Tag Archives: Archibald Cunningham

Flash and clash

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/1937576″>The Sword Fights of Errol Flynn</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user219614″>Russ McClay</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

This lovingly compiled selection of swordfight sequences from Errol Flynn movies is tremendous fun to watch, but it does show how by-the-numbers Hollywood could get with its blade choreography. How many recurring themes can you spot? The nose-to-nose clinch between hero and sneering villain? The attempt to add suspense by having theĀ  hero tumble down stairs or stumble over furniture? The gallantry of the hero, who returns the villain’s dropped blade rather than put an end to it? Did every cinematographer’s contract require the use of huge shadows in the background?

Now compare all that with the emotional intensity and character revelation in this sequence:

Here is my argument for why Rob Roy is the best swordfight movie of all time, and why those duels in Errol Flynn movies never rise above standard flash and clash.

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The bad guys

I’m pleased to see Steerpike, the upwardly mobile troublemaker of Titus Groan and Gormenghast, included in this list of the fifty greatest villains in literature, but for every good one it includes the list misses a couple of great ones. Instead of Sauron, who is chiefly a looming presence in the background of The Lord of the Rings, they should have included Gollum, whose short-lived return to decency under Frodo’s care makes his return to evil all the more interesting. Or, for that matter, Saruman, whose motives as laid out by J.R.R. Tolkien make him a symbol of a recognizably modern form of evil that’s far more persuasive than a big flaming eyeball.

Since this is a list by Brits, the name-checks for Christopher Marlowe and George du Maurier are understandable, but they really missed a trick by omitting John Charity Spring, the Latin-spouting psychopath who enlivens Flash for Freedom and Flashman and the Redskins. And opening the list up to comic books (and comic book movies) also opens an only slightly smaller can of worms. Yes, Heath Ledger’s Joker was everything the Joker should be, but if he’s on the list then why not Darth Vader, or the lethal fop Archibald Cunningham from Rob Roy, or fearsome Aunt Livia from I, Claudius, or Chris and Snoop, the deeply sinister drug lieutenants in The Wire? The list could be endless.

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