‘The Purple Mask’ | Sunday Observer

‘The Purple Mask’

31 January, 2021

A story that unfolds in 1803 amid the strife between the French Republican Government under Napoleon Bonaparte and the Monarchist underground whose staunch beliefs as Royalists strive to restore the French monarchy, ‘The Purple Mask’is an American ‘swashbuckler movie’ directed by Bruce Humberstone andreleased in 1955.

‘The Purple Mask’ stars Hollywood screen icon Tony Curtis in the lead role as Rene de Traviere who is secretly the royalist outlaw known as The Purple Mask.

The cast includes Colleen Miller as Laurette de Latour and Angela Lansbury as Madame Valentine as well as Robert Cornthwaite who plays Napoleon.

Filmed as in studio and outdoor locations, the movie is an action drama with a notable vein of the classical style of Hollywood when depicting the continental European culture.

Brilliant performance

Curtis delivers a brilliant performance as the foppish yet eloquent dandy de Traviere who projects a persona of a charming yet vain young man given to the urban cultural pleasures of dancing and fencing and sporting a penchant for flirting with pretty young women, all the while he is actually in secret the masked hero of the royalist underground whose guerrilla tactics of abducting government officials and demanding ransom for their release has earned him a reputation that is praised and glorified by the royalists while being despised by Napoleon’s Government.

The story opens with the head of the police force, Captain Rochet being taken prisoner by the Purple Mask while he is transporting a prisoner who is a member of the French aristocracy that is being systematically persecuted by the Government of the French revolution.

The purple mask sets the French nobleman free and gives him a mount and money to reach the port and sail to England.

Although Rochet had intended to trap and capture the Purple Mask,what ensues is that he becomes the prisoner of the masked crusader and is held for ransom to the amount of 10,000 gold coins.

Napoleon who receives the message for ransom is outraged and decides to assign the expert swordsman Brisquet, who is a reputed antiroyalist, as a special operative with the express orders to capture the Purple Mask.

What unfolds is a story of intrigue, deviousness, a battle of strategy and tactics, as well as courage, heroism and romance. The story brings twists and turns in a manner that shows how strategic, both de Traviere and Napoleon were, in devising their moves to outdo the other.

The finale is one that is memorable and a display of how clever a strategist de Traviere is to make the most of the resources available for the royalist cause when pinned down with seemingly no escape from facing the guillotine.

The finale also shows a spectacular duel between two master swordsmen as de Traviere and Brisquet cross blades in what results in a decisive victory for the royalists. ‘The Purple Mask’ is a vintage classic which will surely be enjoyed by young and old alike, a retro classic to be celebrated and deserving a round of rousing applause.