Monday, September 13, 2010

Classic Rewinds: Quentin Durward (1955), Valley of the Kings (1954)


Robert Taylor's early-to-mid-50's adventure films have always just been a bit off for me, as in they aren't nearly as propulsive or charming as the Errol Flynn brand exhibited in Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk.

Quentin Durward, a CinemaScope Sir Walter Scott adaptation about a Scottish nobleman who becomes involved in a combustible national crisis involving a beautiful countess, is a widescreen wonder with a dose of engaging set pieces (including a duel inside cavernous clock tower) that nevertheless is a bit tiring and overplotted.

The beautiful Kay Kendall is an apt damsel in distress, almost too much so compared to Taylor's capable, spiritless adventurer. The film works best as a pseudo swashbuckler (there's plenty of action, just not much deftness with the sword), less so as an historical romance and pretty much wilts as a 14th-century castle dweller. [C+]


A sandy dust-storm of an adventure film, Robert Pirosh's Valley of the Kings predates the treasure-hunt mischief of Indiana Jones minus the Nazis.

The film was shot on location in Egypt and the ambition shows in the cinematography of Robert Surtees (Ben-Hur, King Solomon's Mines) and assures a unique, visual authenticity to a film ripe with hokey Egyptian scripture. (There's also a worthy score from the legendary Miklos Rosza.)

Like King Solomon's Mines (an obvious influence), the film centers around a journey through an unforgiving terrain led by a disgruntled, cynical archeologist (Robert Taylor) and the woman (Eleanor Parker) who persuades him to assist her in her quest to fulfill her father's lifelong quest.

There are plenty of double-crossings and romantic embraces and desert vistas, and mostly it's an enjoyable mix of the three, despite the shortcomings of its lead actor who is too emotionless to be a romantic and too passive to be a hero. [B-]

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