The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (6)
| Fresh (2)
| Rotten (4)
| DVD (1)
[Estelle} Winwood provides some campy humor (I kept thinking of Bewitched every time she was on screen)...
Kitschy knight quest is fun '60s flashback; some battles.
Looking like a Beach Party movie with swords.
Heavy on laughable special effects and outrageously broad performances...
Silly fun with some winning performances and campy effects
A made for children fantasy film based on the legend of St. George, it is silly but surprisingly entertaining for its production.
'The most incredible weapon ever wielded!', meh...lets not get carried away here folks, have you heard of a lightsaber?? Oh wait this was 1962. Now apparently this movie was aimed at children and loosely based on the English legend of Saint George and the dragon. Not overly sure how accurate that claim is though, it certainly seems loosely based on the olde worlde medieval English tale in places, visually at least, mainly the knights and the dragon. All the added monsters and magic I'm guessing might be typical Hollywood embellishments? I don't actually know how accurate all the fantasy guff is. But aimed at children?? Well it seemed pretty strong stuff for kids if you ask me, not by today's standards of course.
The very simplistic story sees an evil wizard waltz into a Kings castle and proclaim that he has kidnapped the Kings daughter and will feed her to his pet dragon very shortly. This is revenge for the death of his own sister, who died at the same age as the Princess at this point, 18. I don't recall how the evil wizards sister died though, I can't recall if that fact is even mentioned truth be told. Anywho, the King decides to give his daughters hand in marriage to the brave knight who saves her, naturally good old Sir George fancies the Princess, so of course he wants to go off and save her, but he has competition from another knight called Sir Branton. So they join forces and trot off on a perilous journey to save the Princess from the depths of the evil wizards castle. Sir George has some tricks up his sleeve in the form of magic given to him by his foster mum, an elderly sorceress, but Sir Branton also has some dastardly tricks up his chain mail too.
I found the tone is this movie to be slightly confusing really, its listed as a movie aimed at kids but there is much death and spookiness going on all around. Don't get me wrong its not an all out fright fest, but its a mixed bag. On one hand you have Sir George's foster mother (the old female sorcerer played by Estelle Winwood) who comes across like some kind of children's TV program hostess (anyone in the UK recall Grotbags? think that but a nice version), and a light-hearted character from a US comedy like 'Bewitched'. Then you have Gary Lockwood giving it his all as Sir George, he's really loving this fantasy stuff, the same can be said for Liam Sullivan as baddie Sir Branton who also comes across as pretty serious. Then on the other hand we have classic actor Basil Rathbone as the evil wizard who also seems to be taking it seriously in his traditional no nonsense type manner (stalwart and stoic as ever). Together Rathbone and Sullivan, along with some reasonably scary creatures, ghouls and some death scenes, make this film quite intimidating for a younger viewer in my humble opinion. Its almost like an earlier lite version of 'Krull'.
Gotta love these old American movies and their portrayals of European folklore and its people. The best bit in the movie is when Sir George is given the gift of six knights that are magically frozen somehow. Once unfrozen we discover these knights apparently come from various parts of Europe, not that you'd know that judging by the hilarious accents. OK most of them are OK like the French, Spanish and Italian, but the Scottish and Irish are laughably bad, plus I do love how ridiculously diverse the six are, each one from a different Euro country, you'd think it was flippin' Star Trek (based on the real legend though?). And speaking of these knights, why were they frozen as statues anyway?? was that punishment? voluntary? they seemed perfectly happy and not at all bothered about their stony incarceration, I wonder if they even realised they had been turned to stone.
This leads me to the other magical powers bestowed upon Sir George by his foster mother. She does this with the agreement that he doesn't go off to rescue the Princess because he's too young at only 18, he must wait until he's 21. Firstly, what bloody difference does three years make?? there is literately no difference in a person between the ages of 18 and 21, I think, its just a number. Technically he would still be too young and dumb even at 21 frankly, its not like he's gonna mature and grow immensely in those three years, so what difference does it make? Secondly, the magic she gives George is pretty darn powerful, and she's pretty darn powerful herself, plus...she ends up killing the evil wizard in the end anyway (spoiler alert), so what's the point of all this?! just go do the job yourself woman! Lastly, in order for George to get away from his foster mum so he can start his rescue mission, he locks her in this underground cellar/dungeon which she told him prior, was almost inescapable. Who would do that to their own (foster) mother?! sure she's a powerful sorcerer but she already said the cellar was bloody hard to get out of...and he goes and locks her in it! What if he died on his quest and never came back, she'd be screwed.
Generally overall the film does look good I can't deny, its very colourful and has a nice array of costumes, props and sets. Yes the props and sets are fake looking, yes the ghostly effects are poor by today's standards, yes the makeup is hokey and yes the giant troll monster thing is just a man in a suit, rear projected behind footage of the actors. Actually the movie did remind me a lot of the Errol Flynn classic 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' with its bright, bold, colourful knight outfits, flag standards, shiny armour and medieval crests. That coupled with Sullivan clearly having a slightly similar appearance to a much younger Rathbone as Gisbourne and all the knights generally looking similar in their natty garb. Aside from a troll suit, various makeup jobs on actors as undead servants and some footage of more actors against large props because they are suppose to be tiny people, what else was there? what about the dragon? Well the dragon appeared to be an actual life-sized movable puppet, probably controlled via people inside. Now obviously this thing didn't look realistic, but in a fantasy sense it looked great, it truly looked perfect for an olde worlde folklore tale of potions, magic and swords. I do believe this giant puppet even had real flames coming from its nostrils, but its hard to tell because the picture wasn't so good and it was quite dark, probably on purpose to hide the mechanics of the thing. I should also point out that this dragons roar does actually appear to be the original sound effect for the TIE fighter craft in the Star Wars franchise. Yes I know that sounds impossibly crazy but I am sure of it, it was the first thought to hit me the second I heard it, most interesting.
A fun film for all? well kind of, in places yes, but not entirely truth be told, not unless you want your younglins to see staggering decaying zombies. It does hark back to some of the old Harrryhausen flicks and historic epics of the 30's but it can't quite pull it all off. The production seems to yo-yo between some really solid looking stuff, to some really B-movie looking stuff, I'm sure the dragon would have eaten up much of the budget. The acting is fair throughout, but the ending is soppy and apparently reverses all the deaths we see during the quest. So basically its a bit of a cop-out so as not to upset the kids watching. A true happy ending for a fairytale, no one got hurt after all...meh.
A little bit of fun in this camp classic as a knight, Gary Lockwood, goes on a mission to save his lady fair. Against him, Basil Rathbone, hamming it up as the villain you "boo" whenever he's onscreen, a script that's unintentionally funny, near comic special effects, and ham-fisted direction. Still enjoyable ... with a joint or two to help it along.
Absurdly cheesy with performances so vapid from everyone except of pros Basil Rathbone and Estelle Winwood it would be an insult to dinner theatre acting to say it was that good . Colorful but very empty.
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