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Sword of Freedom (1958-61)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Sword of Freedom (1958-61)
Sapphire Films/ITP for ITV, tx. 25/1/1958-4/6/1960. 39 x 30 min episodes total across 3 series, black and white
ProducerSidney Cole
Directors includeTerry Bishop, Terence Fisher, Bernard Knowles
Writers includeGeorge Baxt, Samuel B.West, Robert Westerby

Regular Cast: Edmund Purdom (Marco del Monte); Adrienne Corri (Angelica); Roland Bartrop (Sandro); Martin Benson (Duke de Medici); Kenneth Hyde (Machiavelli)

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The dashing Marco del Monte fights corruption in Renaissance Italy.

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With the American television market clamouring for more of the same in 1957 (i.e. The Adventures of Robin Hood, ITV, 1955-59; The Buccaneers, ITV, 1956-57; The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, ITV, 1956-57), Sapphire Films' fourth historical adventure series, Sword of Freedom, followed the true to form pattern established by their earlier swashbucklers.

Starting production in January 1957 under the working title Sword for Hire (later The Blade) before it became Sword of Freedom, this doublet-and-hose series was set in Florence in the period of the Renaissance, when the powerful banking house of Medici ruled, and revolved around the exploits of painter-cum-swordsman Marco del Monte as he fought against the tyranny of the Duke de Medici (played by Martin Benson, relaxed and softly murderous).

As the series' stalwart hero del Monte, Edmund Purdom - with some limited genre experience in the post-Restoration swashbuckler The King's Thief (US, 1955) - tackled his role in a peculiar combination of moody indifference and boyish enthusiasm, setting a generally mediocre tone that tended to mar the overall presentation.

Fortunately, however, his freedom-fighting companions were his feisty artists' model and former pickpocket Angelica (Adrienne Corri, lending mischievous charm), and the burly Sandro (Rowland Bartrop). The polished, imperturbable villainy of Benson's Duke de Medici and the sinister determination of Derek Sydney's Captain Rodrigo came satisfyingly close to Sapphire's earlier personification of rampant evil: Alan Wheatley's viperish Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The well-tried formula should have been foolproof: elegant costumes and settings, glimpses of historical figures (Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci), duel scenes, love scenes, escape scenes and lots of intense manoeuvring and subterfuge. But, in comparison with similar, contemporary series, Sword of Freedom was a lacklustre piece of period staging, generally lacking in zest and conviction.

Whatever possibilities were latent in this costume drama, the result was so deficient in pace and tension that the viewer could remain quite complacent in feeling that they had seen it all before.

Tise Vahimagi

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Cole, Sidney (1908-1998)
Fisher, Terence (1904-1980)
Weinstein, Hannah (1912-1984)
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