Lady and the Highwayman

Lady and the Highwayman

Adventure, Drama, Romance | 90 mins | Released: 1989
Director: John Hough
Starring: Hugh Grant, Emma Samms, Oliver Reed, Claire Bloom, Christopher Cazenove, Lysette Anthony, Michael York
Our Rating: 7

The film begins with a narrator telling us that Cromwell’s tyranny is coming to an end when we see several men approaching on horseback. We learn that King Charles II and several of his Cavaliers have been on an exploratory tour in England, checking to see if the populace is ready to back his return. At the moment, he is being hounded by a troop of Roundheads. King Charles stops to bid one of his supporters, a Royalist Lord Lucius Vyne (Hugh Grant) who he gives one of his favorite rings, telling Lucius to send it if he ever needs his help. Taking the ring Lucius borrows the King’s distinctive plumed hat and leads the King’s pursuers away, allowing Charles and Lucius’ cousin, Lord Richard Vyne to reach a waiting boat bound for France. Lucius manages to lose the Roundheads in a cavernous entrance of a quarried chalk cliff face.

In the next scene, Lady Panthea Vyne (Lysette Anthony) is tricked into marriage by a lecherous older tax collector Drysdale (Ian Bannen) who had been seeking her hand in marriage. He promises to intercede and save her brother Lord Richard who, he tells her, is about to be executed. Drysdale tells her he can save her brother if she agrees to marry him. Leaving the church she and her new husband, no sooner reach their waiting coach that he attempts to unbutton her dress. Her small Cavalier King Charles Spaniel barks at Drysdale, who throws it to the floor of the coach and stomps it to death. Just then, a gun ball blows a chunk of wood from the coach beside Drysdale’s head. The mysterious masked highwayman known as “Silver Blade” (secretly her cousin Lucius) puts a stop to Drysdale’s advances and helps our heroine to bury her dog. She tells Silver Blade of her plight; he whispers that Drysdale has lied, telling her that her brother is already dead.

“Silver Blade” then duels with Drysdale, who Panthea warns Silver Blade is the best swordsman in England. Silver Blade soon runs him through and then takes Panthea home. The event will come back to haunt them both.

Next her aunt, Lady Emma Darlington (Claire Bloom) talks her into coming to live with her as Panthea is all alone now that her father and brother are dead, nevermind her dead husband. At a royal reception, we learn that Aunt Emma was the King’s ‘second’ mother. The King invites Panthea to be a lady of the queen’s bed chamber. With Panthea attracting all of the males’ admiring glances plus her now becoming part of the new queen’s court, the King’s mistress Lady Castlemaine (Emma Samms) is livid. About then Panthea asks her Aunt who is ‘that’ lady, pointing to Lady Castlemaine. Her aunt tells her to look away.

Next Lady Castlemaine’s guest Rudolph introduces himself, reminding Panthea and her aunt that he is Panthea’s cousin on her distaff side. He then introduces Lady Castlemaine, when suddenly Lady Darlington grabs Panthea and abruptly turns her back and walks away. Lady Castlemaine is fit to be tied and swears to take revenge for the slight.

Cousin Rudolph plots to inherit the title as Duke of Manston Hall, which is Panthea’s home and also Lucius’ hiding place. Lucius, instead of claiming his royal title, is in true Robin Hood fashion working against the King’s secret enemies. Panthea, who has been in love with Silver Blade since the day he saved her, learns he is in grave danger and is about to be captured in a trap set for that night. She rides to warn him and saves the day after declaring her love for him. However, soon after the King leaves for France, she falls victim to the schemes of Lady Castlemaine who is after her head. Meanwhile, Lady Castlemaine learns of the coach incident and pays the coachman, now a sergeant in the King’s Guards, to accuse Panthea of murder. She sets her trap and soon Panthea is fighting for her life in court.

After she is condemned to death Lucius attempts her rescue and ends up arrested as well. He passes the King’s ring to Panthea’s maid, telling her to take it to the King, but Rudolph sees the sparkling ring and takes it from Lucius. On the morning of his execution, Lucius tricks his jailer, and he and his men fight their way out of their jail and ride to the Tower of London to Panthea’s rescue. As the hulking Axeman is in mid swing, an arrow from Lucius strikes his shoulder, causing his blow to miss Panthea’s head, but Lucius and Panthea are surrounded; escape is seemingly impossible, but meanwhile in an amazing Deus Ex Machina, the plodding Rudolph, who can’t wait till he is sure Lucius is dead, barges in before the King and demands to be declared the Duke of Manston Hall. The King, who has seemingly forgotten his friend, spies the ring and soon shows up at the tower, just in time to save the day.

Lucius and Panthea are married and all ends well.


Movie Notes:

The Lady and the Highwayman is a 1989 United Kingdom TV movie based on Barbara Cartland’s Romance Novel Cupid Rides Pillion. The working title of the film was Dangerous Love.

The film stars Hugh Grant (in one of his earliest appearances) as highwayman Silver Blade and Lysette Anthony as Lady Panthea Vyne. The film is a swashbuckling tale of romance, jealousy and betrayal set in England during the Restoration of Charles II with (Michael York) as King Charles II of England. Emma Samms as the notorious Lady Castlemaine and Oliver Reed are supported by guest appearances by Robert Morley and John Mills. The beautifully done period costumes and beautiful settings are one of the best features of the film. The program music aids in this spirited romp through a bit of England’s history.

This is the final feature film of Bernard Miles but made for television.

This tele-movie was made and first broadcast about thirty-seven years after its source novel “Cupid Rides Pillion” (aka “The Secret Heart” and “The Lady and the Highwayman”) by Barbara Cartland had been first published in 1952.

John Mills, Ian Bannen Robert Morley and Bernard Miles all received ‘special guest appearance’ credits.

The nick-name of the notorious highwayman Lord Lucius Vyne (Hugh Grant) was “Silver Blade”.

Actors Michael York and Oliver Reed had previously appeared in the two 1970s swashbuckler movies The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge (1974). In the same year that The Lady and the Highwayman (1989) debuted, the pair appeared in those movies’ sequel The Return of the Musketeers (1989).

The amount of the ransom for highwayman “Silver Blade” aka Lord Lucius Vyne (Hugh Grant) was one thousand guineas.

The character of Lady Castlemaine aka Lady Barbara Castlemaine (Emma Samms) is based on Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland, Countess of Castlemaine, and a mistress of King Charles II, and whose descendants include Princess Diana and former 1955-1957 British Prime Minister Anthony Eden.

A number of characters portrayed dual rules. Hugh Grant played Lucius Vyne and highwayman Silver Blade, Emma Samms played Barbara Villiers and Barbara Castlemaine, and Gareth Hunt played Stangret and Sergeant Potter.

This British tele-movie was filmed across four English counties: Kent, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Buckinghamshire.

One of four filmed adaptations of Barbara Cartland novels directed by John Hough, all made for television, with the teleplays all written by Terence Feely. The tele-movies include Duel of Hearts (1991), A Hazard of Hearts (1987), A Ghost in Monte Carlo (1990) and The Lady and the Highwayman (1989).

This is the final feature film of Robert Morley but the one made for television. Morley also appeared in the same year’s theatrical release feature film Istanbul (1989).

To see co-star Oliver Reed in a comedic role, click here.