The Prisoner of Zenda

Watch The Prisoner of Zenda

"The most thrilling swordfight ever filmed..."
  • Approved
  • 1937
  • 1 hr 41 min
  • 7.6  (5,016)

The Prisoner of Zenda, a 1937 MGM film directed by John Cromwell, is a classic adventure romance. Based on the novel by Anthony Hope, the film stars Ronald Colman as Rudolf Rassendyll, an English tourist who bears a striking resemblance to the King of Ruritania, Rudolf V. When the King is kidnapped on the eve of his coronation by his evil half-brother, Michael (Raymond Massey), the dashing Rassendyll is recruited to stand in for him and avoid a political catastrophe for the country.

The story begins with Rassendyll's arrival in the fictional European country of Ruritania where he falls in with a group of travellers, including the lovely Princess Flavia (Madeleine Carroll), cousin of the king. But when he attends the coronation, Rassendyll is shocked to find that Rudolf V has been drugged and hidden in Zenda Castle against his will, while Michael takes his place.

Rassendyll agrees to take on the responsibility of impersonating the King for a short time, so as to prevent Michael from putting his own unpopular policies into place. However, he finds himself falling in love with Princess Flavia, while she becomes increasingly conflicted about her duty to her country versus her growing attachment to the charming Englishman.

Ronald Colman gives a stand-out performance as the suave and sophisticated Rudolf Rassendyll, who is not only physically identical to the king, but also shares a similar sense of honour and decency. Madeleine Carroll, meanwhile, brings warmth and depth to the role of the conflicted Princess Flavia, who is torn between her duty to her country and her love for Rassendyll.

The supporting cast is equally impressive, with C. Aubrey Smith as Colonel Zapt, the head of the King's household, and Raymond Massey as the scheming Michael, who is determined to take the throne for himself.

The Prisoner of Zenda is a swashbuckling adventure that combines romance, action and intrigue in equal measures. The film's lavish sets and lush cinematography capture the grandeur of 19th-century Europe and the intrigue of political power struggles. The dynamic action sequences, including sword fights and horseback chases, make for thrilling viewing, while the film's romantic subplot adds depth and emotional resonance to the story.

The film's screenplay, written by John L. Balderston, is tightly constructed, with witty dialogue and unexpected plot twists that keep the audience engaged throughout. The relationship between Rassendyll and Princess Flavia is particularly well-handled, with both characters struggling to reconcile their feelings with the demands of their respective roles.

Ultimately, The Prisoner of Zenda is a classic adventure tale that continues to captivate audiences today. Its strong performances, dynamic action sequences and romantic subplot make for compelling viewing, while the film's lush visuals transport the audience to a bygone era of chivalry and intrigue.

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1937 romance movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 41 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.6.

The Prisoner of Zenda
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 41 min
  • IMDB Rating
    7.6  (5,016)