Great adventure, a literate script, and fine performances combine in PRINCE OF FOXES to produce splendid entertainment, directed with marvelous briskness by Henry King. Set during the Italian Renaissance, the film opens with Welles, as the notorious Cesare Borgia, outlining his plans for
the domination of Italy to his trusted aide, Power. Welles tells Power that the city-state cannot be taken of Ferrara by force, its fortress being too well-manned and well-defended by the Duke Alfonso D'Este (van Hulzen), cannon-maker extraordinaire. He assigns Power to persuade van Hulzen to
marry Welles's sister, the scheming Lucrezia Borgia. This Power does, with considerable guile and brass, after which he is instructed by Welles to seduce the young Hendrix--wife of the elderly Aylmer, who presides over a neighboring duchy--and then to turn over Aylmer's mountain fortress to
Welles. En route to Aylmer's duchy, Power, an aspiring painter, stops to visit his mentor, art dealer Eduardo Ciannelli, and arranges to have one of his own works on display when Hendrix inspects Ciannelli's collection. She spots Power's work and admires it, after which the artist makes a gift of
it to her. Hendrix, in turn, invites Power to visit her and Aylmer. However, having thus inveigled his way into Aylmer's court, Power soon realizes that the old duke is an honorable, decent man whose deep love for Hendrix is more paternal than sexual, and he cannot bring himself to betray Hendrix
and Aylmer's trust. Deciding he can no longer wait for Power to deliver the duchy, Welles orders his men to march against the mountain fortress. Power offers his sword to Aylmer and Hendrix, betraying his master to join in the heroic defense of the stronghold. Welles's troops eventually overcome
the defenders, however, and Aylmer is dead by the time Hendrix and Power surrender the duchy. After Sloane, Power's erstwhile friend and advisor, reports to Welles that he has discovered that Power's mother (Paxinou) is a peasant, Welles realizes that his former aide, now his prisoner, has not
only betrayed him but is not of noble birth, and allows Sloane to gouge out Power's eyes before a dinner party at which Hendrix begs for Power's life. However, Sloane has really crushed two grapes over Power's eyes and offered this gore up as the real thing, whispering to Power to scream in
feigned pain. Power is led away, but soon organizes a plot to retake Citta del Monte and free Hendrix.
Beautifully photographed on location in Italy by cinematographer Leon Shamroy, this Fox production is both tasteful and lavish, with Power exceptional in his portrait of an ambitious but honorable Renaissance man. Unfortunately, the exquisite costuming suffers somewhat as a result of Fox's
decision to shoot in black and white, even though King had begged for color. Welles, who makes a wholly sinister Cesare Borgia, took the role because he was desperately in need of cash to fuel his own projects. But he couldn't resist the urge to direct, and reportedly infuriated King when, during
his scenes, he would upbraid his fellow actors for not reacting correctly to his evil, powerful character.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Great adventure, a literate script, and fine performances combine in PRINCE OF FOXES to produce splendid entertainment, directed with marvelous briskness by Henry King. Set during the Italian Renaissance, the film opens with Welles, as the notorious Cesare… (more)