Film Review



1I’ve long been a fan of the work of Richard Lester. Petulia, Juggernaut, Robin and Marian, Superman II, The Three Musketeers, and The Four Musketeers are films I adore, and I’ll admit to having a soft spot (mostly due to childhood nostalgia) for Superman III. He was a filmmaker who was always interested in mixing tones (especially comedy with action), and I love the chaotic, almost frenetic sense of mise-en-scene that his movies frequently exhibited. I’m eager to check out the films of his that I’ve missed; he was always a filmmaker you couldn’t truly pin down, and it’s no surprise that a subversive talent like Steven Soderbergh would hold Lester in such high regard. One of his most asinine pictures, the 1975 slapstick swashbuckler Royal Flash, is easily one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen. It’s wonderfully cheeky fun, super clownish at all times, very light and spastic, with a pricelessly funny lead performance from Malcom McDowell as Captain Harry Flashman, a sniveling and humorous Oliver Reed, and as usual, Lester totally filled the frame with so much detail and action and energy that it’s literally impossible not to enjoy yourself on some level with this bit of lunacy. It’s undoubtedly minor, but so entertaining and a further reminder that Lester was a filmmaker capable of balancing various qualities and ideas in his work. One minute, the film feels mildly amateurish, with weird sound work and sped up film processing and strange acting on the part of background extras, and then the next scene is one that’s gorgeously appointed, with terrific vistas and epic sweep and great use of light and composition (the great Geoffrey Unsworth was the cinematographer). McDowell plays a good-hearted rapscallion serving in the British army who blunders his way from one situation to the next, always appearing to be the victor, despite his oafish manner and continual stroke of good luck. Alan Bates shows up for some hearty laughs, and the film is just one gag after another involving duplicity, impersonation, revenge, sexual mischief, and tons of terrifically staged sword fighting and general fisticuffs. There’s also a gag atop a bridge that sort of defies technical logic, especially given the era that this film was produced during. The Twilight Time Blu-ray is crisp and clean and offers a solid assortment of extras. A true pisser of the likes we never get anymore, Royal Flash is tons of fun.


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