King\'s Thief, The (1955) Zero stars.
Directed by Robert Z. Leonard. Written by Christopher Knopf from a story by Robert Hardy Andrews. Photography, Robert Planck. Editing, John McSweeney Jr. Art direction, Malcolm Brown, Cedric Gibbons. Music, Miklos Rosza. Cast: Ann Blyth (Lady Mary), Edmund Purdom (Michael Dermott), David Niven (Duke of Brampton), George Sanders (King Charles II), Roger Moore (Jack), et al. An MGM production. In color and CinemaScope. 78 minutes
In the credits, it is odd to see the well-known --by 1955--name of David Niven's, who was a veteran of some 40 films, listed beneath that of Edmund Purdom who previously had just three minor film credits and one title role in a minor picture "The Students Prince," in which he replaced Mario Lanza. The latter had, as I see it, been planned for that role, but his weight problems caused MGM to substitute Purdom, although the singing voice was Lanza's.
Cute, diminutive singer-actress Ann Blyth is mostly remembered as Joan Crawford's daughter in "Mildred Pierce" (1945.) I would add my own good movie to a roster of by and large insignificant ones: the underrated "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid" (1948) which co-starred the ever-delightful William Powell. That fantasy was the able predecessor of the hit "Splash" (1984) which did a lot for its director Ron Howard and made stars of the hardly-known Darryl Hannah and Tom Hanks.
Why am I writing all this? Because there's nothing useful to be gained by delving on "The King's Thief," a stinker.
Charles II is played by the often great, fascinating and one-of-a kind George Sanders. His part is minimal. He acts as though aware that this movie is a lemon. Mind you, to my knowledge the real king was a smart fellow. The movie's king doesn't seem to be. He places his trust in his Chancellor, the Duke of Brampton, who is really a treacherous villain. He is played by David Niven who had scads of roles as a nice, likeable man. The Duke's hidden agenda is to accuse the richest nobles of treachery and plotting against His Majesty. This leads to the execution of those notables and to their fortunes going to the Crown. Well, only part of the loot, since Brampton keeps half of it. They probably had no accounting firms in those days. A pity, since we all know how reliable and honest those outfits are.
Brampton carries around a little book. It is the sort of thing that some people use today for names and addresses of prospective dates or bedmates. Brampton's notebook has a list of now ten of his future victims. Is this a stupid and improbable thing to do? You bet it is.
The latest wealthy man already decapitated is the father of Lady Mary (Ann Blyth,) now living in France. She returns to England to see justice done. Or something like that.
In England, the landscapes of which look exactly like California's, Michael Dermott (Purdom) is, I think, a former army officer. Also perhaps a vague kind of Robin Hood, one-hundred times removed. I can't tell for sure. Everything is vague and made vaguer as the spectator keeps yawning. No matter. Dermott is the leader of a small band of highwaymen. They steal from the rich (whom else could they rob?) but there is no hint that they give to the poor.
In any case, that small gang holds up Brampton's de luxe carriage , take his valuables, plus his aforementioned little book, for no valid (to them) reason.
The plot gets additionally made a mess of by the meeting of Dermott and Lady Ann. Telegraphed romance will materialize eventually, but in the weakest, most unlikely, dumbest fashion.
I am now feeling so annoyed by this movie that I cannot go on. The penultimate thing I'll say is that Roger Moore, then at the start of his career, plays Jack, Dermott's sidekick, second or whatever. I could not recognize him.
The very last thing I will say, my most important statement, and the main reason I'm wasting time writing this, is that in the best-selling, and-- with exceptions-- quite useful "Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide" whoever wrote up this flick gave three (3) (***) stars. I kid you not.