Igniting The Flames Of Rebellion: The Scarlet Blade

Igniting The Flames Of Rebellion: The Scarlet Blade

Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Hammer Film / Studio Canal

Release date: January 16th, 2012
Certificate (UK): PG
Running time: 83 minutes

Year of production: 1963

Writer and director: John Gilling

Cast: Lionel Jeffries, Oliver Reed, Jack Hedley, June Thorburn

The English Civil War which raged between 1642 and 1651 saw Parliamentarians and Royalists locked in battle until the Parliamentary victory at Worcester on September 3rd, 1651.

The result of the war was the execution of King Charles I and the exile of his son, Charles II. The English monarchy was then replaced, first, the Commonwealth of England (1649–53), and then with a Protectorate (1653–59), under Oliver Cromwell’s rule.

The Scarlet Blade is a 1963 film written and directed by John Gilling that’s set in 1648. When Charles I is captured by Roundhead forces led by Colonel Judd (Lionel Jeffries), a group of Royalist locals band together to attempt a rescue before they send him off to London for trial and execution.

Among them is Edward Beverley (Jack Hedley) who takes on the alter-ego of the Scarlet Blade, striking back at Judd’s every move. He has the help of Judd’s daughter, Claire (June Thorburn), who deeply resents her father’s way of handling things. She in turn has the help of Judd’s right hand man, Captain Sylvester (Oliver Reed), but as a love triangle ensues between our three heroes, alliances can easily change.

The Scarlet Blade

In the many stories that have been told over the years about The English Civil War, depending on who’s telling it, the heroes and the villains tend to swap sides. In some stories the Royalists are portrayed as the heroes, while in others it’s the Parliamentarians.

With The Scarlet Blade it’s of course the Royalists who carry the honour of being the heroes, yet in war it’s not always so clear to tell as both sides can resort to dirty tactics to gain the upper hand, regardless of how the war was started. With The English Civil War however, it’s because of King Charles I tried to rule without the permission of Parliament, taxing the English to fund a war with the Scots, which didn’t go down well with Parliament, leaving the country to choose sides and paying the price with their lives if they choose “wrongly”.

Lionel Jeffries does well as the villainous Judd, a man who tends to ask questions and then answer them himself, and while Jack Hedley does his best as Edward Beverley he doesn’t really have much to work with. His alter-ego is as unconvincing as many of the cardboard set pieces.

It’s really Oliver Reed who steals the show. With his intense and yet subdued performance he dominates every scene he’s in but once he meets his end it feels as if there’s nothing left to see in The Scarlet Blade, leaving me to wonder what it might have been like had Oliver Reed played Edward Beverly instead.

As the war rages on without the film’s most interesting character, The Scarlet Blade reaches a conclusion that should have had a much deeper emotional impact but instead it ends rather abruptly with a feeling that it could have been so much more.

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