Lester: More Than a Flash
In many areas of endeavor, less is more. To cinephiles, Lester is more, and lots of the work of innovative director Richard Lester is currently on view this month at Los Angeles’ New Beverly Cinema, in lovely 35mm prints screened in smartly programmed double features. The Lester festival kicked off last week with “Lester the Swashbuckler” (The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers) and continues this Friday and Saturday with “Lester the Cockeyed Comic Book Chronicler (Superman II and Superman III). Future pairings include “Lester the Action Realist” on August 21 and 22 (Juggernaut and Cuba), “Lester the Fractured Romantic” on August 26 and 27 (The Knack…and How to Get It and Petulia) and “Lester the Legend Debunker” on August 28 and 29 (Robin and Marian and Butch and Sundance: The Early Years). Smack-dab in the middle of the month is the “Lester the Anti-‘Anti-War’ Warrior” matchup this coming Sunday/Monday August 14 and 15, pairing the cheeky How I Won the War with the irreverent Royal Flash (1975). For those who can’t attend the Lester Fest, Twilight Time offers up Royal Flash on a delicious hi-def Blu-ray that preserves the friskily satiric adventures of George MacDonald Fraser’s Rugby School hellraiser and rakish antihero Harry Flashman (Malcolm McDowell), bluffing and backsliding through all manner of military maneuverings and geopolitical schemings through encounters with such real historic figures as dancer/manipulator Lola Montez (Florinda Bolkan) and power-obsessed statesman Otto von Bismarck (Oliver Reed) as well as the fictional but chillingly calculating Rudi Von Sternberg (Alan Bates). Juggling sequences of slapstick, swordplay and sexual dalliance (Britt Ekland is also on hand), Lester ornaments the film’s japery on the conflicting madness of British expansionism and European imperialism with gorgeous location photography in Bavaria (courtesy of Cabaret and Superman: The Movie cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth), top-notch production design (provided by his Juggernaut collaborator Terence March) and a choice ensemble of British character actors in plum supporting roles (Tom Bell, Joss Ackland, Christopher Cazenove, Lionel Jeffries, Michael Hordern, Bob Hoskins and Alastair Sim). Watching Royal Flash on the big screen as part of a celebration of its director’s diverse body of work is a wonderful way to go, but experiencing it at home with a delicious Audio Commentary conversation between star McDowell and TT’s Nick Redman, plus an Isolated Score Track highlighting the contributions of music adaptor Ken Thorne (who won an Oscar® for Lester’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and two nifty making-of featurettes can deliver a flashing good time as well.