Oliver Reed Remembered

If you follow our blog you are aware we love a good sword movie and some of the characters in these films have been inspirational to our love of swords. One of the actors who fleshed out these characters passed away on May 3rd 25 years ago. We wanted to post a few thoughts on this iconic actor. His roguish charm, left an indelible mark on the world of cinema with his sword movies. His portrayals of swashbuckling heroes always carried a real world element that grounded his characters in their context.

What made Oliver Reed's sword movies so special? 

He brought a raw intensity and authenticity to his roles, making his characters come alive on the screen at the same time movies were depicting the same in the action and locations of their filming. This is seen in not only in large battle scenes but the gritty reality of a duel fought in some random back alley.

Reed's sword movies were some of the better action adventure films of his generation. He had a fearless approach to stunts and fight choreography being known for going all out. It is told that during the filming of The Musketeers an exchange with Christopher Lee (Rochefort)(an exceptional swordsman himself), Lee stepped back from a hard-charging Reed and said “Let’s get the sequence straight, shall we. Who taught you to use sword.” “You did,” replied Reed, as the two had worked together on a pirate film many years before. “And don’t you forget it,” said Lee.


Reed's Sword flicks, both the good and the others :-)

Sword of Sherwood 1960 

Pirates of Blood River1962

The Scarlet Blade 1963 released in US as The Crimson Blade

The Brigand of Kandahar 1965

The Three Musketeers 1973

The Four Musketeers 1974 

The Royal Flash 1975

The Black Arrow 1985 

Gor 1987

The Lady and the Highwayman 1988

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen 1988

The Return of the Musketeers 1989

Treasure Island 1990

The Bruce 1996

Gladiator 2000 

These movies are a broad range from some of the best in film storytelling to some we would absolutely not recommend. Many consider the Three and Four Musketeers as easily the best rendition on film of these stories, we would agree. But others we would suggest one should be prepared for possibly less of a great viewing experience.

Oliver Reed's personal story was as dramatic as some of his characters lives and while not always an example to follow he was a product of his time and place. 

So, the next time you watch one of Oliver Reed's sword movies, take a moment to appreciate the dedication he brought to his roles and the entertainment these sword flicks have brought to sword fans. Oliver Reed may no longer be with us, but his sword movies will continue to live on, captivating and inspiring all of us for years to come.

If you would like to get your musketeer on we would suggest some of our rapiers!

divider swords

Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography.  He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985


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