Tag Archives: swordfight movies

Call for clickage!

Friends, Romans, web surfers . . . lend me your clicks! My blog entry “The Sociopathic Swordsman” is one of the nominees in the 3 Quarks Daily arts and literature competition, and I’m up against some scary good writers. I need your help! Just head over to the list of nominees and give me some clickness. You will be repaid tenfold in good karma.

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Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson, who just died at the age of 89, was second only to William Hobbs when it came to staging swordfight scenes in films. He started out showing Errol Flynn how to swing steel in The Master of Ballantrae (1953) and stayed busy right up through Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. Along the way he choreographed the briefly glimpsed sword work in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, along with the Antonio Banderas Zorro films (gotta love the idea of undressing Catherine Zeta-Jones during a duel — swordplay as foreplay) and the first Pirates of the Caribbean flick. At the time of his death he was back in Middle-earth for the upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit.

The clip up top features what is probably Anderson’s most beloved work, the duel between Inigo Montoya and Westley in The Princess Bride (1987), a perfectly shaped parody cum homage to the old clash-and-flash school of Hollywood swordplay. Another highlight was the bruising saber duel in the James Bond film Die Another Day, which you’ll find below.

For my money, Anderson’s finest work was the three-part duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). I first wrote about it as part of a series on what I consider the best movie swordfights of all time, and I still think it’s the jewel in Anderson’s crown, right up there with William Hobbs’ brilliant choreography in Rob Roy and Ryu Kuze’s almost hallucinatory climax in The Sword of Doom.

This is superb work: action revealing character every step of the way. It starts with Luke’s flashy, grandstanding challenge, and the insultingly casual way Vader activates his weapon in response. It continues as Luke throws everything he has at Vader, who keeps ratcheting the pressure on the young wannabe until the brutal final act, when Vader uses brute force to bring Luke to the brink of disaster. Though Vader’s costume was usually worn by the hulking David Prowse, Anderson himself donned the black visor for the fight sequences, simply to ensure that Mark Hamill (who wore no protective gear) wouldn’t get his head knocked off. Even when he was being a villain, Bob Anderson was a gentleman. Now that’s a class act!

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My back pages

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Here is a year-end roundup of this site’s greatest hits to date, selected on the basis of site traffic, commentary and authorial pride.

BRUNO: An appreciation of Jacob Bronowski (above), the philosopher whose work still speaks to me, as clearly and persuasively as ever, decades after my first encounter.

THE BEST SWORDFIGHT MOVIES OF ALL TIME: The hands-down, dead-cert champion click magnet, thanks to a much appreciated link from Kung Fu Cinema that continues to bring in viewers. It was written in installments, so if you want to get the build, start here, go to here and finish up here. Some commenters have noted the prejudice in favor of European-style swordplay, and I admit I know very little about the Asian styles and genres, and my predilection is for realism over fanciful imagery. This leaves out Asian entries like Hero, in which the fight sequences are rapturously beautiful without being (or intending to be) the least bit convincing. I’m always ready to hear arguments to the contrary, however.

A NOVEL DARKLY, A MOVIE DIMLY: Regarding Philip K. Dick and the film adaptation of his finest, most disturbing novel, A Scanner Darkly.

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS: This brutally witty Burt Lancaster film is one of my favorite movies, and this article about it is one of my favorite posts.

mingus_charles_450pWHAT THE CLOWN KNEW: “The Clown” is a dark little fable about show business that has the same place in Charles Mingus’ huge catalogue that “The Mysterious Stranger” has in Mark Twain’s body of work. Mingus tried to merge words and music throughout his long career; with the help of  radio personality and raconteurJean Shepherd, who at the time was the reigning king of the “night people,” he made the merger work brilliantly.

EMINENCE GRAY: An appreciation of critic and biographer Michael Gray, one of the finest writers on the subject of one of the towering artists of 20th century music.

A POET WHO KEPT HIS WORD: Kenneth Fearing’s poem “Newspaperman” inspires angry and sad thoughts about the death of the newspaper business.

EVEN THE EVIL: What fallen chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer had in common with Icelandic outlaw Grettir Asmundarsen. Maybe that sounds like a stretch, but gimme a little benefit of the doubt on this.

ALL THINGS FILBOID: The genesis of the Bugs Bunny Appreciation Society was an article on the unlikely spot where Termite Terrace overlaps with the work of Hector Hugh Munro, aka Saki.

SUZE ROTOLO, SCENE STEALER: The deranging process of achieving fame, described by someone who was there to see it happen.

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