Friday, May 02, 2008


In 19th century Corsica, the Franchi family is holding a huge feast in celebration of the birth of an heir; because of a blood feud, Colonna (Akim Tamiroff) and his men invade the party and slaughter as many members of the Franchi family as they can. The doctor (H.B. Warner) attending the birth delivers Siamese twins and manages to escape with them along with the loyal Lorenzo (J. Carroll Naish). The doc separates the twins and to ensure their safety, they are split up; Mario (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) is left with the Dupree family and grows up privileged in Paris; Lucien (also Fairbanks) stays with Lorenzo in the Corsican woods and becomes a Robin Hood-type bandit, stealing mostly from the Colonnas. They can feel each others pains and ecstasies even though they aren't aware of each other's existence. When they turn 21, they are brought together by the doctor. They vow revenge against Colonna but their budding relationship is strained when they both develop a crush on the lovely Countess Gravini (Ruth Warrick) whom Mario knew previously in Paris. When Colonna tries to force her to become his wife, the brothers go to her aid, but Lucien becomes jealous when he senses that she and Mario are in love. A plot involving a disguise and a death-simulating drug is carried out, and swordfights and gunplay follow to a satisfying ending.

I tend to think of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as a star of swashbuckler epics like his father had been, but according to Robert Osborne on TCM, this was his first swashbuckling role, and it came over 15 years into his acting career; as far as I can tell, he only did one other similar role (in 1947's SINBAD THE SAILOR). Still, he's very good here, charming and handsome and athletic, and he does a nice job of giving the two brothers different personalities. There is some fine split-screen work, though I suspect much of the "twinning" is done with a stand-in. Still, it's effective. Warrick, who didn't specialize in glamour parts, is very good, as are Warner and Naish. Tamiroff isn't bad, but he sounded a little too much like Boris Badenov from Rocky & Bullwinkle for me to take him seriously. Henry Wilcoxon has a small role as the Franchi patriarch who gets killed off in the first few minutes, and Gloria Holden (of DRACULA'S DAUGHTER fame) is the mother of the twins. Solid classic-era adventure, lacking the bells and whistles (and color) of Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, but still quite fun. [TCM]

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