review for Royal Flash on AllMovie

Royal Flash (1975)
by Craig Butler review

Although something of a missed opportunity, Royal Flash is a moderately entertaining comedy-adventure. Those who are unfamiliar with the George MacDonald Fraser series of comic novels will be more likely to enjoy Flash than devotees of the books, for the tone of the movie Flash is quite alien to that of the novels. This is chiefly due to director Richard Lester, whose trademark frenetic slapstick style is far too over-the-top for the material. Lester's style and pacing are so insistent, however, that they can't help but create a number of sequences that are quite funny, and several more that at least are of such visual interest that they make one forget that the film as a whole isn't holding together the way it should. And then there's Oliver Reed, who gives a wonderful performance as Otto Von Bismarck, practically stealing the show. The problem is that, as good as he is in this role, he would have been even better in the leading role of Flashman. Instead, that role goes to Malcolm McDowell, who physically is all wrong and who doesn't really "get" the character. This is a problem for which the rest of the cast, including an okay Britt Ekland, a very good Alan Bates and a delicious Alastair Sim (in what is almost a cameo role), cannot make up. Despite its flaws, Flash is worth seeing, especially for those who liked the director's not-terribly-dissimilar Three and Four Musketeers.