Home Video Picks & Passes 01.31.21

Danny Kaye’s finest moment has a new Blu-Ray edition.

Danny Kaye stars in a comedy classic.
Danny Kaye stars in a comedy classic. (photo: Paramount Pictures)

The Court Jester (1956) PICK

Celebrating its 65th anniversary with a new Blu-Ray edition is Danny Kaye’s finest moment, The Court Jester: a member of a tiny club of brilliant comedies, with The Princess Bride and Galaxy Quest, that manage to spoof a genre while also ideally exemplifying it.

Would you believe me if I said it’s the best Robin Hood movie and the best Zorro movie? Our family loves The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Mark of Zorro, but we revisit The Court Jester far more often — and not just because Basil Rathbone, the sword-fighting villain in all three, is at his best here.

It’s a parody, but also a genuinely entertaining swashbuckling tale, with an evil usurper king (Cecil Parker), a treacherous knight (Rathbone) and a Robin Hood / Zorro type hero-outlaw called the Black Fox (Edward Ashley) — a supporting player in the misadventures of Hubert Hawkins (Kaye), a former circus performer and the meekest of the Fox’s merry men.

Charged with caring for the royal infant who is the true heir to the throne, Hawkins longs to take an active part in the resistance — ideally winning the heart of the Fox’s lovely, duty-minded daughter, Maid Jean (Glynis Johns).

Best remembered for its classic tongue-twisting wordplay (“the vessel with the pestle”), the film is full of inspired hilarity, from the witty rapid-fire lyrics of the manic musical numbers to Hawkins’ rapid-fire personality changes under hypnosis. Truly, it couldn’t possibly better be!

Caveat Spectator: Comic swashbuckling violence. Fine family viewing.