Mark Lester and Oliver... Reed that is.
I have a vague collection of watching "The Prince and the Pauper", also known as "Crossed Swords", as a child and enjoying it especially the various fight scenes. Oh how my opinion has changed having now watched it as an adult and whilst those fight scenes still entertained thanks to Oliver Reed's swashbuckling performance little else did. And sadly the main reason why I now found myself under whelmed by "The Prince and the Pauper" is Mark Lester who sadly comes across as incredibly stiff in the main roles of Tom & Edward.
Tom Canty (Mark Lester) is a peasant raised by his abusive father to be a thief, picking the pockets of the wealthy on the dirty streets. It is after he swipes the purse of a well of gentleman that he ends up being chased and hiding in the Royal palace where he comes face to face with Edward, Prince of Wales (Mark Lester) and too both their surprise discover that they look alike. When the Prince decides to dress like Tom for a fancy dress party and Tom should dress in his clothes thinks go very wrong as Prince Edward is thrown out of the palace as he is mistaken for the pauper whilst the uneducated Tom finds himself having to live the royal life.
This will come as little surprise to those who have read my reviews before when I say I have never read Mark Twain's original story of which "The Prince and the Pauper" is an adaptation of. But whilst I may not have read it I am pretty sure that this adaptation is very much an embellished version, bringing in extra characters and subplots whilst changing events in Twain's original as it comes across very much in the swashbuckling adventure style. That is not a criticism as it works and to be honest whilst having watched "The Prince and the Pauper" for the first time in a long time the story still entertained with all the little episodes of action and adventure being enjoyable.
But the trouble is that "The Prince and the Pauper" has a few issues such as the music; there is a wonderful piece of music at the start, a tune which is whistled which is like a cross between a Tudor tune and something out of a spaghetti western but often a lack of musical accompaniment especially in the action leaves it feeling unfinished. Then there is some of the action, and I do say some because the scenes involving Oliver Reed are great but the action when it is other actors feels too staged. And then there is the acting and before I get to the glaring problem some of the acting is rather strange most notably Rex Harrison who as the Duke of Norfolk spends the entire movie looking bemused.
But now to that main problem and unfortunately it is Mark Lester because in the important dual role of Tom & Edward he comes across as incredibly stiff, delivering lines without belief and appearing very self conscious. Now that maybe because he is surrounded by considerable acting talent which highlights this weakness but in truth he seems to me to be the wrong choice for the role, a difficult role it has to be said because of having to be convincing both as a Prince and as a stealing pauper. On the other hand there is Oliver Reed who shines from start to finish delivering one of the most entertaining swashbuckling performances you will ever see. Whilst there are other good performances such as Raquel Welch as Lady Edith and Charlton Heston's portrayal of a sickly King Henry VIII it is Reed who makes watching "The Prince and the Pauper" still entertaining despite the other obvious flaws.
What this all boils down to is that "The Prince and the Pauper" on one hand is poor which is partly down to Mark Lester coming across as stiff but then it features Oliver Reed delivering one of the best swashbuckling performances I have seen which makes it still entertaining. It means that "The Prince and the Pauper" is a movie which will annoy as much as it entertains but purely for Oliver Reed it is worth watching.