The Two Best Versions of Classic Adventure, Available Toget
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 01/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Prisoner of Zenda", based on the first of Anthony Hope's 'Zenda' novels, has been filmed at least six times since 1913, but the first two 'sound' versions, from 1937 and 1952, are the most popular versions of this timeless tale...and having them, packaged together, at LAST on video, is a cause to celebrate!
The story is simple, and has been done many times before; a drugged and kidnapped monarch-to-be must be impersonated by look-alike at the coronation, lest his kingdom fall into ruin at the hands of an evil half-brother!
The David O. Selznick-produced 1937 version offers the immortal Ronald Colman in the dual role of Rudolf, European crown prince, and Rudolf Rassendyll, his look-alike British cousin, end product of a brief affair of an ancestor; the radiant Madeleine Carroll is the royal betrothed, who falls in love with the pretender; Raymond Massey portrays Black Michael, Rudolf's scheming half-brother; and, best of all, a youthful Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., son of silent Hollywood's greatest swashbuckler (and a pretty fair swashbuckler, himself), is the definitive Rupert of Hentzau, the suavely villainous ally of Michael.
In the hands of this PERFECT cast (with terrific support by C. Aubrey Smith, a young David Niven, and Mary Astor) "Zenda" becomes a stylish tale of love, intrigue, and derring-do. High points include an astonishingly beautiful Royal Ball, where Colman and Carroll reveal their love; a very funny yet menacing meeting between Colman and Fairbanks, as they discuss the real King's potential fate; and best of all, a MAGNIFICENT climactic swordfight between the pair, as they lunge and parry furiously through the halls of a castle, while exchanging quips and one-liners about a British education!
MGM, in their 1952 remake, tried to surpass the earlier version by creating a technicolor 'scene-for-scene' duplicate of the film, utilizing some of their biggest stars, and reworking Alfred Newman's original musical score. The end result, however, was a mixed bag...
Stewart Granger, MGM's resident 50s swashbuckler, certainly was more athletic than Colman, but lacked the older actor's panache, and more importantly, 'The Voice', that distinctive, oft-imitated but never duplicated speaking voice that made Ronald Colman so unique. While Deborah Kerr was as regally beautiful as Madeleine Carroll, she lacked Carroll's fragile quality, which made the doomed love so heartbreaking. Robert Douglas was excellent as Black Michael, but James Mason, as Rupert of Hentzau, was miscast in the role. While a brilliant actor, Mason was too old, and actually TOO villainous! While Rupert is jaded and unscrupulous, he also has to be such a young, likable scoundrel that his escape, after the climactic duel, disappoints no one, not even the hero he nearly defeats, which ideally suited the cocky, younger Fairbanks. Seeing a malevolent Mason escape 'justice' seems unfair!
David Niven, in his autobiography, said he thought MGM's remake was a ridiculous idea, and that he was pleased that the newer production, even as a scene-for-scene copy, failed. While I think he was, perhaps, too hard on the Granger film, which is still entertaining, I have to agree that it doesn't even come close to the magic of Ronald Colman's 1937 classic!
But better yet, potential buyer...At this terrific price, you can judge for yourself!"
One of the finest adventure films ever made...
Jack Bratincevic | Chicago, IL USA | 01/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a huge fan of epics/adventure films...thing like Indiana Jones, Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Ben-Hur, Lord of the Rings...and I have been waiting for this DVD for years!
The 1937 version of "The Prisoner of Zenda" is one of my favorite films ever...it's one of the very few movies that both generations of my family enjoy. A splendid story with fairly good action scenes, witty dialogue, and a nobility behind the events and characters which manages to escape being corny or archaic. The characters are cast to perfection (Douglas Faribanks Jr. IS Rupert of Hentzau--this is, essentially, his defining role) and most of the actors would continue to play roles with similar personalities throughout their careers. The coronation scene (using Handel's "See Now the Conq'ring Hero Comes" from Judas Maccabaeus) is particularly notable.
The 50's version is almost a scene-for-scene remake, but with inferior actors, totally fake-looking sets (truly idiotic...Brigadoon-esque), and absurd 'humorous' additions to the script sprinkled throughout.
Buy this for the original film; the set is still worth it.
Oh, and, the novel is even better.
Two excellent versions of this classic adventure drama.
D. R. Schryer | Poquoson, VA United States | 02/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fans of The Prisoner of Zenda continue to debate -- and even argue vehemently -- about which is better, the classic black and white 1937 version or the 1952 remake in glorious Technicolor. Yes, the earlier version starred the great Ronald Colman, but Stewart Granger does a very creditable job in the remake which also has the gorgeous Deborah Kerr in splendid color plus James Mason at his best. Good news: you don't have to choose between these two classic films, this set presents both. Please do yourself a favor and buy this set; you're sure to enjoy one of these versions and quite possibly both versions -- The Prisoner of Zenda is that good."
I love this movie!
M. A Newman | Alexandria, VA United States | 06/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been waiting for someone to release the 1937 version of "The Prisoner of Zenda" for quite a time. This has to be one of the best translations of novel to film of its period (and this puts it up against some stiff competition!). What really gives this version its edge is its outstanding cast. First there is the always wonderful Ronald Coleman. Too few of his movies are available on DVD and it will be a happy day indeed when a large collection of his films are issued in a box set. Along with Coleman, there are the always wonderful Madeline Caroll, C. Aubrey Smith, Raymond Massey, Mary Astor, and David Niven. However, the lion's share of acting glory must go to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Did any actor ever have as wonderful a time playing a role as he does in this film? I doubt it and what a pleasure it is watching him play a world weary villain like Rupert of Hentzau? It really does not get any better than this!
This film comes with a 1952 remake, which though in color is just not as good as the original. The actors, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr and James Mason, while good just cannot match the original. However, probably serves to underscore the mastery of the first version."