The Film (4/5)
In 1500 Italy, the sinister Prince Cesare Borgia (Orson Welles), plans on ruling all of Italy. To help kill off a rival Count, Borgia enlists the aid of Andrea Orsini (Tyrone Power). He is a master swordsman and ladies’ man, who is just right to enter the life of Count Antonio and destroy him. But Andrea gets a change of heart once he grows to love the count and his wife Camilla (Wanda Hendrix)
PRINCE OF FOXES (1949) is an unusual swashbuckling period piece that focuses on the political drama more so then big action set pieces. Adapted from the 1947 Samuel Shellabarger novel of the same name, PRINCE is very much a literary drama, with big heroes, melodramatic villains, and a grand sense of place in its setting. While some viewers expecting a wall to wall action movie in the same vein as THE SEA HAWK may be disappointed, this film stands on its own feet with plenty of suspense and character moments.
Filmed on location in Italy, the movie has an epic feel. The location shoots and castle sets are all large then life, with the simplest scenes having a new sense of awe. Director Henry King (SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH) shows off a classical style drama with big movements and class. The cinematography by Leon Shamroy, is also splendid with a mix of adventure style filming in the castle fall scenes, and some moody noir like lighting during the climax. You can see every penny on the screen.
Tyrone Power (MARK OF ZORRO) turns in a solid and layered performance as Andrea. While some of his line readings sound forced, overall, he is his usual charming self. The film’s biggest problem is the limited screen time of the second billed Orson Welles (THE THIRD MAN, CITZEN KANE). Welles fills every scene he is in with wit and gloom, making a truly wonderful villain. Sadly, most of the film he is off screen, and doesn’t get to join in the few action scenes. Borgia is one of Welles’ best performances of this period in his life, and it’s a shame he wasn’t given more to do.
Kino gives PRINCE OF FOXES a gorgeous AV upgrade. The 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio track is full of life and no noticeable issues. No hiss or pops. The sound mix sounds wonderful on my Home theater set up, with no loud peaks in volume. Also included is the Isolated score track, that show cases the fine soundtrack by Alfred Newman. English subtitles are included for the hearing impaired.
The 1080p HD transfer is near perfect with a few minor scenes where the image is a little soft. The black levels are smooth and full of texture. The transfer is razor sharp and focused. The level of detail is beyond impressive, especially in one night scene where you can see different layers of dirt on the castle walls. There’s no noticeable film print burn issues, and there’s a light level of natural film grain.
The main extra feature is an audio commentary with film historian Troy Howarth. The track is packed with information and has very little dead air. Howarth covers all areas of the film’s production, and makes it a down to earth listen. A highly entertaining track that’s worth at least a few listens. Next up is a newsreel special from Movietone News on the wedding of Tyrone Power and Linda Christian. Finishing off the extras is a trailer gallery that features: PRINCE OF FOXES, RAWHIDE, MARK OF ZORRO, COMPULSION, and THE STRANGER.
While lacking in action, PRINCE OF FOXES is a gorgeous looking epic with one of Orson Welles finest performances. The movie loses points for his limited screen time, but overall is a fine period piece for fans of old epics. Kino’s Blu-ray of this title is simply fantastic to look at, with wonderful sound and video transfer, and plenty of cool extras. Highly Recommended.