When British tourist Rudolph Rassendyll (Stewart Granger) arrives in Ruritania he takes many by surprise as he is a dead ringer for Prince Rudolph (Stewart Granger) who in a matter of days is due to be crowned King. But there is a snake in the royal household as the Prince's brother, Michael (Robert Douglas), poisons him on the eve of his coronation as he desires to be King. With Rassendyll agreeing to pretend to be the Prince so that the coronation can go ahead not only does the Prince's brother kidnap the real Prince but threatens to make the duplicity which has been going on public. And to make matters worse Rassendyll finds himself falling for Princess Flavia (Deborah Kerr), Prince Rudolph's intended.
As of writing this 1952 version of "The Prisoner of Zenda" is the 4th adaptation of the Anthony Hope novel with a fifth coming a few decades later. This is the first version I have watched but as I have learned this version uses almost exactly the same script as its more famous 1937 predecessor as well as its musical score. The thing is that I have watched another movie, a 90s comedy called "Dave" and have now discovered that it is inspired by this famous novel. There is a reason to my minor factual ramblings which is simply to point out that whilst you may have never watched this 1952 version of "The Prisoner of Zenda" there is a chance you might find it all a little familiar.
Now there is plenty to like about this 1952 version of "The Prisoner of Zenda" and that starts with the look as this has that colour palette and grandeur of the swashbuckling adventure movies of the 1950s. It is hard to describe other than to say it is a constructed glamour, a visual opulence which you know is a thin facade as behind those luxuriously covered walls are rough wooden frames holding it up. For some than may not sound like being that great but when you enjoy this period of cinema it is a big part of what made it enjoyable and a big part of why these swashbuckler movies worked as it was as much to do with the sets as the action and drama.
But what also makes this version of "The Prisoner of Zenda" is the casting as Stewart Granger because he brings to the role a mix of charm and mild arrogance, an intoxicating brew especially when it comes to the scenes he has with Deborah Kerr. On the subject of Kerr you get a real sense she enjoyed working with the handsome Granger and has this playful smile on her face for much of the movie which makes the scenes of flirtation and toying between the characters entertaining. In fairness it is not just these two who make the movie and James Mason brings some severity to his role as one of Michael's co-conspirators.
What this all boils down to is that this 1952 version of "The Prisoner of Zenda" is a lot of fun and as a fan of the swashbuckler movies of the 50s it delivers everything I expect from this sort of movie, from the look to the adventure vibe. As for how it compares to other versions, well I wouldn't be surprised if it is simply a matter of taste as to which version you will enjoy more rather than one being the genuine better of another.