Royal Flash (1975)
“The greatest swordsman of them all!”
Director: Richard Lester
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Alan Bates, Florinda Bolkan
Synopsis: Ne’er-do-well Harry Flashman is coerced by Otto von Bismark into impersonating a prince.
Royal Flash is terrific fun, with some inspired set pieces that are guaranteed to have you laughing out loud. Based on George McDonald Fraser’s Flashman novels, the movie features Malcolm McDowell in a rare comedy role. To his credit, McDowell is superb in the part, displaying a previously untapped flair for farcical comedy. And this exuberant movie is undiluted farce from start to finish.
Flashman (Tom Brown’s tormentor, I believe) is a cowardly British cad, possessor of none of the funds necessary to finance the high-life of which he is so fond. Falling in with the wicked Lola Montez (Florinda Balkan), Flashman finds himself kidnapped by the equally wicked Otto von Bismarck (Oliver Reed) and forced to impersonate a Prussian prince on the eve of his marriage.
McDowell is ably supported by a host of British stars, all of whom seem to be having a whale of a time, although this may be due to the wealth of sight gags, funny lines, and ludicrous situations to which this film treats us. There’s a wonderfully choreographed fight sequence which makes almost as good use of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries as another more feted movie of the 70s; there is also an hilarious spoof of swashbuckling swordfights during which Flashman jumps onto a wagon-wheel chandelier, not to swing heroically into a bunch of foes, but to clamber awkwardly onto it and throw its candles at them!
This movie is crammed with inventive moments of high humour, and bizarre images that will often have you in hysterics. I mean, come on, any film which features Mr. Grainger from `Are You Being Served’ as the King of Bavaria, two ladies duelling with swords, and a boxing match between Henry Cooper and Oliver Reed, has got to be worth a look.
(Reviewed 15th May 2002)