Based on Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, Crossed Swords feels very much in the vein of the two Three Musketeers movies from the 1970’s from the Salkind’s and director Richard Fleischer, and as this film is produced and directed by the same team, it might as well be an extension of those pictures.
The Prince of Wales and a pauper who look identical swap places for an evening as a joke, but things go awry when they each get stuck in their positions for a few days, leading to potentially disastrous results.
A ragamuffin cutpurse of England named Tom (Mark Lester) is chased through the streets after a botched robbery, and by pure chance he ends up within the royal courtyard where he’s cruelly greeted by the king (Charlton Heston) who wants him brutally whipped and punished and then thrown out on his arse. But something else happens instead: he ends up in the castle where he bumps into the young Prince of Wales (also Lester), who is desperate to find a costume for the ball later that evening. He sees in Tom his mirror image, and so on a lark, they decide to swap clothes for the night for a gag, but it doesn’t go as planned: The Prince as the pauper is thrown out of the castle, and the pauper as the Prince goes to the party and is a big hit. Also on the docket for unexpected surprises is that the king dies, paving the way for the pauper to ascend to the throne. The Prince, meanwhile, is desperate to get back to his rightful place, but he must assume the identity of Tom, whose abusive father (Ernest Borgnine) tries to force him to continue thieving for daily bread. Tom aligns himself with a swordsman (Oliver Reed) who has also lost his identity and honor and must find a way to reclaim it.
Based on Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, Crossed Swords feels very much in the vein of the two Three Musketeers movies from the 1970’s from the Salkind’s and director Richard Fleischer, and as this film is produced and directed by the same team, it might as well be an extension of those pictures. It has some comedy, sword fights, and an earthy, bawdy texture so befitting of the time period it’s set in. Maurice Jarre did the lively score, and the photography by Jack Cardiff is outstanding. Still, this can’t quite achieve “classic” status, but it’s a darn good effort.
Kino Lorber’s newly released Blu-ray edition of Crossed Swords contains a new 4K master transfer, as well as a new audio commentary by film historians, an interview with Mark Lester, and the longer international cut as well, plus the trailer.