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Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Literary Classics Collection”

(Warner Home Video. 2007. B&W/Color. 5 Discs. Not rated.) The Prisoner of Zenda (1937 & 1952), The Three Musketeers (1948), Madame Bovary (1949), Captain Horatio Hornblower (1950), Billy Budd (1962).

Curl Up and ‘Watch’ a Good Novel, says Warner in the ads for this collection. I sampled the Zendas from this set: these are only two of several film adaptations of Anthony Hope’s 1894 novel (I try to forget about that ’80s Peter Sellers effort). The story is a variation on the ever-popular pretender-to-the-throne plot: Major Rudolf Rassendyll, vacationing in an Eastern European country, happens to be a distant cousin to the King and his exact double, making him a convenient pawn in a conspiracy to unseat said king. So the lead actor (Ronald Colman in 1937, Stewart Granger in 1952) plays two roles. Colman (opposite Madeleine Carroll) comes off better in David O. Selznick’s black-and-white spectacle, but Granger (opposite Deborah Kerr, two years after their hit King Solomon’s Mines) is fine in a Technicolor version which couldn’t be more lavish (costumes by Walter Plunkett, without peer in this area). Both are enjoyable. Extras include vintage shorts (Bob Hope in a two-reeler, badly in need of his future gag writers), cartoons (early Porky Pig) and radio programs (Colman in a broadcast adaptation of Zenda).