Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Where are Tom Servo and Crow When You Need Them?

This week's movie is a colassal stink fest. I am warning you right now: it's horrible. It's beyond bad and moved into the realm of so wrenchingly awful it's funny. I bring to you The Lady and the Highwayman (1989), tagline: a Swashbuckling Epic of the 17th century. So far so good. Cast: Hugh Grant, Emma Samms, Oliver Reed, Michael York, Clare Bloom and the always entertaining Ian Bannen. Ian Bannen's sadly minute part as the heroine's evil husband is testament to the schlocky goodness a one dimentional villian can bring to the screen. How bad can a swashbuckler be with that cast? I stress again, tearjerkingly, roll on the floor helpless with laughter bad.

Our story opens with a dapper Michael York in a plumey hat, shoulderlength wig, and pencil thin moustache galloping across the downs with a small company of riders, trying to outrace soldiers behind them. York plays Charles II who has just canvassed the populace and determined they are ready for him to wrench the country away from Cromwell. King Charles famed for his decadence and sensualism, has no charisma in York's portrayal, rather just the boundless good humor exuded by Basil Exposition in the Austen Power's flicks. (I hope that he brings more realism to his character in Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!)

As the remorsless Roundhead soldiers decend on our gallant band of Caveliers, York switches plumey hats with Lord Lucius Vyne (Grant) whose's job is to fool the decending soldiers into chasing him while the king makes his escape. In HEAVY foreshadowing, we learn Lucius is heir to a dukedom, supposed to look out for the sister of the current duke (a cousin and Lucius' best friend), and now is given a opened ended favor by King Charles.

Before we get any farther in this movie, let me reflect for a moment on the picture quality. It seems that a soft focus was given to most shots. It was so bad I actually checked to see if I was wearing my glasses. I was. Anyway, onward!

Young Lord Lucius in his borrowed plumey hat easily fools the soldiers and leads them merry chase down the coast. He rides his horse here, he rides there, then in dazzling display of cunning dodges into a big ol' cave. Up ride the soldiers, where did he go? They are baffled. He's gone and it has nothing to do with the GIANT cave off to your right the length of two horses. Unfortunatly, YLL's horse whinnies and tips off the soldiers to the secret cave and they give chase. Everyone blunders around a while and out comes YLL on top of the bluff and the soldiers down on the beach. The horse rears, YLL smiles the Hugh Grant Self-Deprecating Grin (TM) and leaves the soldiers to scratch their heads.

Enter Lady Panthea Vyne, or Pantyline, as I affectionately think of her. She rides home to find the evil taxman (Bannen) with a nefarious plan. It seems her brother, the duke, has been captured and imprisoned by Cromwell, because he was a royalist. If Pantyline marries Bannen he will exert his influence to have her brother's life spared. In throat grabbing bewilderment, Pantyline agrees. Alas, Pantyline has never thought to verify evil taxman husband's story. She marries him and is promptly fighting off his lustful advances in an open carriage while the coachmen sit and listen in embarrassed silence. A shot rings out! Who could it be? The heroic YLL, disguised as the highwayman SilverBlade. He informs young Pantyline that her brother is already dead, challenges the dastardly husband to a duel and then buries the body.

The story wearily goes on from there. Pantyline's aunt (Bloom) shows up to take Pantyline to court. Dialogue as follows:

Pantyline: "This is my home. I'll never leave it!"

Pantyline's Aunt: "You are all alone here!"

P: "No I'll never leave!"

PA: "But I'm so lonely!" (so very lonely)

P: "OK then."

PA and Pantyline join the wicked court of Kind Charles who has deposed Cromwell, none of which we see. Enter the King's jealous and scheming mistress (Samms). (Is there any other kind?) She takes umbrage at Pantyline's golden curls (no, I am not making this up) and friendship with the King's new wife. Lots of talky-talk about who is who at court. Lest we forget the hero, we get occasional shots of a plumey hat riding around the countryside to quasi-noble music with real tinny horns.

For reasons I miss while moving laundrey to the dryer, Silver Blade is connected to YLL and also to Pantyline. The mistress, along with YLL's dastardly cousin set to get the dukedom when he's framed, find out about Pantyline's short lived marriage and set up to frame her for the murder. They succeed beyond their wildest expectations, mostly due to Pantyline's stupidity. She dismisses her own lawyer for Pete's sake and decides to defend her own stupid self in court. Of course she's saved by LLY who seems to have heard of her plight on one of his periodic gallops through the countryside.

It ends happily of course. I am sure Lucius and Pantyline have lots of stupid but good looking children. Really though, I needed robots to appreciate the way it deserves.

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