Saturday, July 2, 2016

Movie Review // The Black Shield of Falworth (1954) with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh

Howard Pyle’s Men of Iron has always ranked high on my favorites list and I was stunned a few years ago to find out there had been a film adapted from it in the 50’s -- starring none other than Janet Leigh (one of my favorite actresses) as the hero’s love interest!

And as I was writing this, I realized this film actually lends itself to a fun scene-by-scene encapsulation as well so maybe that’ll come along someday, too. ;) Meanwhile, enjoy!

(Also note: I used a varied collection of screenshots for this, so some are better than others. :P As I recall, the quality of the film itself -- at least the digital version -- is quite excellent.)

The following official summary isn’t faultless, but since it’s a little known film I thought it’d be helpful:

“In The Black Shield of Falworth, Tony Curtis woos his real-life bride Janet Leigh, while defending the British throne in a swashbucking tale filled with jousts, jests and medieval heroics. The time is England in the reign of King Henry IV. Myles (Curtis) is a headstrong, handsome peasant determined to learn the name of his slain father and discover his true heritage. His fiery ambition and swift sword lead him to the majestic Mackworth Castle. There he must vie for both knighthood as well as the hand of the fair Lady Anne (Leigh), but her love is claimed by the evil, conniving Sir Walter Blount. All the while the English throne is being challenged to the death - from sinister forces within. With its remarkable supporting cast and stunning set design, this is truly an epic tale of which legends are made!”

I admit I had to get used to Tony Curtis a little in the role of Myles, but by the end I think it’s pretty near impossible not to be desperately rooting for him as he finally locks grips with his deadly enemy.

The supporting cast is all VERY well played.

They take a few plot liberties, but I was honestly amazed at how close they stuck to the original story line. We bought the digital copy at one point and, sadly (due to unrelated computer issues), we haven’t been able to watch it for a while, but indeed, from what I remember, the tweaks in the plot aren’t arbitrary and seemed quite reasonable, condensing and tying things a little tighter for screen purposes.

It’s full-fledged classic medieval drama with sparks of humor here and there. And, seeming at first lighthearted, it’s yet totally weighty with the gravity of serious conflict. 

A resentful hothead, flailing for his place in the world -- uncertain of friends and enemies, puzzled and only seeing the knotted underside of the threads of life and not the full tapestry -- Myles comes one day to find himself at the very center of a huge web of political intrigue.

(Myles and Gascoyne's friendship is so utterly fun and delightful.)

For Black Shield is really a coming of age story. The story of how the headstrong boy of the beginning is taken in hand and given a purpose, a weighty calling.

Because at the last, all that political intrigue tightens to a literal noose. When all the pieces are in place and the conflict is laid out, the stakes are huge and the pressure comes crashing down on our hero… our hero who has been carefully pruned and tempered to be able to bear the crushing weight of expectations and responsibility.

There are some hard questions asked. 

And in the end, it’s about loyalty. And gratitude. 

(Also, we have to have one quick specific note on the ladies… They’re both GREAT. *spoilers* Loyal and daring, in the end, while remaining perfect and utter ladies, they yet manage to pull off an ingenious rescue operation, ultimately saving the day. ;))

So yes, I know I condensed a lot about the plot, etc., but as you can probably guess, it ends with a duel to the death between our hero and his arch-nemesis, a duel which ultimately explodes into a raging full on battle scene.

And…. since I’m trying not to give any more spoilers at the moment, I’ll just set your mind at rest by saying that, yes, it does indeed have a most happy and triumphant ending! ;D

Tell me! Have you read Men of Iron or seen Black Shield?
What do you think?

My fifth and final review for Miss Laurie's Period Drama Challenge 2016!


  1. I've never read Men of Iron but I have seen the movie several times. Always enjoy it.

  2. I haven't read the book or watched the movie, but when I was sick one time, my little siblings watched it with their dad on YouTube and then were telling me about it. Now I really, really want to see it! I'm kind of in that aura right now, because I just finished reading Quentin Durward.

  3. I have to see this! And read it. On my lists they go.

  4. I've read the book before, but I couldn't find the movie available anywhere :( I liked the story, though!


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