Royal Flash


1h 38m 1976

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Oct 1976
Premiere Information
not available
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Color
Color (Fujicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Oct 1976
Premiere Information
not available
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Color
Color (Fujicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Articles

Royal Flash - Richard Lester's Swashbuckling 1975 Comedy on DVD


The comedy action adventure Royal Flash was a disappointment for the directing career of Richard Lester. That George MacDonald Fraser's handsome adaptation of his own Captain Harry Flashman book doesn't quite work is perhaps not the director's doing, as Lester's slapstick antics certainly keep the movie alive and humming on a narrative level. But Lester's particular style and the casting of Malcolm McDowell go against Fraser's cynically irreverent tone, flattening the jolly dastard Flashman character into something less original. Just the same, Royal Flash has its own following of devoted fans.

Synopsis: The 1840s. An absolute coward and turncoat, young Captain Harry Flashman (Malcolm McDowell) inadvertently becomes a national hero on an Afghan battlefield. Back in London, Harry uses his fame to bully others, claim unearned rewards, and woo exciting women like the promiscuous Lola Montes (Florinda Bolkan). After making an enemy of the young German nobleman Otto von Bismarck (Oliver Reed), Flashman ventures to a small European kingdom and is tricked into aiding a royal conspiracy by Rudi von Sternberg (Alan Bates) and his henchmen De Gautet and Kraftstein (Tom Bell and Lionel Jeffries). Flashman just happens to resemble a nobleman they want out of the way, and since part of the impersonation plan includes spending a wedding night with the beautiful Duchess Irma (Britt Ekland), Flashman agrees. At least, until he finds out that Bismarck is going to give him two nasty saber scars, so as to better resemble the man he's replacing!

George MacDonald Fraser's Harry Flashman is a character borrowed from Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's School Days, where he serves as the gallant Tom Brown's classroom nemesis, a school villain. The amiable conceit of Fraser's books is that the 'hero' of School Days has grown up and found his deceitful place in the King's officer corps. In an inversion of the heroic epic, the more cowardly and dishonorable Flashman behaves, the more success comes his way. Fraser's numerous Flashman books insert the character into every military event of the 19th century, from the Crimea to the Zulu Wars to the American Civil War. In each case Flashman behaves abominably, directing all of his efforts to seducing the closest desirable female. Royal Flash is an adaptation of the second book in the series.

Fraser's screenplay maintains the notion of involving Captain Harry with real personalities of the age. Notorious lover Lola Montes is just the kind of woman Flashman seeks, and Italian actress Florinda Bolkan supplies the appropriate dark allure. Also scoring well is Oliver Reed as the humorless Bismarck. In a cute bit Flashman treats the glowering Otto abominably, with some help from London policeman Bob Hoskins. But once in the heart of Bavaria Harry becomes a pawn in Bismarck's plan to expand German territory with a re-run of the plot from The Prisoner of Zenda. Harry is sucked into the scheme for less than honorable reasons.

Royal Flash is a pleasant diversion, but it does almost nothing with the amusing idea that a celebrated hero might be an unapologetic 'cad and bounder'. The main problem is that the impish Malcolm McDowell is simply too nice. This Harry Flashman would be Tom Brown's mischievous friend, not the bully boy who infuriates because he comes out on top, no matter how badly he behaves. The emphasis is instead on Richard Lester's slapstick set pieces, which had worked so well in his Musketeers movies. Flashman avoids being skewered by sabers in elaborate comedy stunts that include flying dishes, falling masonry and swinging on chandeliers. Many of these gags are quite funny, but they don't necessarily fit in with Fraser's comic-cynical concept of the Flashman character. Like Harold Lloyd, things just miraculously work out in Harry's favor. He just isn't selfish or shallow enough in his mock villainy.

Curiously, Lester's insistence on repetitive slapstick comedy at the expense of character would mar his later Superman II and Superman III. As he did with Harry Flashman, Lester ignored Superman's core traits, making him the straight man for a lot of irrelevant low-comedy hi-jinks.

Without a darker-edged main character, many of Lester's pratfall antics aren't all that different from the comedy in groaners like Start the Revolution without Me. Elaborate scenes, such as the inauguration of the region's first steam locomotive, are used for feeble bits of inconsequential humor. The wholesale borrowing of the Zenda plot turns Flashman into a standard matinee hero and only adds to the feeling that we've seen it all before. Britt Ekland has one priceless gag as a frigid bride on her wedding night, but otherwise is used only a a momentary decoration. Second-billed Alan Bates charms his way through a number of good moments, but despite his efforts Royal Flash just doesn't take on a spirit of its own.

The production makes excellent use of beautiful English and Bavarian locations, including a number of breathtaking castles and palace interiors filmed by camera artist Geoffrey Unsworth. Costumes and décor are the equal of any period recreation, but again point up the film's inability to establish a consistent tone. Lester resolves every situation with yet another circus-act slapstick scene, leaving Royal Flash an amusing but forgettable show.

Fox's DVD of Royal Flash is presented in a fine, colorful enhanced transfer that improves on old flat cable versions. The clear soundtrack favor's Ken Thorne's period-flavored score. Film historian Nick Redman interviews Malcolm McDowell on the commentary track, which contains several interesting revelations. Five years before, McDowell was approached by Stanley Baker to star in a film based on the first Flashman novel, but the project fell apart. Various personalities including producer David Picker contribute to a making-of featurette, and another amusing short examines the literary world of the Flashman novels, which are still being written. Besides a trailer and a still gallery, the feature comes with an isolated music & sound effects track, the better to appreciate Ken Thorne's music.

For more information about Royal Flash, visit Fox Home Entertainment To order Royal Flash, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
Royal Flash - Richard Lester's Swashbuckling 1975 Comedy On Dvd

Royal Flash - Richard Lester's Swashbuckling 1975 Comedy on DVD

The comedy action adventure Royal Flash was a disappointment for the directing career of Richard Lester. That George MacDonald Fraser's handsome adaptation of his own Captain Harry Flashman book doesn't quite work is perhaps not the director's doing, as Lester's slapstick antics certainly keep the movie alive and humming on a narrative level. But Lester's particular style and the casting of Malcolm McDowell go against Fraser's cynically irreverent tone, flattening the jolly dastard Flashman character into something less original. Just the same, Royal Flash has its own following of devoted fans. Synopsis: The 1840s. An absolute coward and turncoat, young Captain Harry Flashman (Malcolm McDowell) inadvertently becomes a national hero on an Afghan battlefield. Back in London, Harry uses his fame to bully others, claim unearned rewards, and woo exciting women like the promiscuous Lola Montes (Florinda Bolkan). After making an enemy of the young German nobleman Otto von Bismarck (Oliver Reed), Flashman ventures to a small European kingdom and is tricked into aiding a royal conspiracy by Rudi von Sternberg (Alan Bates) and his henchmen De Gautet and Kraftstein (Tom Bell and Lionel Jeffries). Flashman just happens to resemble a nobleman they want out of the way, and since part of the impersonation plan includes spending a wedding night with the beautiful Duchess Irma (Britt Ekland), Flashman agrees. At least, until he finds out that Bismarck is going to give him two nasty saber scars, so as to better resemble the man he's replacing! George MacDonald Fraser's Harry Flashman is a character borrowed from Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's School Days, where he serves as the gallant Tom Brown's classroom nemesis, a school villain. The amiable conceit of Fraser's books is that the 'hero' of School Days has grown up and found his deceitful place in the King's officer corps. In an inversion of the heroic epic, the more cowardly and dishonorable Flashman behaves, the more success comes his way. Fraser's numerous Flashman books insert the character into every military event of the 19th century, from the Crimea to the Zulu Wars to the American Civil War. In each case Flashman behaves abominably, directing all of his efforts to seducing the closest desirable female. Royal Flash is an adaptation of the second book in the series. Fraser's screenplay maintains the notion of involving Captain Harry with real personalities of the age. Notorious lover Lola Montes is just the kind of woman Flashman seeks, and Italian actress Florinda Bolkan supplies the appropriate dark allure. Also scoring well is Oliver Reed as the humorless Bismarck. In a cute bit Flashman treats the glowering Otto abominably, with some help from London policeman Bob Hoskins. But once in the heart of Bavaria Harry becomes a pawn in Bismarck's plan to expand German territory with a re-run of the plot from The Prisoner of Zenda. Harry is sucked into the scheme for less than honorable reasons. Royal Flash is a pleasant diversion, but it does almost nothing with the amusing idea that a celebrated hero might be an unapologetic 'cad and bounder'. The main problem is that the impish Malcolm McDowell is simply too nice. This Harry Flashman would be Tom Brown's mischievous friend, not the bully boy who infuriates because he comes out on top, no matter how badly he behaves. The emphasis is instead on Richard Lester's slapstick set pieces, which had worked so well in his Musketeers movies. Flashman avoids being skewered by sabers in elaborate comedy stunts that include flying dishes, falling masonry and swinging on chandeliers. Many of these gags are quite funny, but they don't necessarily fit in with Fraser's comic-cynical concept of the Flashman character. Like Harold Lloyd, things just miraculously work out in Harry's favor. He just isn't selfish or shallow enough in his mock villainy. Curiously, Lester's insistence on repetitive slapstick comedy at the expense of character would mar his later Superman II and Superman III. As he did with Harry Flashman, Lester ignored Superman's core traits, making him the straight man for a lot of irrelevant low-comedy hi-jinks. Without a darker-edged main character, many of Lester's pratfall antics aren't all that different from the comedy in groaners like Start the Revolution without Me. Elaborate scenes, such as the inauguration of the region's first steam locomotive, are used for feeble bits of inconsequential humor. The wholesale borrowing of the Zenda plot turns Flashman into a standard matinee hero and only adds to the feeling that we've seen it all before. Britt Ekland has one priceless gag as a frigid bride on her wedding night, but otherwise is used only a a momentary decoration. Second-billed Alan Bates charms his way through a number of good moments, but despite his efforts Royal Flash just doesn't take on a spirit of its own. The production makes excellent use of beautiful English and Bavarian locations, including a number of breathtaking castles and palace interiors filmed by camera artist Geoffrey Unsworth. Costumes and décor are the equal of any period recreation, but again point up the film's inability to establish a consistent tone. Lester resolves every situation with yet another circus-act slapstick scene, leaving Royal Flash an amusing but forgettable show. Fox's DVD of Royal Flash is presented in a fine, colorful enhanced transfer that improves on old flat cable versions. The clear soundtrack favor's Ken Thorne's period-flavored score. Film historian Nick Redman interviews Malcolm McDowell on the commentary track, which contains several interesting revelations. Five years before, McDowell was approached by Stanley Baker to star in a film based on the first Flashman novel, but the project fell apart. Various personalities including producer David Picker contribute to a making-of featurette, and another amusing short examines the literary world of the Flashman novels, which are still being written. Besides a trailer and a still gallery, the feature comes with an isolated music & sound effects track, the better to appreciate Ken Thorne's music. For more information about Royal Flash, visit Fox Home Entertainment To order Royal Flash, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)


Sir Alan Bates, the versatile British actor, who held a distinguished career on both stage and screen, via a string of outstanding roles in both classical (Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen) and contemporary (Pinter, Osborne, Stoppard) drama, died of pancreatic cancer on December 27th in London. He was 69.

Born Alan Arthur Bates on February 17th, 1934 in Derbyshire, England, Bates was the son of amateur musicians who wanted their son to become a concert pianist, but the young man had other ambitions, bluntly declaring to his parents that he had his sights set on an acting career when he was still in secondary school. He eventually earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but had his career briefly interrupted with a two-year stint in the Royal Air Force. Soon after his discharge, Bates immediately joined the new English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by 1955 he had found steady stage work in London's West End theatre district.

The following year, Bates made a notable mark in English theatre circles when he starred as Cliff Lewis in John Osborne's charging drama about a disaffected, working-class British youth in Look Back in Anger. Bates' enormous stage presence along with his brooding good looks and youthfulness (he was only 22 at the time of the play's run) made him a star and promised great things for his future.

Four years later, Bates made a solid film debut in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960) as the son of a failing seaside entertainer, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Yet it would be his next two films that would leave an indelible impression in '60s British cinema; Bryan Forbes' Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962). Bates' performances as a murderer on the lam who finds solace at a farm house in the company of children in the former, and a young working-class husband who struggles with his identity in a loveless marriage in the latter, were such finely nuanced portrayals of loners coping with an oppressive social order that he struck a chord with both audiences and critics alike. Soon, Bates was considered a key actor in the "angry young men" movement of the decade that included Albert Finney and Tom Courtney.

For the next ten years, Bates simply moved from strength to strength as he chose film roles that both highlighted his range and raised his stock as an international celebrity: reprising his stage role as the brutish thug Mick in the film adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1963); starring alongside Anthony Quinn as the impressionable young writer Basil in Zorba the Greek (1964); the raffish charmer Jos who falls in love with Lynn Redgrave in the mod comedy Georgy Girl; the bemused young soldier who falls in love with a young mental patient (a radiantly young Genevieve Bujold) in the subdued anti-was satire King of Hearts (both 1966); reuniting with director Schlesinger again in the effective period drama Far from the Madding Crowd (1967); a Russian Jew falsely accused of murder in John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968, remarkably, his only Oscar nomination); as Rupert, the freethinking fellow who craves love and understanding in Ken Russell's superb Women in Love (1969); playing Vershinin in Sir Laurence Olivier's underrated The Three Sisters (1970); opposite Julie Christie in Joseph Losey's tale of forbidden love The Go-Between (1971); and his moving, near-tragic performance as Bri, a father who struggles daily to maintain his sanity while raising a mentally disabled daughter in the snarking black comedy A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972).

Bates would slow down his film work, concentrating on the stage for the next few years, including a Tony award winning turn on Broadway for his role in Butley (1972), but he reemerged strongly in the late '70s in three good films: a conniving womanizer in The Shout; Jill Clayburgh's love interest in Paul Mazursky's hit An Unmarried Woman (1978); and as Rudge, Bette Midler's overbearing manager in The Rose (1979).

By the '80s, Bates filled out somewhat physically, but his now burly presence looked just right in some quality roles: as the notorious spy, Guy Burgess, in John Schlesinger's acclaimed mini-series An Englishman Abroad (1983); a lonely homosexual who cares for his incarcerated lovers' dog in the charming comedy We think the World of You (1988); and a superb Claudius in Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (1990).

Tragically, Bates lost his son Tristan to an asthma attack in 1990; and lost his wife, actress Victoria Ward, in 1992. This led to too few film roles for the next several years, although he remained quite active on stage and television. However, just recently, Bates has had some choice moments on the silver screen, most notably as the butler Mr. Jennings in Robert Altman's murder mystery Gosford Park (2001); and scored a great comic coup as a gun-toting, flag-waving Hollywood has-been in a very broad satire about the Canadian movie industry Hollywood North (2003). Also, theatre fans had a treat when Bates appeared on Broadway last year to critical acclaim (and won a second Tony award) for his portrayal of an impoverished 19th century Russian nobleman in Fortune's Fool (2002). Most deservedly, he was knighted earlier this year for his fine contributions as an actor in all major mediums. Sir Alan Bates is survived by two brothers Martin and Jon, son Benedick and a granddaughter.

by Michael T. Toole

Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)

Sir Alan Bates, the versatile British actor, who held a distinguished career on both stage and screen, via a string of outstanding roles in both classical (Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen) and contemporary (Pinter, Osborne, Stoppard) drama, died of pancreatic cancer on December 27th in London. He was 69. Born Alan Arthur Bates on February 17th, 1934 in Derbyshire, England, Bates was the son of amateur musicians who wanted their son to become a concert pianist, but the young man had other ambitions, bluntly declaring to his parents that he had his sights set on an acting career when he was still in secondary school. He eventually earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but had his career briefly interrupted with a two-year stint in the Royal Air Force. Soon after his discharge, Bates immediately joined the new English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by 1955 he had found steady stage work in London's West End theatre district. The following year, Bates made a notable mark in English theatre circles when he starred as Cliff Lewis in John Osborne's charging drama about a disaffected, working-class British youth in Look Back in Anger. Bates' enormous stage presence along with his brooding good looks and youthfulness (he was only 22 at the time of the play's run) made him a star and promised great things for his future. Four years later, Bates made a solid film debut in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960) as the son of a failing seaside entertainer, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Yet it would be his next two films that would leave an indelible impression in '60s British cinema; Bryan Forbes' Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962). Bates' performances as a murderer on the lam who finds solace at a farm house in the company of children in the former, and a young working-class husband who struggles with his identity in a loveless marriage in the latter, were such finely nuanced portrayals of loners coping with an oppressive social order that he struck a chord with both audiences and critics alike. Soon, Bates was considered a key actor in the "angry young men" movement of the decade that included Albert Finney and Tom Courtney. For the next ten years, Bates simply moved from strength to strength as he chose film roles that both highlighted his range and raised his stock as an international celebrity: reprising his stage role as the brutish thug Mick in the film adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1963); starring alongside Anthony Quinn as the impressionable young writer Basil in Zorba the Greek (1964); the raffish charmer Jos who falls in love with Lynn Redgrave in the mod comedy Georgy Girl; the bemused young soldier who falls in love with a young mental patient (a radiantly young Genevieve Bujold) in the subdued anti-was satire King of Hearts (both 1966); reuniting with director Schlesinger again in the effective period drama Far from the Madding Crowd (1967); a Russian Jew falsely accused of murder in John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968, remarkably, his only Oscar nomination); as Rupert, the freethinking fellow who craves love and understanding in Ken Russell's superb Women in Love (1969); playing Vershinin in Sir Laurence Olivier's underrated The Three Sisters (1970); opposite Julie Christie in Joseph Losey's tale of forbidden love The Go-Between (1971); and his moving, near-tragic performance as Bri, a father who struggles daily to maintain his sanity while raising a mentally disabled daughter in the snarking black comedy A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972). Bates would slow down his film work, concentrating on the stage for the next few years, including a Tony award winning turn on Broadway for his role in Butley (1972), but he reemerged strongly in the late '70s in three good films: a conniving womanizer in The Shout; Jill Clayburgh's love interest in Paul Mazursky's hit An Unmarried Woman (1978); and as Rudge, Bette Midler's overbearing manager in The Rose (1979). By the '80s, Bates filled out somewhat physically, but his now burly presence looked just right in some quality roles: as the notorious spy, Guy Burgess, in John Schlesinger's acclaimed mini-series An Englishman Abroad (1983); a lonely homosexual who cares for his incarcerated lovers' dog in the charming comedy We think the World of You (1988); and a superb Claudius in Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (1990). Tragically, Bates lost his son Tristan to an asthma attack in 1990; and lost his wife, actress Victoria Ward, in 1992. This led to too few film roles for the next several years, although he remained quite active on stage and television. However, just recently, Bates has had some choice moments on the silver screen, most notably as the butler Mr. Jennings in Robert Altman's murder mystery Gosford Park (2001); and scored a great comic coup as a gun-toting, flag-waving Hollywood has-been in a very broad satire about the Canadian movie industry Hollywood North (2003). Also, theatre fans had a treat when Bates appeared on Broadway last year to critical acclaim (and won a second Tony award) for his portrayal of an impoverished 19th century Russian nobleman in Fortune's Fool (2002). Most deservedly, he was knighted earlier this year for his fine contributions as an actor in all major mediums. Sir Alan Bates is survived by two brothers Martin and Jon, son Benedick and a granddaughter. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Never kick a man when he's down, he may get back up again.
- Harry Flashman

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1976

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1976