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The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1979 Americanmarker comedy film directed by Richard Quine and adapted from the adventure novel by Anthony Hope, first published in 1894. The novel tells the story of a man who has to impersonate a king, whom he happens to closely resemble, when the king is abducted by enemies on the eve of his coronation.


The comedy was loosely adapted by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. It starred Peter Sellers, Lynne Frederick, Lionel Jeffries, Elke Sommer, Gregory Sierra, Jeremy Kemp and Catherine Schell. It has echoes of not only Hope's book but also several other well known novels, especially Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask. Sellers plays three roles that of the Ruthenian King Rudolph V and the London cab driver Sydney Frewin who is brought in to portray the missing King with whom he shares an uncanny resemblance. Sellers also portrayed the aged King Rudoph IV at the start of the film, before he is killed in a Hot air balloon accident.

Plot

In the 1979 version, the old King, Rudolf IV (Sellers), dies in a balloon accident upon the celebration of his seventieth birthday. In order to secure the throne, General Sapt and his nephew Fritz travel to London, where the king's son, Rudolf V (Sellers), resides and lives through the day in London's pleasure establishments; but the King's demented half-brother Michael, thinking that he is the better claimant, sends an assassin after them. Hansom-cab driver Sydney (or Sidney) Frewin (Sellers), the King's bastard half-brother from an affair with a British actress, rescues Rudolf from an assassination attempt. Once his resemblance to the King is noticed, the General engages him ostensibly as the King's coachman, but actually Frewin is to fulfill the role of a decoy. The ruse is quickly uncovered, however, when during an attack by Michael's men the royal guardsmen address Frewin as their new king, and the two look-alikes get acquainted.

In an unattended moment, Rudolf is captured by Henzau and brought to Michael's castle of Zenda. Out of necessity, Frewin has to play the role of the king for the coronation ceremony. Princess Flavia, Rudolf's fiancee (Frederick), is perceptive enough to see through the ruse, and after Frewin and the General have confided in her, she quickly becomes Frewin's trusted ally and love interest. Complicating the scheme on Frewin's side is a jealous Count whose wife (Sommer) has become infatuated with Rudolf, and on Michael's side by his mistress, Antoinette, who is wildly jealous about the prospect of Michael marrying Flavia and in turn is the love interest of the slightly unbalanced Rupert von Henzau, Michael's second-in-command.

After several assassination attempts, Michael attempts to lure Frewin into a trap. While the trap fails, Frewin, acting as Henzau's coach driver, is recognized and captured upon arrival in Zenda. Frewin and Rudolf escape with Antoinette's and Henzau's help, and Frewin succeeds to the throne, enabling him to marry the Princess Flavia and leaving the now former King, masquerading as Frewin, free to pursue his interests in the Countess and the London gambling tables.

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