Cinema: The New Pictures, Oct. 25, 1954

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The Black Shield of Falworth (Universal-International). After sitting through three full-color CinemaScope treatments of the Middle Ages (Knights of the Round Table, Prince Valiant, King Richard and the Crusaders) in the last six months, one schoolboy complained that he was "beginning to feel middle-aged." A weary wag some years his senior replied by recommending The Black Shield of Falworth as distinctly "the lesser of medievals." Actually, The Black Shield is better than that. In sheer athletic thwack-in the vim with which buffets are fetched and weasands slit—it is one of the jaw-jarringest things of its kind since Douglas Fairbanks' 1922 Robin Hood.

The Fairbanks on the current job is 29-year-old Tony Curtis, who plays the broadsword, mans the barbican and generally acrobattles with such enthusiasm that no one should be disturbed by a few Curtis crudities. Example: when he kisses a girl—in this case Janet Leigh, who is Mrs. Curtis in private life—a great wet smack is heard all the way to the back of the theater.

The story of the picture, based on a novel, Men of Iron, by Howard Pyle, concerns a rash child (Actor Curtis) of the 14th century who doesn't know his own father. To find out who he is, the young man takes service as a squire with the kindly Earl of Mackworth (Herbert Marshall), quickly wins distinction with his arms—in the bower of milord's pretty daughter (Actress Leigh) as well as in the joust. In the end, Curtis clears his father's name, puts the crunch on the villain, gets the girl—and saves the state.

In fact, everything is just as it ought to be in such a picture. Oscar Brodney's scenes are fast and well-organized, Rudolph (Dodsworth) Mate's direction is firm and businesslike. Best bit is are working of a famed Charles Laughton scene in Henry VIII, a demonstration of medieval good manners ("the little things that distinguish the gentleman''; in which Actor Torin Thatcher daintily raises a whole haunch of mutton to his lips, graciously gnaws at it for awhile, then flings it airily over his shoulder—the left shoulder, that is—to the floor.

Operation Manhunt (MPTV Corp.; United Artists). Igor Gouzenko was trained by Soviet military intelligence to be persistent, and he learned his lesson well. In 1945 the former code clerk in Ottawa's Russian embassy exposed to the Canadian government a Red ring that was stealing atomic secrets. In 1948 his adventures gave Hollywood the excuse and the plot for a vivid anti-Soviet spy thriller, Iron Curtain. Last July he published a powerful novel, The Fall of a Titan, about Russian officialdom, and how one of its high-ups got cut down. Operation Manhunt, a sort of sequel to Iron Curtain, is still another piece of pretty effective anti-Communist propaganda inspired by eager Igor.

The manhunt of the title is an attempt by the Russians to find Gouzenko (Harry Townes), whose whereabouts are a Canadian state secret, and to liquidate him. The suspense coils down tight as Gouzenko is lured to a rendezvous with death, and there is a jack-in-the-box finish to send everybody home happy.

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