THE WARRIORS was the title given the US release of this English-made 1955 medieval mashup. In other markets it was The Dark Avenger. Neither helped, as it’s a tired late entry in the wake of a number of castle-stormers re-ignited by Ivanhoe. Biggest claim to fame is also its weak link: it was Errol Flynn’s last costume drama and everyone could see in his puffy face, quarter-hearted delivery and sluggish movements the toll his lifestyle had taken. He was 46 going on 65 (managing to cling on four more years).
‘The Black Prince’ (Flynn) is Edward, Prince of Wales, who is left by his war-weary dad, Edward III (Michael Hordern, two years younger than the star) to manage the erstwhile vanquished French in Aquitaine. A die-hard French noble (Peter Finch) stirs up the disgruntled losers (this is going down during the Hundred Years War between England and France, 1337-1453) and holds for ransom Edward/Errol’s sweetheart, an out-of-her-milieu Joanne Dru. Skirmishes, intrigues, a lusty barmaid (Yvonne Furneux) helping out, a loyal pal to make jokes, eventual attack on a stronghold.
Directed by the hit & miss Henry Levin, written by B-western specialist Daniel B. Ullman, it’s pretty in color (Guy Green manning the camera) and they put some passable bonk into the final fight, but it’s mainly just a check-it-off 85-minutes for completists. It did manage to haul in around $2,160,000. Christopher Lee has a small part, and a lame swordfight with Flynn, who is so lackluster it’s sad to watch—his once vigorous leaps reduced to mere hops. Lee incurred a permanent hand injury doing the scene when Flynn (who’d been hitting the vodka more than his cues) accidentally missed and nearly severed one of Lee’s fingers.
With Patrick Holt, Moultrie Kelsall, Robert Urquhart, Rupert Davies, Robert Brown and uncredited in his first part on screen, Ian Bannen. Another young turk in his second film bit is Patrick McGoohan. Bannen and McGoohan have a historical tie-in— call it Six Degrees of Separation Of Head By Axe— as forty years later they both had important roles in Braveheart, with McGoohan playing King Edward the First (‘Longshanks’), who would be the great-grandfather of Flynn’s nice-guy Prince Edward in this tale.
The real Prince Edward aka The Black Prince/The Dark Avenger was responsible for the great English victories over the hated French (before they were friends, then enemies, then friends…) at Crecy and Poitiers. The French didn’t think he was such a sweetheart, considering the chivalry with which his men pillaged the countryside, laid brutal siege to Calais (rats for dinner) and massacred 3,000 residents of Limoges. He died at 45 (same age as Errol here) as a result of some combo of edema, nephritis and cirrhosis ( Flynn again) which ganged up on him after dysentery contracted during a campaign in Castile to restore one ‘Don Pedro the Cruel’—so basically we’re talking about a lot of swinging dicks going way back. He did however marry his cousin Joan, “The Fair Maid of Kent” (ignore the smallpox, your highness, she can sew like an angel) who is played here by Joanne Dru,who was the elder sister to Peter Marshall, host of The Hollywood Squares, and yet I’m damned if I fit Paul Lynde into this tapesty …. fresh ale for my horses!!