Royal Flash Reviews
This is the type of film that really requires two reviews, meaning a review of it should start with an explanation of why it requires two reviews.
Harry Flashman began literary life as a bullying schoolboy who was the villain of the popular Victorian novel (and modern TV series) Tom Brown's School Days. The character was adopted by Scottish author George MacDonald Fraser,as the anti-hero of a series historical novels beginning publication in 1969. The motif is that Flashman, grown up, is as villainous as ever -- a coward, liar, and philanderer, among other faults -- who through extraordinary good luck embarks on an army career which covers him with glory for his supposed courage, honor, gallantry, and other virtues. Over the course of these picaresque novels, Flashman meets most of the major historical characters of the Victorian age, as well as managing to be present at virtually every one of the era's major military disasters.
These books have a cult following, and people will feel differently about this film depending on whether or not they are fans of the series. The film Royal Flash was made by major director Richard Lester and features an excellent cast, including Malcolm McDowell and Alan Bates, and can be recommended to all as a well made period comic drama, with lots of intrigue, romance, and derring-do. You don't need to have read any of the books to enjoy the movie. Since the film, like the book, is deliberately based on The Prisoner of Zenda (the fictional pretense of Fraser's novel is that one of Flashman's adventures actually inspired the plot of the novel The Prisoner of Zenda,) fans of that book or of its subsequent film versions will find it has added interest. So that's the review fon non-cultists.
For those who (like myself) are real fans of Fraser's Flashman books, I'd make a slightly different recommendation. The novel Royal Flash is often considered by aficionados to be one of the weakest of the series, and some may find that McDowell's performance as Flashman and Lester's whole treatment are a bit too light and comic-opera like. But since this is, unfortunately, the only Flahman film ever made, fans of the novels will certainly want to se it, even if they find it somewhat disappointing.
I saw this on a Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD which was of good quality.
Flashman (McDowell) ends up in german territories that are evolving into a future Germany under the guidance of a young Otto von Bismarck.
Our hero (or at least the guy most things evolve around) is finding himself trapped and tries to flee most of the time and the story has got a few nice twists in the plot regarding who to trust and whp's on who's side really.
Great Fun. McDowell plays the officer bafoon great and others like Oliver Reed and Britt Ekland to that too. We also see Bob Hopkins and Inspector Morse and people from "Ivanhoe" here and there in small roles.
It's not A Clockwork Orange/Oh Lucky Man really, no, it's not, but it's a neat little film
Malcom McDowell is on top form as the cowarldy and roguish Flashman who find himself drawn into the world of shady european politics by Oliver Reed and Alan Bates .
Lester packs his cast with cracking cameos including Lionel Jeffries as a metal handed villain(Who gets some of the films best laughs) A befuddled Alistair Sim and early appearances from Bob Hoskins and David Jason.
The film also has some top notch action including a duel on a Bridge and a final Swordfight between Flashy and one of the villains.
Its a shame that Lester retired from directing as i for one am a huge fan of his films and i feel its time to reappraise his work as a director.
It centres around the perils & adventures of the despicable Harry Flashman (yes, he who made Tom Brown's schooldays such unspeakable hell).
Featuring a stellar cast (including Malcolm McDowell, Alan Bates & Oliver Reed) who play it for laughs more than drama, this slapstick tale of derring-do is faultlessly directed by Richard Lester.
It is patently obvious when watching, just how much fun everybody was having. And this only increases one's enjoyment of the film.
Watch it in the spirit it was intende & I promise that you will enjoy it.
Another slow starter, and with a treadbare plot, but still provides enough entertainment to forgive its flaws. Who wouldn't enjoy a roguish Malcolm McDowell attempting to impersonate a German duke against his will after being kidnapped by a sinister Oliver Reed? Highlight is a side-splitting attempted rescue of the real duke held prisoner in a castle dungeon which includes a memorable comedic swordfight in the spirit of the Elwes vs. Patinkin throwdown later exhibited in The Princess Bride.
Col. Harry Flashman (perfectly played by Malcom MacDowell) is the ultimate anti-hero, being a liar, cheat, a womanizer and an enormous coward, but still manages to land himself into perilous and ultimately history-making adventures and emerge a seeming hero.
What makes the books and this film so much fun are the mixing of historical fact with fiction. Here Flashman crosses paths with such historical figures as Lola Montes and Otto Von Bismark, all the while getting into sword fights, near-death scrapes, and an attempted political coup (the story mirrors Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, a fact which is brought up in the book with a wink and a nudge).
Author Fraser (who wrote the scripts for director Lester's Three Musketeers and Four Musketeers films) also wrote the terrific script.