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RAMBLING REVIEW OF 'ROYAL FLASH' WITH MALCOLM MCDOWELL

Twilight Time Blu Ray for ROYAL FLASH Year: 1975
There were only three actors Stanley Kubrick had to give little direction to: Peter Sellers from DR. STRANGELOVE and LOLITA, James Mason from LOLITA, and his CLOCKWORK ORANGE star turned cult icon, Malcolm McDowell, who, through his own statements, wanted to keep in touch with the reclusive genius auteur, perhaps for more great roles in other projects in future years... and being how much he did for Kubrick, it wasn't too much to ask, was it?

But after ORANGE he never heard from the director who had ignited his career with the ultra-violent classic that would, better for us and maybe worse for him, never go away...

Perhaps he caught wind that Kubrick's next vehicle was a time period piece epic involved around the art of The Duel, titled BARRY LYNDON wherein Ryan O'Neal, while taking some getting used to, by the end turns in a wonderful performance being someone who took us for a very long ride and wound up a man who... let's just say, fit the actor's supposed real life un-appeal. But imagining Malcolm in the title role is a torturous fantasy: If only, yes, if only...

ROYAL FLASH Rates: ***1/2
Ironic that the same year, 1975, in ROYAL FLASH, McDowell, resembling a werewolf had he half transformed inside a classy ballroom to fit within the locale and bite the hors d'oeuvre instead of human necks, would star in this comedy escapade directed by The Beatles big screen propagandist Richard Lester, replacing The Dual of classy pistols to that of fencing swordplay, and not making our title hero dashing but extremely klutzy in an Inspector Clouseau sense, no one realizing his inabilities but the audience...

Malcolm McDowell as Flashman
Throughout his climb in the maligned yet brilliant Kubrick vehicle, BARRY LYNDON is taken under the wing of several older gentleman to further his career of eventually being a... somewhat crooked man who climbs the ladder of success using shortcuts, eventually by proxy of marriage. And here it's one of the all-time great older actors, though a man older than he looks thanks to hard-living; that being Oliver Reed as the infamous German, Otto Von Bismark, who leads, or rather, misleads FLASH into doing the same exact thing that, similar to another lavish movie in theaters at that time, and also involving The Dual via 1975, tricking Woody Allen and Diane Keaton via Napoleon Bonaparte in LOVE AND DEATH...

Herein forcing Flashman to turn his hairy yet still pretty, blue-eyed, lady killing pan to a scarred and fierce-looking, wolverine-type of countenance, going undercover as a prince, faking into marriage for the aim of Reed's Bismark: Reed playing completely serious in a comedic film in order to dramatically unite what he calls, and what would years later actually become, The Reich...

The Real Deal in Oliver Reed
Director Richard Lester, who, as mentioned, had the job to turn The Fab Four into actors when only the drummer could hold up under the camera eye, is working with fine Brit performers here, and at his usual wacky pace, the biggest accomplishment is using McDowell for what he's best at, being a Pawn, which worked tremendously in O LUCKY MAN and even, despite his nefarious nighttime hobby, CLOCKWORK ORANGE, only here his Flashman is no LUCKY MAN aka Luckman, basically kidnapped and under strict guard, in-training to marry for his mustached foe's political gain: Well that's the plot, kinda, around and between a lot of running around, shouting, screaming, shooting, thrusting... swords or otherwise... And it's never quite clear if this movie is paying homage to wacky comedies of old or just allowing otherwise serious actors to let their funny side fly without rhyme or reason, but the main agenda is to live up to the famous wacky novels that, like the BARRY LYNDON literary source, isn't easy to live up to.

But wait... hold your horses, literally... For after an hour of perplexed pandemonium, things narrow out as a cog's thrown in the wheel when Oliver Reed's stern information states that the grownup friend of Flashman is not only attending the wedding, where he's sure to know Flash isn't the prince, and this man's part of an underground resistance.

Twilight Time Insert Booklet
Thus, not only is the ante upped, but the gorgeous exterior locations that you'd only see in paintings are now part of a sparse and foggy, castle-dwelling, do-or-die hunted man plot pitting our hero against...

Nothing in particular, at least not for a while and yet, at this point, there's something to really look at and plug yourself into. It's just one of those motion pictures that takes a while to actually begin (like BARRY LYNDON): then there's a cross between Lester's Castle frolicking THREE MUSKETEERS as Alan Bates and McDowell are on a sword-fighting chase of a lifetime...

Our hero never peeling away his Wile E. Coyote persistence, even though at times you'll want him to be more serious and genuinely daring and yet, no matter what might happen, he seems to survive, making him quite lucky, indeed, and the last act is more than just a ROYAL FLASH in the pan, but eventually cooks up something actually worth re-watching: only next time, just skip ahead and begin after the plot's all explained. The castle dungeon sword fight between McDowell and his shadowy shadow Alan Bates is one of the best ever filmed.
Twilight Time Blu Ray for ROYAL FLASH
Far Left stars, Malcolm McDowell and an injured Oliver Reed post boxing match FLASH
Looking much like the sand monster from Return of the Jedi a decade later in LUCKY FLASH
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