Cinema Magic is Ageless:
The Black Shield of Falworth
When I grew up on a small island off the East coast of Africa, there were no television channels. There were also no theaters. For six years, I was cut off from the influx of new movies, until I returned and sought out the dark movie houses and the shelves of movie rental joints (whose catalog I eyed with wonder, marveling the films of Harrison Ford and others like him that I never heard of).
On the island, we only had tapes. We had 300 VHS tapes to be exact. My father spent time before we left the U.S. recording everything he deemed worth watching. There were three films on every tape. We even made an alphabetical catalog of everything we had and it was family practice to inhabit the living room after dinner and put a tape into the VCR.
No matter how many great movies I have seen since, it is the ones from those days that define me and my love for movies. It was my education but really it was something more than that, it was the beginning of a love affair.
I remember the affect of watching Errol Flynn burst through the palace doors with the king’s deer on his shoulders. The music roared, the corrupt nobles dropped their mutton. This kind of moment is movies to me. The swashbucklers of the Hollywood Studio days never seemed cheesy; they just knew how to have fun, how to revel in the magic of cinema.
The one I liked the most is called The Black Shield of Falworth. I recently found a DVD copy and watched it after many years. I was hesitant, it seems that what I perceived as a child has so often changed, become distorted, silly or even corrupt. The Black Shield of Falworth remained the same.
It stars Tony Curtis. He plays a fiery peasant boy who seeks shelter with his sister in a castle after a scuffle with soldiers in his village. In his possession is a ring, the symbol on it is a red lion on a black background. He knows somehow that this ring connects he and his family to some secret history. When he shows the ring to one of the lords of the castle, he is hushed. You see, Falworth his father was considered a traitor and the black shield cast away from the nobles.
As a squire, Curtis starts to train in combat. I didn’t remember how hot his temper was, because in almost every other scene, he starts a fight with the snobby knights-in-training who taunt him with insults. Soon though, he becomes one of them, favored by the stern eye-patched teacher played by Torin Thatcher.
I love the montages: Curtis getting used to his armor, too heavy and bulky to allow him to get up when he falls, his lessons in manners where he learns when to toss his leg of lamb on the floor, his joust with master Thatcher. I love the scenes when he and his friend sneak over a wall to interrupt the croquet between his sister and beautiful Janet Leigh. Most of all, I love the final battle, an underdog fight of squires versus soldiers.
The Black Shield of Falworth is romantic, not just in its love story, but every frame, every movement. This kind of bold romance has gone out of style, but as I have recently learned, its power over me cannot be extinguished.