Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Scarlet Blade Review

Previously published on Front Room Cinema in 2012.

This Hammer production from 1963 has lurked in the depths of obscurity for almost fifty years but is finally being released on DVD which will be news to the ears of any Oliver Reed fans out there. Unlike the typical horror films churned out by Hammer in the 60's, The Scarlet Blade is a historical adventure that takes place during the tumultuous civil war that reshaped England in the mid 1600's, with the Roundheads and the Cavaliers taking up opposing sides due to their loyalties to parliament and royalty respectively.

Daunted by the task of watching a forgotten Hammer film that had only received 87 votes on IMDB, my fears were soon laid to rest when the opening sequence exploded across the screen with a fairly impressive battle in full flight, cannons launching across fields, soldiers on horses charging at infantrymen, and what appears to be the same extras in every shot. Braveheart this isn't, but The Scarlet Blade has plenty of entertaining swordplay to keep fans of bloody history films interested for the entire 83 minutes, and enough semblance of a plot to capture the attention of all but the easily distracted.

The story follows the exploits of a group of Roundheads headed by Colonel Judd who is played by Lionel Jeffries and his second in command Captain Sylvester, portrayed by none other than the man himself, Oliver Reed, who capture King Charles I near the start of the film. It is not long before a number of cavaliers, who would not be out of place in Robin Hood's band of merry men, attempt to sabotage the well laid plans of the roundheads in order to rescue the King. Heading up this rebellion is the eponymous Scarlet Blade, who you would be forgiven for thinking should have a certain level of charisma, but Jack Hedley's uninspiring acting fails to compete with the film's more heavyweight actors.

A love triangle soon begins between Colonel Judd's daughter, Claire, the Scarlet Blade and Captain Sylvester and it is not long before loyalties are tested and sides are switched, with informers and infiltrators causing all kinds of havoc for both sides. I was surprisingly intrigued by the story, and despite a few camp and whimsical moments that could easily have been excerpts from a Monty Python sketch, The Scarlet Blade was an enjoyable historical romp that did not overstay its welcome.

6/10