Twilight Time Movies: ‘Royal Flash’ (1975)

Nick Clement reviews Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-Ray titles.

A true pisser of the likes we never get anymore, Royal Flash is tons and tons of goofy, wink-wink fun, all wrapped up with excellent production values and orchestrated by a filmmaker who enjoyed keeping his audience off balance.

I’ve long been a massive fan of the work of Richard Lester. Petulia, Juggernaut, Robin and Marian, Superman II, The Three Musketeers, and The Four Musketeers are films I adore, and I’ll admit to having a huge soft spot for Superman III; it truly “got” what it meant to be a “comic book movie.” He was a subversive filmmaker who was always interested in mixing tones (especially comedy with action), and I love the chaotic, almost frenetic sense of mise-en-scene that his movies frequently exhibited. While I’ve not seen everything he directed, I’m very eager to check out the films of his that I’ve missed; he was always someone you couldn’t truly pin down, and it’s no surprise that many modern directors, most notably Steven Soderbergh, hold Lester in such high regard. And one of his most asininely enjoyable pictures, the 1975 slapstick swashbuckler Royal Flash, is undoubtedly one of the most ridiculous movies that I’ve ever seen, a film that the trailers billed as containing “no redeeming social value” and which wholly benefited from that fact.

It’s wonderfully cheeky fun, super clownish at all times, very light and spastic, with a pricelessly funny lead performance from Malcolm McDowell as Captain Harry Flashman, with a snivelling and humorous Oliver Reed doing great supporting work. McDowell plays a good-hearted yet bumbling officer serving in the British army who blunders his way from one situation to the next, always appearing to be the victor, despite his oafish manner and continual stroke of good luck. This may be a departure from the source material, but as a film, it’s zippy and a blast; just don’t expect a fully faithful interpretation from George MacDonald Fraser, who adapted his original novel. Alan Bates shows up for some hearty laughs, and the film is just one gag after another involving duplicity, impersonation, revenge, sexual mischief, and tons of terrifically staged sword fighting and general fisticuffs. There’s also a set-piece atop a bridge that appears to defy technical logic, especially given the era that this film was produced during.

And as usual, Lester totally filled the cinematic frame with so much detail, action, and energy that it’s literally impossible not to enjoy yourself on some level with this bit of lunacy. It’s most assuredly a minor picture in the grand scheme of Lester’s fascinating and eclectic filmography, but it’s so wildly entertaining that it serves as a further reminder of how Lester was a director who was capable of balancing various qualities and ideas within his work. One minute, the film feels mildly amateurish, with odd sound work and sped-up film processing techniques, and strange acting on the part of background extras. And then the next scene is one that’s gorgeously appointed, with terrific vistas, epic sweep, and great use of light and composition; the magnificent Geoffrey Unsworth was Royal Flash’s cinematographer, and there are some really terrific shots scattered about in this motion picture.

The Twilight Time Blu-ray of Royal Flash is presented in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1, in stunning 1080p high definition. Color is strong and never overly digitized, with the picture retaining that old-school, shot-on-celluloid look that should make picky fans rather pleased with this transfer. Special features include a trailer, an isolated score track, audio commentary with Malcolm McDowell and film historian Nick Redman, and various featurettes. As usual, the release is limited to 3,000 units, and can be purchased via ScreenArchives here: http://www1.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/26423/ROYAL-FLASH-1975/


Twilight Time Movies release classic catalogue Blu-ray and DVD titles available for a limited time, exclusively in limited runs of 3000 copies. For more information, visit https://www.twilighttimemovies.com

Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott, and co-operates the website Podcasting Them Softly.

He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.

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