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The Adventures of Gerard 1970 ***

Jerry Skolimowski’s 1970 film has been quite elusive; rarely shown on tv anywhere, an unknown quantity on VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray. That’s a pity, because this action-adventure provides the missing link between two huge cultural touchstones. The technical consultants here are Adrian Conan Doyle, here helping four of his father’s stories onto the screen in one sitting. The other technical consultant is the late John Mollo, who would go on to create the iconic costume designs for Star Wars. Peter McHenry stars as Gerard, a brigadier in the Napoleonic army used as a useful idiot by Napoleon (Eli Wallach). Jack Hawkins and John Neville make the most of their brief bits, along the way, and Claudia Cardinale gives it both barrels in her big dancing scene. With lots of fourth-wall breaking chats to the camera, plus speeded-up film and a very 1970 jaunty score, The Adventures of Gerard is a sincere attempt to revive the comic-historical epic, and one that’s well worth seeking out for collectors of such whimsy.

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