimson reds, bright blues and greens are a genuine visual treat, as well as being reproduced without noise or smearing. The image itself proves to be quite sharp and very nicely detailed, allowing one to appreciate the intricacies of the film’s sets and costumes. Blacks appear highly accurate, as do the crisp, stable whites. Contrast is generally excellent, which also helps bring out the sheen of the film’s Technicolor hues. The film element used for the transfer displays relatively minor blemishes- looking nothing like a movie that is more than a half a century old. Additionally, a grain structure can be gleamed on occasion, although usually in sequences that were shot outdoors. Digital compression artifacts remain well concealed throughout.

SCARAMOUCHE comes with a fine sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack that doesn’t betray any excessive signs of age. As expected, the track has been spruced up digitally to remove background hiss and surface noise. Fidelity is limited by age, however Victor Young’s delightful score is worth amplifying and remains very pleasant sounding at typical volume levels. Dialogue is fairly crisp and always completely understandable. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Actor Mel Ferrer is on hand for a seven minute Retrospective program in which he offers up his remembrances on the production of SCARAMOUCHE. Other extras include an MGM Animated Commercial for the film, as well as an essay on screen sword fights, theatrical trailer and cast & crew listing.

SCARAMOUCHE is a personal favorite, in addition to being a classic swashbuckler that features the cinema’s finest single swordfight. If swordplay isn’t your cup of tea, SCARAMOUCHE also offers comedy, drama, romance, old time Hollywood star power and glorious Technicolor. Warner really has done a wonderful job with the DVD, offering fans a truly beautiful presentation. If you are a movie buff, enjoy old style adventure flicks, or just like being thoroughly entertained, then SCARAMOUCHE is a DVD you will want to add to you collection. Very highly recommended.



Scaramouche (1952)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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