Court Jester,The/A,A-

Paramount/1956/101m/ANA 1.85

       "The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison and the chalice with the palace has the brew that is true," is the mantra for survival that Danny Kaye bollixes up in one of the screen’s funniest comedies, The Court Jester. The comic’s magic with word patter and his very individual physical style are in evidence in this 1956 spoof on golden era Hollywood swashbucklers. The Court Jester marks a departure from the usual Kaye vehicle since more attention is paid to the plot line and most of the humor develops through the interaction of the characters inhabiting this world. Many of Kaye’s previous movies depend on the comic’s screen persona rather than using terrific scripting to develop the comedy. The Court Jester reigns regally as the crown jewel of Kaye’s film output.

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Griselda rehearses Hawkins. ©Paramount

    Mistaken identity is a typical comic device and it's used superbly in The Court Jester. Kaye plays Hawkins, a jolly good follower of The Fox, the Robin Hood of this piece. Kaye plays at being The Fox in his opening scene and then winds up impersonating a visiting jester to the court of the royal usurper King Roderick the First. The jester has been brought to court by the devious Sir Ravenhurst, for aside from his comic skills he is also a renowned assassin. Not only is Hawkins mistaken for the jester by Ravenhurst and crew, he is also later taken for The Fox, and to complicate matters even further, the King's daughter Gwendolyn falls in love with him. Hawkins in the mean time is in love with the maid Jean, an most able agent of The Fox. Add the evil eye of Griselda to the brew and its madcap comedy at its most hilarious.

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King of jesters and jester to the King©Paramount

     There are several marvelous musical production numbers, including "Outfox the Fox" and "The Maladjusted Jester." Wait till you see Kaye surrounded by a chorus line of armored knights. That alone makes The Court Jester worth watching.
     Kaye is so great in The Court Jester. He was born for this role and the role for him. His energy is divine, his innocence sublime and his singing knightly. Kaye gets great support from Basil Rathbone spoofing his own Robin Hood role, Angela Landsbury as the princess Gwendolyn and Cecil Parker as King Roderick. Glynis Johns is sweet and pretty as the maid Jean. Mildred Natwick almost steals the show as the charming Griselda. Did I say charming?
     The color on The Court Jester is absolutely invigorating. What a great high. All the richly adorned costumes of the king's court come to life on this DVD. The high energy of the production is enhanced by the visual beauty of this wonderful film. Though high color saturation can lead to color bleeding, The Court Jester maintains it's color integrity throughout. The picture is quite sharp. There is slight edge enhancement, but it's not disturbing. God bless Paramount for taking the trouble to make this grand entertainment an anamorphic transfer. I'm plain greedy. I want The Court Jester to look as good as it can since it's one of my all time favorite movies, and this is probably as good as it will ever look. There are several scenes in which there was stationary dirt on the Rank which shows up prominently against the blue skies. Too bad. The sound is just fine. It's clean, the glorious lyrics and clever dialogue are easy to understand. Could you ask for anything more?




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