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FLAME AND THE ARROW, THE (director: Jacques Tourneur; screenwriter: Waldo Salt; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Alan Crosland Jr.; music: Max Steiner; cast: Burt Lancaster (Dardo), Virginia Mayo (Anne), Robert Douglas (Alessandro de Granazia), Aline MacMahon (Nonna Bartoli), Nick Cravat (Piccolo), Gordon Gebert (Rudi), Francis Pierlot (Papa Pietro), Frank Allenby (Count Ulrich), Lynne Baggett (Francesca), (Apollo, the troubadour), Victor Kilian (Apothecary Mazzoni); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Harold Hecht/Frank Ross; Warner Bros.; 1950)
“Has Burt as acrobatic as you’ll ever see him.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jacques Tourneur (“Great Day in the Morning”/”Curse of the Demon”/”City in the Sea”) directs this sort of Robin Hood Italian version of a splashy costume period swashbuckler with a fun flavor for romance and tongue-in-cheek comedy. Cinematographer Ernest Haller provides a lush Technicolor, which earned the photographer of GWTW a Best Color Cinematography Oscar nomination It’s written by the soon-to-be blacklisted writer Waldo Salt. It was the first of Burt Lancaster’s independent film partnerships with Harold Hecht. Burt teams with his former acrobat partner of the 1930s, Nick Cravat, who can’t manage his lines so is made a mute. The lively action pic revives the swashbuckler films of Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn and showcases Burt’s athletic skills as an acrobat (Burt does most of his own stunts, except for a few fight scenes).

It’s set in the 12th century in Lombardy (northern Italy), where high spirited brigand and expert hunter and archer (dubbed “the Arrow” because of his archery skills) Dardo (Burt Lancaster) dwells in the mountains with his young son Rudi (Gordon Gebert) and his merry men. Dardo’s socially upward wife Francesca (Lynne Baggett) left him for the mean-spirited German overlord, Count Ulrich (Frank Allenby), a member of the hated ruling Hessian nobility, who is known as The Hawk and for exploiting the population with his excessive unjustified taxes. The area was subject to the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

When Ulrich kidnaps Rudi, with mom’s urgings so he can get a better life, Dardo counters by taking Ulrich’s pretty niece Anne (Virginia Mayo) as a hostage for barter. She’s to marry the local Italian nobleman, the Marchese Alessandro (Robert Douglas), to cement the Hessian’s control in the area. When a swap can’t be arranged, romance lingers between Dardo and the aristocrat and Dardo’s band of brigands unite with the oppressed local peasants to topple the occupying Hessians by using acrobatic tricks to invade the castle.

The good natured frolic in the mountains has Burt as acrobatic as you’ll ever see him, in this forgotten film that was almost just as colorful as Burt’s more recognizable swashbuckler The Crimson Pirate–filmed two years later.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”