Cinema Sword Duels

I recently saw THE MARK OF ZORRO again, made in 1940, starring Tyrone Power, with its climactic duel between Power and Basil Rathbone. Out of curiosity, I discovered that Rathbone was considered to be a first-class fencer, and helped to choreograph his fight scenes in films. If you want to see some really fast and furious action, there are several sites which feature such duels. Of note are the duels in such films as the one above, ROBIN HOOD in 1938, CAPTAIN BLOOD, SCARAMOUCHE, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and ROB ROY, among several scenes from samurai and martial arts films. Stewart Granger remarked that his scene in SCARAMOUCHE - shot in one take - left him with knee, shoulder, and back injuries that plagued him for years. Watching these might make you glad we’re not in a dueling society, like the Klingons.

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The duels in “Count of Monte Cristo” (2002) were pretty good. Guy Pearce was a fencer, and you can tell he knows a thing or two about swordplay. Most sword fights in movies are ridiculous; they prefer large, sweeping, theatric movements to the kind of small, direct actions that would actually win a sword fight.

The Princess Bride has to have one of my favorite sword fight scenes, though. It’s not just the parries and the footwork, it’s the hilarious dialogue as two fencing nerds play fight.




doing movie stuff is not gonna keep you alive in a real such fight

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No - but these duels are educational to some extent, and a diversion from dead-fish topics - if you can find the duel between Robert Wagner and James Mason in PRINCE VALIANT, note the enormous size of the swords used - their blades had to have been at least 4" wide, and the length of a Claymore.

and as I recall Wagner swords started singing

This is really digging. A myth created about the “SS” was that like “Excalibur”, the sword made you invincible if you were the rightful owner, but the scabbard made you invulnerable. In Arthurian legend, Mordred was able to deliver a fatal wound to Arthur because he’d forgotten to wear the scabbard in his last battle. FYI