I should have learned my lesson from The Crimson Pirate - when Burt Lancaster is the star of a swashbuckler, run away screaming. That being said, I went into The Flame and the Arrow thinking it would be just another bad post-World War II swashbuckler. I wasn't expecting it to piss me the **** off as much as it did.
The Flame and The Arrow is set in Lombardy in the 12th century, during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick Barabarossa, a fact that doesn't seem to play much of a role in the story, if any. Dardo Bartoli (Burt Lancaster) is a peasant and hunter who lives in the mountains with his son Rudi (Gordon Gebert), the only person Dardo cares about (although not enough to make Rudi wear pants). Not too long ago, Dardo's wife Francesca tired of peasant life and ran off with the dreaded Count Ulrich (Frank Allenby), known as "The Hawk." When Dardo, Francesca, and Ulrich encounter each other in the town square one day, Dardo kills Ulrich's hunting hawk in mid-flight, just as a middle-finger. (Yeah, great way to make us like the hero - have him kill an innocent animal just to diss the villain. Schmuck.) As retribution and to guarantee his own safe exit from the village, Ulrich abducts Rudi, where he will suffer the cruel fate of...being raised by his mother as a gentleman in Ulrich's court. While he's at it, The Hawk tries to arrest Dardo, but he escapes capture with the help of his mute friend, a blacksmith named Piccolo (Nick Cravat). Go ahead, get all the Dragonball jokes out of your system. I'll wait.