Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Overlooked Films: The Black Rose (1950)

You'd be hard-pressed to find a film packed with more adventure than The Black Rose. It starts in England, 200 years after the Norman Conquest, with Saxons and Normans still at each others' throats. Our two Saxon heroes, Tyrone Power and Jack Hawkins, find it advisable to vamoose, and decide to pay a visit to Cathay (their name for China).

First stop is the land of the Crusades, where they join a caravan delivering gifts to Kublai Khan, the grandson of old Genghis. Commanding the caravan is the bombastic Mongol warlord, Orson Welles, who's out to conquer the world, starting with China.

The storyline, I'll admit, is a bit weak. Power and Hawkins flail about for a good reason for going to Cathay, but never seem to find one. Once they get there, they sort of find a reason to return (to bring back the eastern secrets of gunpowder and printing) but even that is pretty wishy-washy. But with all the great scenery  - the castles, the desert, the Great Wall and the palaces of China - the journey makes up for what the story lacks.

The co-stars help, too. Orson Welles, dressed up as a Mongol, is still Orson Welles, and chews up the landscape. Robert Blake, three years after his last performance as Little Beaver, is a rascally Arab servant boy. And Michael Rennie, as King Edward of England, is playing Klatu with a crown. Every time I saw him I expected Gort to march out and disintegrate somebody.

The "Black Rose" of the story is Cecile Aubry, a 21-year-old French actress who looks like a toothy, 15-year-old version of June Allyson. She actually has nothing to do with the story - or the adventure - and exists only for the obligatory romantic subplot. This was her first American film, and also her second-to-last.

One surprise: This was a big-budget 20th Century Fox film, but they cut corners on the lobby cards. The film was shot in Technicolor, but instead of using color photos for the cards, they added color to black and white stills. The effect is pretty cheesy. Each card retains elements of black and white, and the colors don't match those in the film. Fox also took some large liberties with the 1-sheet poster (above) and the title card (below). Each shows Tyrone on a horse, clutching a lissome babe. In the film, he rides a camel, and doesn't clutch the babe (if you can call her that) until the final scene.

More Overlooked Films at SWEET FREEDOM.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Love Tyrone Power but I don't think I have seen this one. Adventure stories just never drew my interest as a kid.

Anonymous said...

I recently watched this and was somewhat disappointed since there are no big battle scenes.

Anonymous said...

I recently watched this and was somewhat disappointed since there are no big battle scenes.

Evan Lewis said...

That's true about the lack of fighting, A. Though several cities are conquered, and there's talk of people (including women and kids) having their heads lopped off, we don't see any of the battle, and there's almost no hand-to-hand combat anywhere else.

Fred Blosser said...

If I remember my boyhood reading, Thomas Costain's source novel was equally stingy with the action. Harold Lamb, Robert E. Howard, and Alfred Duggan handled the same material better, Lamb and Howard with incessant action and Duggan with dry cynical humor.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I don't think I've seen this but may look out for it - I lovce old movies.

Cap'n Bob said...

It appears as though Hawkins is trying to launch an arrow into Tyrone's ear in the bottom poster. I'm sure I've seen this but have scant recollections of it.

ODISEO said...

Hola amigo ¿Cómo estas? Espero que bien.

Quería contarte que en Bolsi & Pulp tenemos una encuesta de repechaje para todos los libros que no ganaron en las últimas dos encuestas. El que gané será publicado a fines de septiembre, espero que puedas votar por tu favorito.

Acá te adjunto el link exacto:


También aprovecho de contarte por si no lo sabías, de que tenemos una nueva sección llamada FILMOTECA DEL TERROR, en ella se ha seleccionado una serie de films para un ciclo de películas del género que irán publicándose de manera paulatina en el blog.

Te dejo el link y espero que te gusten algunas de las películas seleccionadas:


¡Un abrazo desde Chile!

Atte: ODISEO… Legendario Guerrero Arcano.

Evan Lewis said...

Here's the Google Translate version of what ODISEO said . . .

"Hi friend How are you? Hope fine.

I wanted to tell you that we have a Bolsi & Pulp playoff survey of all the books that did not win in the last two surveys. The winner will be published in late September, I hope you can vote for your favorite.

Here I am attaching the exact link:


I also take to tell if you did not know, that we have a new section called FILMOTECA OF TERROR, she was selected in a series of films for a series of films in the genre that will be gradually published in the blog.

Here is the link and I hope you like some of the films selected:

http://encontretuslibros.blogspot.com/search/label/Filmoteca% 20of% 20Terror

A hug from Chile!

Atte: ODISEO ... Legendary Arcane Warrior."

Cap'n Bob said...

El Spammo.

Anonymous said...

Having the big battles take place off-screen is especially surprising, considering that the star and director were no strangers to action movies.

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