Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Malcolm McDowell, Alan Bates, Florinda Bolkan, Oliver Reed, Tom Bell
Director: Richard Lester
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Comedy
Based on the popular series of Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser, Royal Flash tells the epic tale of the cowardly Captain Harry Flashman (famous for bullying Tom Brown in Tom Brown?s Schooldays) a would-be playboy... more »
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Malcolm at his Best!
Lumpen | Vienna, VA United States | 09/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Two great actors, Macolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Time After Time) and Oliver Reed (Tommy) are at their best in this hilarious movie. It's based on Otto von Bismarck's rise to power in Germany and a not-so-heroic English hero Thomas Flashman (McDowell).
Flashman, who gained fame after being found unconscious draped in the Union Jack, had actually been trying to tear it down to appease Afghani invaders. The movie begins with his near escape from a gambling risqué house (in true Victorian style, the women daringly showing their petticoats). After goading Bismarck into a hilarious boxing match in which Bismarck is beaten silly by one of "the lower orders." Bismarck swears to remember Flashman as Flahsh laughs gleefully at the mayhem he arranged. Later Bismarck lures and then kidnaps Flashman into posing as German count because the real one has caught "Cupid's Measles" and can't attend his own wedding. In humor typical of the movie, Flashman is captured after the woman he expects to sleep with is replaced by an overweight stranger. After momentary surprise, Flashman says "well, since you're here," and proceeds with the task until stopped.
Flashman makes a hilarious cowardly hero as he barely manages to shine after a cowardly or vice-inspired act. Particularly funny and original is the poking fun of Victorian morals. The movie also has some good scenery, including and a beautiful segment with Wagnerian overture at the beginning of a hunt ("have the doggies found the boar yet"). A great and underappreciated actor, Oliver Reed does an excellent job of the very serious Otto von Bismarck. It's only too bad that more movies like this weren't made. Flashman serves as the perfect anti-hero type that we so miss from the screen these days.
It's about time!
George W. Lynn | 03/05/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A great satire of Victorian England and most especially Victorian era Hollywood movies. Lots of laughs in most unusual settings. Who would have guessed Bismark would make such a comic subject? Hard to imagine why this has taken so long to make it to DVD. The only thing too disappointing about this movie is that it was the only one done to date from the immortal Flashman series, certainly Flashman in Afghanistan would be very timely and on target today, but at least the author Fraser and the director teamed up again on the Three Musketeer movies. I'll be happy to challenge to a duel anyone who dares to question my devotion to the books as long as they allow my friend to load the pistols."
Laugh Meter Off the Charts
M. Lockhart | New York, NY United States | 10/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this ages ago, and I still remember being in pain the next day, from laughing so hard! My ribs literally ached, but it didn't stop me from gathering half a dozen friends and watching it again. Everything about it is a delight! Ironic, farcical, satirical comedy in the hands of masters. Everything is a joke: there are sight-gags, musical jokes, genre jests, and the movie mocks even itself, as well as the movie it's spoofing (The Prisoner of Zenda). Superbly acted, masterfully directed, by the best who could be picked for the job. Wish they'd release it again, or at least distribute it on dvd!"
Good Adaptation of One of Fraser's Lesser Books
D. Keel | Houston, TX USA | 03/20/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I guess I am one of the few Flashman readers who liked this film. I agree that Royal Flash is one of Fraser's weaker novels (probably my least favorite of the series), but I think Lester, with Fraser doing the screenplay did a good job. The two had collaborated to even greater effect with their classic adaptation of The Three Musketeers a few years earlier, and must have jumped at the chance to work again. It is too bad they did not start with the first novel, but I imagine it would have required a huge budget, whereas Royal Flash is mainly about personalities.
I thought Malcolm McDowell made a splendid Flashman. I think he looked the right proper Victorian gentleman/soldier, and he excelled at depicting Flashy as the craven poltroon he was. His opening monologue, as he tells the students to do their duty, while flashbacks show what a coward he was, perfectly depicts the character. I think McDowell even resembles some of the original cover illustrations for some of the paperbacks, and I sort of imagine his voice when I read the novels. I know Fraser imagined Errol Flynn in the role, but Flynn died in 1959, and his like has really not been seen in films since his death. Malcolm McDowell in his youth really specialized in playing smirking anti-heroes who seemed to have some depth underneath but really, they didn't.
I also liked the use of the Wagner music. The film is set (more or less) during the time Wagner composed in Bavaria, and I thought his heroic music was a good counterpoint to Flashy's cowardice. The supporting cast is a dream, with Oliver Reed (as Bismarck), Florinda Bolkan (as Lola Montes), Britt Eklund and Alan Bates. It is beautifully shot in Bavaria with authentic castles making it a sumptuous production.
What is wrong with the film? As many said, the plot is scarcely more than a rewrite of the classic novel The Prisoner of Zenda. So, there are few surprises here (though this treatment is decidedly bawdier). Also, Lester cannot resist"one joke too many" in all the scenes, putting in as many sight gags and sotto voce mutterings as he can. What worked in A Hard Day's Night and The Three Musketeers seems like overkill in this film. The material was already witty and clever enough and did not need so much "help" from Lester.
As to the DVD itself: there is nice little feature that gives an overview of the character of Flashman, and how Fraser researched and wrote the novels, etc. There is a feature on adapting Flashman to the screen, and you can listen to the music score on an isolated track. I thought the picture looked a bit "soft", but that could be the way it was shot in the 70's, or else, they could not find better print material. However, it is more than acceptable."