Updated: May 12, 2021
I was doing an image search of swashbuckler movie placards as one does, and came across a whole series of really beautiful movie posters for The Black Shield of Falworth starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. I was surprised that I had never heard of it before, but then again, I don't have cable TV. It could be in regular reruns on TMC for all I know.
But it did seem like a lot of effort had gone into promoting this movie, and I thought, if the movie was half as good as the promotional artwork, then it was bound to be an amazing movie!
Look at the action! There would be jousting, man-to-man combat, castle wall scaling, some kind of evil guy with an awesome mustache and one eye. Most importantly, the story was based on the book Men of Iron by Howard Pyle, one of the preeminent writers of pirate stories back in the day. Honestly, how had I never heard of this movie before?
So reader, I watched it. And it turned out that indeed, the movie is half as good as the artwork.
The sets are beautiful. The movie is beautiful. Tony Curtis was young and handsome, and despite the unfortunate squirrel-pelt hairstyle (not just on him, but on every man in the movie), he put on a great show. He did an amazing amount of leaping around in hose, and sword fighting and horseback riding. He gets in a fight about every five minutes. But there was something weirdly missing from the plot. Oh, I know. Tension. Somehow, it just wasn't really there.
The story was about a young peasant boy (Myles, played by Tony Curtis) and his lovely sister Meg, whose father was a knight who was falsely accused of treason and killed years earlier. At the beginning of the movie, they are living out in the country with an old guy. A bunch of other guys come by one day, and one of them tries to put the moves on Meg, but Myles beats them off with his sword. Then the first old guy gives Myles a ring and says, "Do not take it. Keep it hidden." And Myles is like, "I'm taking it and Meg, and we are going to a castle."
They go to a castle, and Myles instantly gets in a fight, then he has to beg forgiveness in his father's name once it is known whose son he is, and he and is allowed to stay and train to become a knight. Another old guy befriends him, who happens to be hanging out with the king who is pretending to be drunk all the time for some reason. (I spaced out for one second, and totally missed that plot point.) Meg and Myles instantly acquire love interests. (Myles' love interest is Lady Anne, played by his then wife Janet Leigh. I don't know...maybe that is where the tension was missing.)
But Janet Leigh as Lady Anne was awesome! She looked great and stole the show every time she was on scene. There's one scene where she's trying to get time alone for her and Meg to hang out with the guys in the garden, and she has to get rid of old Dame Ellen for a while. She kept saying, "Dame Ellen" over and over, and you just got the feeling that she got a kick out of saying "Dame Ellen."
Hey, if you're home on a rainy Saturday afternoon and this movie comes on, I would recommend watching it. And it turns out that there is a reason why the movie poster artwork is so good. It was done by Reynold Brown, the artist who did the iconic poster for Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.