Monday, December 28, 2015


In 1789 France, a group called the Companions of Jehu, led by the mysterious masked Roland, fights the corruption of the court of Louis XVI and of complacent French aristocrats by stealing from the rich in a series of coach robberies and giving the proceeds to the poor. Roland is actually an aristocratic baron (Willard Parker), and one day his band happens to rob a coach containing the King himself, traveling incognito, his unpleasant assistant Gaston (George Macready), and Englishman Sir John Tanley (John Loder), a banking representative who is in the country to arrange a possible loan to the King, with France itself as collateral. At Roland's headquarters in an abandoned abbey assumed to be haunted by the villagers, a plan is hatched: the King, staying in a nearby inn, has been flirting with Christine, a chambermaid (Janis Carter) who is actually one of Roland's Companions, so when the King asks Christine to visit him at his summer place in Charenton, she does, serving as a spy for Roland so his men wind up knowing (and then avoiding) all of Gaston's plots to capture them. But personal problems provide turmoil: Christine, who has a crush on Roland, is jealous of his lover Amelie (Anita Louise) and plots to have the King marry her off to Sir John; the troublemaking Gaston is Amelie's brother, and the Companions begin to feel as if Roland is treating him with kid gloves. By the end, the first wave of the French Revolution solves our hero's problems.

This mild B-swashbuckler is based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, though it feels more like a lukewarm version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. The low budget leaves most of the big scenes (not just action sequences but also a royal dinner scene) feeling under-populated and under-decorated, but the acting and narrative keep things fairly interesting. The leads are a little on the colorless side, but Macready, Loder, and especially Janis Carter are fun. Carter (pictured above at far right) feels too modern, but she adds a nice jolt of energy missing from Parker and Louise, and I looked forward to her appearances. Lloyd Corrigan is a bland Louis, but Edgar Buchanan adds some spice as Parker's right-hand man. Not one to search out, but not a total waste of time. [TCM]

No comments: