DANGEROUS EXILE. J. Arthur Rank, UK, 1957. Louis Jourdan, Belinda Lee, Keith Michell, Richard O’Sullivan, Martita Hunt, Finlay Currie, Anne Heywood, Brian Rawlinson. Based on the novel A King Reluctant by Vaughan Wilkins. Director: Brian Desmond Hurst.


   History, once in a while, rises to the occasion and outpaces and outdates historical fiction, sometimes in flashy fashion and sometimes not. Either way, does the truth always out? We hope so.

   Dangerous Exile is a film that takes place at the time of the French Revolution, centering as it does upon ten year old Louis XVII, son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the heir to the throne when his parents are beheaded.

   In this film he makes his way to a mansion on the coast of Wales in a hot air balloon, a very neat conceit at the time the movie was made. As is known now, this could not have happened. The Dauphin died in a Parisian prison cell, still only a little boy, as verified by DNA tests made not so many years ago.

   But let’s go with the fiction. Even if Mars is uninhabitable, the story’s the the thing, as fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs know full well. In Wales the young lad taken in by some British gentry, and to tell you the truth, I like this version of the story better, truth or not.


   Louis Jourdan plays a French aristocrat who smuggles the lad out of his home land, leaving his own son behind to play the part in the would-be king’s place, while Belinda Lee, an American visiting her British aunt, is the woman in whose charge the boy is placed.

   His life, of course, is much happier there, having witnessed at least the death of his mother, and he soon no longer wishes to be king. Richard O’Sullivan, who plays the young boy to perfection – even the smile-producing scene in which he proposes marriage to the beautifully buxom Miss Lee is done well – later became a fixture on British TV, but to all intents and purposes is totally unknown in this country.

   Knowing more about the intrigue that was going on in France at the time will boost your enjoyment of the story as it goes along, and truth be known, this is a failure I find in myself. Even so, if good old-fashioned swordplay is what you are looking for in movies like this, the action toward the end of the film picks up noticeably, and it’s worth waiting for. (And unlike the photos to the left and above, the film is in color.)

   Dangerous Exile is a minor film, I admit, but when I happened to watch it, it was exactly what I wanted to see at the time.