Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1953)
Firstly, it is imperative that you roll your “R”s while reading this and attempt a bad Scottish accent–even if you can do a great one. Why a bad one?
Because, secondly, the movie doesn’t deserve your good accent. It was boring and forgetful.
Disney decided to take a seemingly more epic turn to finish off their Richard Todd English History/Folk story series. Rrrob Rrroy, the Highland Rrrogue is based on the historical figure Rob Roy McGregor, who took part in Scottish rebellions against the English in the 18th Century.
In fact, the three major actors from The Sword and the Rose are back but all with Scottish accents with less sleaziness and more tiresome earnestness.
The gist of the story is Rob Roy (a real guy) is part of a clan of rebellious Scotsmen who don’t particularly like King Geordie (presumably because they have some sort of issue with blind starship engineers) and like to dress up as UN peacekeepers (with their blue berets) and pick fights with redcoats.
We open with marching redcoats and decidedly roguey music.
We finally see Robby and his band of blue beret-wearing UN peacekeepers as it becomes clear that this is going to be a huge battle.
Sure enough, there’s an epic battle.
…Rob Roy is superimposed in because they didn’t shoot enough footage on location…
…other guys are superimposed in too…
…Brick stabbed a guy in the heart with a trident…
…aaand the English lose way too many guys causing this guy to have a bitch session to the guy in charge (even though they ostensibly came out on top and have captured Rob Roy in the process).
The guy in charge is named Argyll, and is played by the guy who played Henry VIII in the last movie. In this one he’s a Scot who believes avoiding conflict with the English is the best thing for Scotland.
So Rob is being hauled a way in a carriage with some dick-bag (let’s call him Captain Dick-bag – because I forgot his name), who feels that a badass signature fighting move is slapping people across the face.
Anyway, a gang of Rob’s buddies appear and use the old stage trick for getting someone off stage: they haul Captain Dick-bag off stage (coach) with a hook.
Suffice to say Rob got away. He goes home and we’re introduced to his love interest Helen-Mary (again played by Glynis Johns).
According to Rob, “she’s blithe and bonney, she’s my mother over again” (so presumably he’s also preoccupied with his mother’s breasts?).
Somewhere along the way she remarks, “And Rob is hung like my father is now.” Kind of like in Robin Hood, their chemistry is based on creepy weirdness.
Before we know it, they get married.
….the reception descends into debauchery…
There’s a man on fire…Brick stabs a guy in the heart with a trident…
And then Captain Dick-bag shows up with a proclamation from King Geordie giving amnesty to everyone except for Rob Roy, banning his family from using their last name (MacGregor), and ordering all of the jewish residents of Anatevka to leave town.
Rob is hauled away again. That is, until he escapes.
He makes an early morning booty call to Helen-Mary…
…but they are interrupted by Captain Dick-bag who gives chase again. Rob makes his cunning escape…
Next thing we know, Captain Dick-bag has everyone gathered at Helen-Mary’s uncle’s Inn where he’s forcing them to pay loads of tax (there seems to be a trend on the tax thing). He bitch-slaps the inn-keeper, still under the impression that this is a really tough thing to do and not at all annoyingly pretentious.
Everyone’s generally pissed. Dick-bag says he’ll offer the collected taxes as reward for MacGregor – who promptly turns up, causing the soldiers to be disarmed and threatens Dick-bag and Montrose (the new Secretary of State) that if they touch their property, Rob and his men will take away more of theirs.
The next scene we see that Dick-bag, already clearly insane has been pushed over the edge.
Montrose is also a giant turd. He’s not happy that Rob’s been following through with his threats and has been making life difficult for him. He orders Dick-bag to re-arm a fort and capture Helen-Mary. Which means…
…oh no…not more…
30 minutes of marching redcoats later, there are soldiers picking on Helen-Mary and Rob’s mother. Dick-bag, being a giant asshole, tells his troops to get rid of Helen-Mary.
In an entirely reckless move, Rob shoots at them and luckily doesn’t kill his wife. The troops keep coming and they become trapped. Rob’s mother gets shot in an effort to save Rob, then Dick-bag sets fire to the house. Rob, Helen-Mary, and Rob’s mother only escape thanks to Rob’s men coming to the rescue. Rob immediately leads his men to attack the fort, leaving his mother dying in Helen-Mary’s arms. Her dying words are, “It’s so easy to set the heather on fire, so hard to put it out.”
At the funeral, Argyll shows up to pay respects, but that giant turd Montrose also shows up and wants to arrest Rob. Rob’s pissed and says he won’t listen to any man that’s not kin or any woman. He’s still a dick, and subsequently attacks the fort. In the process Dick-bag acts like a Dick-bag and is killed by Rob, and Argyll is pissed that Rob is acting so recklessly.
The action then moves to London, where the foreign-born King Geordie is swept up in Rob-Roy Fever!
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is holding a wig party.
Rob offers the king his sword, and Geordie gives it back, and also undoes that whole business about the name MacGregor being banned.
George calls him a great rogue, Rob calls him a great king. Seriously, you just met the guy. Do you care about his other policies?
The epilogue consists of Scottish men objectifying the women of the court, some reference to painted hussies and Rob’s return to Helen-Mary. It all wraps up and everyone is happy.
Thoughts on The Highland Rogue
It seems that this is another example of The Man portraying rebellion as being meaningless. Not only does Rob’s passion for rebellion seem to be fuelled by little more than a sense that honour has been breached, the ending implies that making peace with the establishment is a true sign of maturity – regardless of whether the establishment is still oppressive.
The theme of self-interested rebels seems to be central to Disney’s approach to this trilogy of British stories. Robin Hood and his merrie men feast on the spoils of their rebellion; Charles Brandon challenged the culture of the aristocracy, but his challenge disappears as soon as he is welcomed into it; and finally Rob Roy’s rebellion is portrayed as a foolish waste of human lives driven by little more than Rob’s sense of pride. Rob even goes so far as to endorses the King whose government has been hunting him, based nothing more than a moment of ego-boosting. What does this say about Disney’s view of revolutionaries?
Would American Revolutionary War heroes receive similar treatment?
This was by far the most elaborate production of the trilogy, and in ways quite impressive compared to the other two. The battle scenes and the efforts to attempt greater special effects give the movie a sense that it was supposed to be something closer to The Lord of the Rings of its time, rather than the historical footnote that it ended up being. With that said, despite the effects and the number of extras cast in this film, it is just not that good.
Richard Todd: Badass
8 years before he appeared in The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, he was parachuting into Normandy during the D-Day invasion. Later, he was both a character and an actor (playing someone else) in The Longest Day also starring Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger, John Wayne, Sean Connery, Richard Burton and the biggest bad-ass of them all: Paul Anka.
On top of that he was also the first choice for the role of James Bond. If it hadn’t been for a scheduling conflict it would have been this face instead of Sean Connery’s in Doctor No.
So the greatest lesson we can take away from all of these movies is this:
Don’t mess with Richard Todd (or Paul Anka).
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.
(On an additional note, these movies have been so boring that they have sapped the motivation for even writing the posts. Apologies for the appalling delay. – R)