The Dark Avenger / The Warriors (1955) is one of Errol Flynn’s last better films. And although by no means comparable to the earlier heights of The Adventures of Robin Hood or Captain Blood it is no Cuban Rebel Girls either. Under the able if uninspired direction of Henry Levin, Flynn and a stalwart English supporting cast give a good showing in this tale of France under English rule during the 100 Year’s War.
Flynn, of course, is Prince Edward, left behind in France to rule after a devastating defeat inflicted on the French nobles. We get plenty of broadswording action, but Flynn does look every inch of his 46 years (at the time of filming). With just under five years left in his life of hard living, the paunch in his waist and the puffiness of face are quite noticeable.
As stories go, we get a fairly formulaic story of Edward (Flynn) becoming trapped by the French (led by Peter Finch as Comte De Ville) and ultimately befriended by them when becoming the Black Knight. Joanne Dru (Lady Joan Holland in the film and Flynn’s love interest) has of course been captured by the rebellious French. So not only does Flynn need to escape the French while sabotaging their dastardly plans he must also save the girl.
In this case perhaps he should have left the good Lady Holland in French hands. Ms. Dru throughout the picture appears lifeless and bored. There is little there worth saving and the movie would not have suffered dramatically without her presence whatsoever.
With Flynn in just about every scene of this one, it’s hard for his cast to gain much traction. Take note of the French guard captain early one who is none other than a very young Christopher Lee. During the filming of the fight he and Flynn share Lee suffered a permanent injury to his hand. As the fights go, there is no Basil Rathbone to save the day. The final duel does have some similarities structurally to Robin Hood, predominantly the fight up the staircase, but otherwise seems staged and….tired. Finch at one point, having lost his sword, throws his shield at the charging Flynn- but with no urgency whatsoever. You guessed it, he’s dead a few frames later.
Like most of Flynn’s later pictures, this one is fairly difficult to find unless you are willing to scrounge for an old VHS copy. There is currently no DVD release and The Dark Avengers rarely makes an appearance on television.
Recommended if you can find a copy.
Just as an aside, this was released in the US as The Warriors.