In the reign of Henry IV of England, all is not well with the realm. The king is ill and leans more heavily by the day on the Royal Council to govern. The Royal Council is full of plotters and schemers who think nothing of raping a young peasant or flogging their serfs. The king’s son, Hal, is a drunkard with no serious concern for the welfare of the nation. Everywhere is villainy promoted and the common folk downtrodden.
If you’ve got Amazon Prime, “The Black Shield of Falworth” is a free “rental” for you via livestream. If you’re at all a fan of this sort of movie, period pieces made in the middle of the 20th century, you’ll likely enjoy this one. Historical accuracy is not a big point in these flicks, and while there are a few nods towards it in the clothing, it leans more on Shakespeare than Froissart. But there’s romance, action, derring-do, jousting, and a grand melee in the end.
Tony Curtis isn’t quite playing the same character here that he plays in “The Vikings” though their circumstances are quite similar. Myles is light on his feet and quick with his fists. He never walks when he can run and never goes around when he can vault over. If this were a Jackie Chan flick, we’d be saying he’s showing off, but Curtis fills the movie with so much energy it’s hard to complain. Interestingly, if the folks attempting to recreate real medieval martial arts are correct about how the fighting actually happened, this movie might be the most realistic ever; it’s full of grapples, throws, and disarms.
Otherwise, while absolutely charming, this movie isn’t a must-see. The plot-and-counter-plot of the principle factions keeps the movie moving at a good clip but isn’t nearly as interesting as the romantic elements or Myles’ quest to learn his origins. Curtis almost makes the fights seem too easy; the battles entertain, but don’t dazzle. It’s a fun way to while away a lazy evening, though, and if you’ve got Amazon Prime already, the price is certainly right.