CORSICAN BROTHERS, THE(director: Gregory Ratoff; screenwriters: George Bruce/from the novel “Les frères Corses” by Alexandre Dumas/George Bruce/Howard Estabrook; cinematographer: Harry Stradling Sr.; editors: William F. Claxton/Grant Whytock; music: Dimitri Tiomkin; cast: Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (Mario/Lucien), Ruth Warrick (Isabelle), Akim Tamiroff (Colonna), J. Carrol Naish (Lorenzo), Henry Wilcoxon (Count Franchi), Gloria Holden (Countess Franchi), John Emery (Tomasso), H. B. Warner (Dr. Enrico Paoli), William Farnum (Priest), Pedro de Cordoba (Gravini), Walter Kingsford (M. Dupre), Nana Bryant (Mme. Dupre); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward Small; United Artists; 2008)
“Good on the action part and bad on the dialogue part.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Gregory Ratoff (“Black Magic”/”Lancer Spy”/”Taxi”) directs this swashbuckling adventure yarn, that’s good on the action part and bad on the dialogue part. It’s based on the minor 1844 novel “Les frères Corses” by French author Alexandre Dumas. Producer Edward Small’s usual shoestring budget leaves its production values at a disadvantage. The work has been adapted to the screen at least ten times beginning in 1898 and more recently as the animated one in 1991. This 1941 version is the best remembered. It stars in a dual role as both the Corsican brothers the 31- year-old Douglas Fairbanks Jr., the handsome son of the legendary silent screen star.
In the 19th century the head of one of Corsica’s leading families, Count Franchi (Henry Wilcoxon), while waiting at his castle with his extended family for his wife to give birth is attacked by his family’s long-standing arch enemy, the treacherous Baron Colonna (Akim Tamiroff), who kills every Franchi and then razes the castle. The only survivors of the massacre are the Franchi loyal servant Lorenzo (J. Carrol Naish) and good friend Dr. Enrico Paoli (H. B. Warner), who just operated on the Siamese twins to separate them. The infants take refuge with Franchis’ friends, Monsieur and Madame Dupre, visiting from Paris. The plan is to have Mario raised with the Dupres in Paris and Lucien to live in the woods of Corsica with Lorenzo. Mario is raised as a privileged child with all the advantages of education and culture, while Lucien is raised as a bandit. It turns out that Lucien is psychic and can feel Mario’s pains and experience his thoughts. When they reach 21, they both meet in Corsica by their parents’ grave, as Dr. Paoli informs them of the vendetta between the clans and that their father wants them to avenge the death of their family.
They begin a reign of terror on Colonna, each wearing a red stocking on their head to loot the Baron’s caravans and pick off his men one by one while operating in different locations. Meanwhile, Count Gravini (Pedro de Cordoba) has just refused the crude Colonna’s request for his pretty daughter Isabelle’s (Ruth Warrick) hand in marriage and is then poisoned a week later. With that Colonna sets off to court Isabelle, accompanied by his sly cousin and aide, Tomasso (John Emery). Mario, who fell in love with Isabelle when he met her at the opera in Paris, rescues her from Colonna and takes her to his hideout in the woods. But Lucien becomes obsessed with Isabelle and starts feeling sorry for himself that his brother has everything good and he is merely living a life that is a reflection of his brother’s. Isabelle is upset that Lucien forcefully kissed her and bolts for Paris, but is captured by Colonna. The Baron, who now knows the twins survived that fatal night, makes plans to trap the brothers. Lucien decides the only way he can have Isabelle, is if his brother is killed. So he doesn’t join Mario when he goes to rescue Isabelle from Colonna’s clutches. It leads to an exciting action-packed climax, that makes up for all the previous stilted storytelling.
REVIEWED ON 2/7/2009 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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