Little Known Films: On Guard

THE FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY addition of this newsletter is crying out for an epic! And not just any epic. A French swashbuckling epic! Superstars Daniel Auteuil (Après Vous) and Fabrice Luchini (Gemma Bovery) happily return to Palisades in this recently rediscovered and gloriously restored film from the novel Le Bossu (The Hunchback) by Paul Leval.

Director Philippe de Broca obtained great notoriety in the mid 70s with his cult hit King of Hearts with Alan Bates who plays a Scottish soldier who, separated from his unit, wanders into a small French village populated entirely by escapees from a nearby asylum (available at the Palisades Library). With On Guard, he is working from a plot that easily could have been lifted from any number of Douglas Fairbanks silent pictures. This humorbedecked historical romp is the seventh screen adaption of Leval’s 1857 serialized novel. Nevers’ scheming, reptile-like, hissing villain cousin Gonzague (Fabrice Luchini) dearly wants to inherit the dukedom and the fortune and land that goes with it, so he hires Lagardère to try and kill Nevers. Instead Nevers and Lagardère bond and join forces, and Lagardère learns the secret lethal maneuver known as the “Nevers Attack,” which leads to some pretty impressive swordfights.

It turns out that Nevers’ girlfriend is pregnant and if he marries her his throne is safe three times over. But if Gonzague can prevent this marriage, or kill everyone involved, he can rule. And that’s just the first 45 minutes! On Guard plays like a clearcut, whiz-bang adventure flick. Indeed, nearly every plot twist unfolds in an entirely visual manner. The film brings to life literary action-adventure codes that are nowadays most often relegated to videogames and animated cartoons. The result is a refreshing big screen experience for the young at heart. The Palisades Library, in conjunction with Cohn Media Group, is proud to present a 4K Blu-ray presentation of this little known gem on March 18th at 5:00 pm.