Set in the thirteenth century, an Englishman travels to the Far East joining the caravan of Bayan, a warrior taking gifts to Kubla Khan, but then risks his life for a woman called the Black Rose who has been kidnapped to b... more »e Kubla Khan's concubine.
An earnest Tyrone Power, a succulently hammy Orson Welles an
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 05/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"And what's a black rose? We're told it is the name given to the clove, the most precious of spices. In this case, the clove is Maryam, played by Cecile Aubry. She was a small French actress, discovered, it is said, by producer Darrell F. Zanuck, and who looks no older than 14. She has a small mouth which is filled with tiny teeth and a plump tongue, and she occasionally jumps about to express enthusiasm. If Vera-Ellen and Charlie McCarthy had ever had a child, it would look a lot like Cecile Aubry. The movie, The Black Rose, is no stinker, but it suffers from Aubry in the role. Unfortunately, it also suffers because Tyrone Power, playing Walter of Gurnie, a young scholar in his early twenties, looks every bit the 39-year-old man he was. The one insuperable drawback to the movie is its disjointed nature. We move from Norman England 200 years after William the Conqueror, to the middle-east and then on to a Mongol army moving and battling its way toward China, then to the imperial court of China itself, and finally back to England. We have a movie which is part historical adventure, part travelogue, part uneasy romance and, with Orson Welles playing the Mongol general Bayan with false eyelids, chubby cheeks and greasy skin, part succulent ham. The movie features some great scenic set-ups, interesting acting in one or two of the secondary parts, particularly by Jack Hawkins, and a nice look at a marching mongol horde, but on balance I think it is one of Power's weakest romantic-adventure films.
Walter of Gurnie, the illegitimate son of a Saxon lord who had married a Norman woman, is a hot-headed Oxford student who has left his studies when he heard his father has died. He hates, with good reason, the Normans. One night he joins a band of fellow Saxons led by Tristram Griffin (Jack Hawkins), an excellent bowman, in an attack on the castle which had been his father's. He planned to free some Saxon hostages held by his step-mother and her son, as well as to claim the boots his father had left in his father's will. In this will his father had publicly acknowledged him as his son. As a result of the attack, Walter and Tris must flee, and Walter decides they should go adventuring to Cathay to win gold, jewels and fame. Along the way he meets the great Mongol general, Bayan of the Hundred Eyes, who takes an interest in the two. Walter and Tris also are tricked into hiding a young woman, Maryam, who is one of dozens of maidens being sent to the Great Khan and who are traveling with Bayan's army. After battles and marches, archery contests, chess games and a walk along the rope of death, Walter is sent to the Chinese court to explain how powerful Bayan is and why the Chinese should surrender the imperial city. Now we have luxurious surroundings, manicured gardens, treacherous mandarins, jewels sewn into coats and a harrowing escape in which Walter and Maryam are separated. Finally, we're back in England, where the king honors Walter for his bravery and for bringing back the knowledge of the Chinese. All seems settled except for his lost love for Maryam. Will they be reunited? And how? See the movie.
Tyrone Power was Zanuck's champion swashbuckler. Power was, for me, a very earnest actor. In his early years he had great good looks. As he aged, his face thickened a bit, his eyebrows grew dense and his five-o-clock shadow must have been a real challenge for Fox's make-up artists. He was an actor who longed to show he could do more than prance around the scenery with a sword in his hand. In two movies, Nightmare Alley and Witness for the Prosecution, he fought for the chance to show he could handle unpleasant roles, and he did very well. Yet for the most part he stayed safely playing conventional star heroes. He died of a heart attack when he was only 44. He was filming, what else, a dueling scene for one more big, expensive and forgettable adventure movie.
For those who enjoy reading sweeping historical adventures, you might like the source book, The Black Rose by Thomas B. Costain. It's one of those big, fat novels that goes from adventure to adventure. Costain probably is barely remembered now. He was a Canadian journalist who, in his early sixties, unexpectedly struck it rich as a popular novelist. For ten years he wrote best selling fiction and well-respected popular histories. His fiction is packed with well-researched history and his histories read like well-written novels. The Black Rose is still a good read. The Black Rose
The DVD transfer does not have the crispness and rich color we've come to hope for. It looks like the DVD was made from a reasonably well-maintained source print which received no restoration work. One of the extras is a feature with Power's children and a former wife discussing him and his work. I only sampled it."
One Of My Favorites
Emily | Phoenix, AZ | 07/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this old-fashioned Historical Romance/Adventure about an exiled Saxon nobleman determined to make his way in the world, Marco Polo style. Tyrone Power is in his prime as Walter of Gurnie, and Orson Welles is completely convincing as Gayan, a clever, ruthless general for Genghis Khan. The romance in this movie is never cloying or unconvincing, and the sets are gorgeous, especially in the Forbidden City of the Empress of China. The movie manages to pack a lot of story into its 2-hour running time, but never seems rushed. I wish they still made them like this!"
Dull movie, disappointing transfer
R. Gale | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/30/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The Black Rose is an extremely uninvolving film, due both to its unfocused script and the miscasting of Tyrone Power and Cecile Aubrey. Power is far too old to play an Oxford student who has dropped out of college. A 20 year old in the part might have made the hot-headedness of the character acceptable, but Power was 35 when he made this, and watching him behave this way simply made me think he was immature or nasty and vindictive. Cecile Aubrey is truly awful. She comes across as a child, and has no sex appeal or chemistry with Power. It's doubly curious that she's called "The Black Rose" even though she has blonde hair and a light complexion. Orson Welles has some enjoyable moments as the warlord, and Jack Hawkins is solid as the best friend. There is some nice production value, but there are no battle scenes that actually take place on screen. This is a movie in which things just happen, but not because the characters are driven to make them happen. All in all, it's rather dull and definitely not recommended.
The DVD transfer is a major disappointment. The colors are not at all vibrant, and it doesn't appear that any effort was made to adjust the contrast and brightness levels properly, much less do any sort of a restoration. Since Jack Cardiff shot the film, it's impossible to believe it would have looked so lackluster in the theater.
If you want to see Power and Welles together in a much better film, try "Prince of Foxes." But pass on this one."
If Marco Polo were a Saxon
J. A. Eyon | Seattle - USA | 04/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of those old Hollywood saturated-color films that successfully transports me to another time and place, even on subsequent viewings. The plot steamrolls over its problems, leaving me with the sense of having had an exciting journey from England to North Africa to China.
It's based on a Thomas B Costain's novel of the same name and it brings from its source enuf 13th century details to give the story a historical feeling. The exquisite location photography of Jack Cardiff (in England and Morocco) completes the phenomenon.
Tyrone Power (as a Saxon embittered with Norman England) heads a fine, mostly British cast. He may be a tad bit too old and too stiff, but he's personable and has good chemistry with Jack Hawkins as a fellow Saxon runaway, and with the massively charismatic Orson Welles as Bayan of the Hundred Eyes (a historical Mongol General).
Cécile Aubry as "The Black Rose" is a mixed bag. She's gives a very good performance as the over-eager half-English, half-Arabic girl trapped in the Mongol caravan. But she's blonde and blue-eyed! She has a French, not an Arabic accent. And she's too little-girl-cute for my taste.
This is not a action/adventure movie by today's standards. It's too thoughtful. But that's why I like this film more."
YOU TWO COULD MAKE ONE
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 06/22/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Henry Hathaway's THE BLACK ROSE is based on the novel The Black Rose written by Thomas B. Costain. Walter of Gurnie, played by Tyrone Power, is 21 years old in the film while Tyrone was 36 but looked more, and Cecile Aubry, who was 22 years old in 1950, looked 14 as Maryam. It's no big deal but I still felt uncomfortable during the love scenes between the two characters. However, Orson Welles is brilliant as Bayan and steals the show each time he's on the screen.
I didn't read Costain's book but I can imagine that the author's main idea was to describe how the feeling to belong to a same nation could grow between people as different as Saxons and Normans. This antagonism is well symbolized by the character of Maryam who is clearly described as dual, remember how she must always disguise or apply heavy make-up over her body in order to look as an English girl. This duality is also present in the couple Walter of Gurnie/Tristram Griffin, the rational student and the poet with a bow.
The problem is that these ideas, that are certainly very interesting in a book, are not handled in a very cinematographic manner. I always had the feeling to read a book when I watched THE BLACK ROSE, with its chapters well marked: the scene in the castle, the scene in the family home, the scene in the desert, the scene in the Empress of China's palace and so on. THE BLACK ROSE is meant to be a swashbuckler but there is hardly a fight at the end of the film. With bows and arrows and without Tyrone Power. We see, in numerous occasions, thousands of extras walking in the desert but not a single battle against the Chinese army ! All these considerations explain why I don't consider THE BLACK ROSE as a major achievement in neither Henry Hathaway's nor Tyrone Power's careers.