Andre-Louis Moreau is a noblemans bastard in the days of the French revolution. Noel, the Marquis de Mayne, a nobleman in love with the Queen, is ordered to seek the hand of a young ingenue, Aline, in marriage. Andre also meets Aline, and forms an interest in her. But when the marquis kills his best friend Andre declares himself the Marquiss enemy and vows to avenge his friend. He hides out, a wanted man, as an actor in a commedia troupe, and spends his days learning how to handle a sword. When de Maynes becomes a spadassinicide, challenging opposing National Assembly members to duels they have no hope of winning, Andre becomes a politician to protect the third estate.
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George Sidney’s Scaramouche has had an extraordinary history on high-end video. In the late ’80s, it was among the very first MGM movies ever licensed out by Turner Entertainment and given deluxe treatment by the Criterion Collection on laserdisc, in a two-platter CAV edition complete with a secondary audio interview with the movie’s star, Stewart Granger — in a sense, it was the first swashbuckler ever to be issued in the audio equivalent of a “hardcover” gift edition. The Granger interview is lost to history, and Granger himself passed away a few years ago, but in its place, the 2003 DVD offers us a seven-minute on-camera interview with Mel Ferrer, who remembers vividly the sword-fight sequences and offers recollections of director George Sidney. Ferrer, rather than the editor, selected every shot from the sword fight used in the final cut of the movie — and the rest of the cast. The other bonus materials include an astonishingly good-condition 1952 animated television commercial — in color, no less — for the movie; a rather superficial onscreen account of the history of sword fights in movies, which will be irrelevant to anyone over the age of 17, and also to virtually anyone who would be buying this disc in the first place; and the original theatrical trailer, superior to the look of the complete movie on the Criterion laserdisc, with some shots so sharp that they give the momentary illusion of being in 3-D. All of these are accessible through a three-layer menu that’s very easy to maneuver around and make selections from. As to the movie itself, as good as the Criterion CAV laserdisc looked, the advancement of film-to-video transfer technology into the digital realm has rendered it obsolete, except for its interview material. The image is so sharp that it has pushed the resolution of the source materials (which are in excellent condition) right to the limit, to the point where, on a screen of over 30 inches, one momentarily gets the illusion of watching a theatrical showing; the clarity of the details and the richness of the color are extraordinary. The 115-minute movie has been given 32 chapters, which reflects a great deal of care taken in the preparation of the disc. The audio, however, is deficient in one important respect: volume. The audio is simply mastered too low; it boosts up without distortion, however, and between the dazzling image and the bonus materials, the overall release is impossible not to recommend to swashbuckler fans.
Cast and Crew:
Director: George Sidney
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Loew’s
Date Release: 1952
Audio & Video: Mono – Color
Stewart Granger – Janet Leigh – Eleanor Parker
Adventure Movies – Action Movies
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Filed Under: Adventure