EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|CRUSADES, THE (director: Cecil B. De Mille; screenwriters: Harold Lamb/Dudley Nichols/Waldemar Young; cinematographer: Victor Milner; editor: Anne Bauchens; music: Rudolph G. Kopp; cast: Loretta Young (Berengaria), Henry Wilcoxon (Richard the Lionheart), Ian Keith (Saladin), C. Aubrey Smith (The Hermit), Katherine DeMille (Alice of France), Joseph Schildkraut (Conrad of Montferrat), C. Henry Gordon (Philip the Second, King of France), Ann Sheridan (Christian slave), George Barbier (Sancho, King of Navarre), Alan Hale (Troubadour); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Cecil B. De Mille; Universal; 1935)|
|"Blowzy inaccurate medieval era epic on the
Holy Crusades is pure Hollywood balderdash, nevertheless it's an
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Cecil B. De Mille's ("Carmen"/"Samson and Delilah"/"The Ten
blowzy inaccurate medieval era epic on the Holy Crusades is pure
Hollywood balderdash, nevertheless it's an immensely fun spectacle.
It should be pointed out that De
Mille went to great trouble to make sure the accuracy of the costumes, props, and sets
were not to be doubted. The film uses the Crusade as a lesson for the
brutish Richard the Lionheart (Henry Wilcoxon)
to learn humility.
De Mille has thousands of extras wielding
swords and a boorish,
hotheaded Richard the
Lionheart determined to rescue
his feisty, sweet blonde queen Berengaria
(Loretta Young) from the honorable infidel chief Saladin (Ian Keith). Writers Harold Lamb, Dudley Nichols and
Waldemar Young relate it to the
story of the Third Crusade, and set the film in the year
1187. It's pieced together from
characters and events
Crusades, which went on for two centuries--thereby rendering the
storyline historically unreliable. The loose history presented relates
it was a time when Christians backed the Crusades from motives that
were pure to base, and the powers sought to take control of the Holy Land from its Moslem possessors at
It opens in the 12th century, and shows in a sweeping De
Mille trademark style of filming that Jerusalem has fallen to Saracen
invaders, who cruelly treat the Christians in the Holy Land. We view the elderly bound in chains, a
blonde Christian woman (Ann Sheridan) and nuns sold into slavery by
slave-traders, and the cross toppled off the city walls. The pious
wandering Hermit (C. Aubrey
Smith) witnesses the slaughter and rape of the Holy City by Saladin and
returns to Europe to get revenge. He enlists King Philip of France (C.
Gordon), but the conniving king frets that Richard might steal his
throne while he's away and as a safeguard tries to force Richard to
marry his sister Princess Alice (Katherine DeMille, Cecil's adopted
daughter) as promised by Richard's late father King Henry II . But the
non-believer Richard instead opts to lead the Crusades and thereby have
his promise of marriage voided.
Richard's army is starving in Marseilles, the minor ruler, the slippery
King of Navarre (George
Barbier), will give Richard cattle only as a dowry if
he marries his daughter Princess
Berengaria. Richard reluctantly accepts, and sends his sword in place
during the wedding ceremony. When
Richard's unwanted bride is captured by Saladin, the Christian king
suddenly finds he wants her back and as a result he sacks at night the
walled city of Acre and almost gets through to Jerusalem. Saladin nobly
sends Berengaria back to Richard and agrees to an alliance
to have the
Holy City open to Moslems and Christians alike. Richard returns to Europe, to only find
the European Christian rulers are less honorable than the infidel
ruler. The oily Conrad of
Montferrat (Joseph Schildkraut), an ally of the king of France and
confidante to Richard's two-faced ambitious brother Prince John, who
wants Richard's crown, schemes to have Richard killed.
There's enough history to
make this historical drama at least childlike satisfactory in quality
and it provides an ample heroin-like dose of showy absurdity for cinema
addicts to get a buzz. It serves as a guilty pleasure for those who can
forgive De Mille for his excesses and not have a guilt-trip for
actually liking such tripe.
It was a box office failure only because it cost so much to produce.
REVIEWED ON 6/17/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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