Previously Anthony Ryan – author of this summer’s epic fantasy blockbuster BLOOD SONG – told us his top five movie battle scenes. This time around, in honour of the considerable amount of swordplay in his own novel, Anthony gives us his top five movie sword fights!
Scaramouche – Stewart Granger vs. Mel Ferrer
No fandangos here as Stewart Granger dons the guise of a masked clown in pre-Revolutionary France to pursue a deadly vendetta against Mel Ferrer’s Royalist assassin. This lavish version of Rafael Sabbatini’s swashbuckler is a technicolor spectacle topped off with the longest swordfight in movie history as Granger and Ferrer match blades the length and breadth of a Paris theatre. Can you guess who wins?
The Duellists – Harvey Keitel vs. Keith Carradine
Ridley Scott’s version of Joseph Conrad’s tale of two French cavalrymen fighting a series of duels spanning the Napoleonic Wars owes much of its visual flair to Scott’s background in TV advertising; lots of painterly landscapes and exquisitely lit interiors. But these are contrasted by the fight scenes which pack a brutally realistic punch, none more so than in the mid-point confrontation where Keitel and Carradine assail each other with sabres in a Paris wine cellar. Expert editing and choreography bring home the terror and exhaustion of physical combat to great effect.
The Last Samurai – Tom Cruise vs. The Ronin
Katanas at the ready as everyone’s favourite Scientologist takes on four no-good Ronin in the back streets of 19th century Kyoto in Edward Zwick’s hokum-but-fun elegy to the vanished Japanese warrior class. A real masterpiece of choreography and editing that makes the prospect of one man defeating four attackers at once seem entirely plausible, though you might not want to try it for real.
The Princess Bride – Inigo Montoya vs. The Great Pirate Roberts
Among many other delights offered by Rob Reiner’s adaptation of William Goldman’s fairytale romance is this sublimely staged duel between famed swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and the mysterious Great Pirate Roberts (Cary Elwes). Reiner mixes expertly staged fencing and the ‘banter over crossed swords’ absurdity of the classic swashbuckler with his typical ear for humour: ‘Hah! I am not left handed!’, ‘Neither am I.’ Genius.
The Empire Strikes Back – Luke vs. Vader – Round I
You’ve heard the cliches – best of the series, better because Lucas didn’t direct it, yadda yadda – but the cherry on top is the third act showdown between Luke and Vader, a pre-CGI marvel of stunts, pyrotechnics and a shock dismemberment followed by possibly the best twist in movie history: “Obin Wan never told you what happened to your father…”