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YMMV / The Prisoner of Zenda

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  • Awesome Music: Yes, Newman's score is lovely — but, c'mon, who can beat Händel at a coronation?
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Rupert. He's a murderer, a blackmailer, and an attempted rapist, but he has more than his fair share of fans both In-Universe and out of it. It doesn't hurt that he's stylish and good-looking. Especially in the films.
    • Michael tries to usurp his half-brother's throne, and is generally not a pleasant person to be around, but there are plenty of people who feel sorry for him and think he would have made a better king than Rudolf. Granted, it would be hard for him to do worse.
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  • Evil Is Sexy: Rupert. Even Rudolf thinks so.
  • Fanon:
    • "Michael has tuberculosis" is a widespread idea in the fandom. It started because the book's description of Michael sounds like the typical Victorian-novel way of describing someone with tuberculosis.
    • "Rupert is bisexual" shows up in almost every fan-work, and there are enough hints in both novels and their adaptations to make it practically canon.
  • First Installment Wins: And how. Nobody seems to remember there is a second part for Rudolf's adventures, called as his enemy, Rupert of Hentzau. The Downer Ending in which both Rudolfs die may have much to do with its fall into oblivion. This is also the case with the rest of Anthony Hope's quite prolific career, with Zenda being his only work that's still well remembered.
    • There was a prequel to The Prisoner of Zenda, The Heart of Princess Osra, about a previous Elphberg. Virtually no one has even heard of it.
  • Foe Yay:
    • Rudolf and Rupert, arguably. The sequel features a scene where our hero "gripped Rupert's wrists, and with his greater strength he bent back the count's pliant body till trunk and head lay flat on the table. Neither man spoke; their eyes met; each heard the other's breathing and felt the vapor of it on his face."
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    • While the original has a few moments, the sheer mass of them in the sequel may be a signal that Hope is trolling us rather than Have a Gay Old Time.
    • In the sequel, Fritz calls Rupert the handsomest man in Ruritania, and specifically mentions his "firm, full lips".
  • Grey and Grey Morality: That Black Michael's motivations and actions are less than pure is given, but King Rudolf is a drunk and a bully who is only loved by the nobility and army, whereas Michael is the people's champion and would probably make a far better king.
    • The sequel, Rupert of Hentzau takes this further. Rupert is a villain and blackmailer but looking to regain his title and lands while the heroes are very ruthless in their schemes and from a certain point of view are the ones toying with treason.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The sequel, written in 1895, includes a minor character named Baron von Helsing. Two years later (and a year before the sequel was published), Dracula included a major character named Professor van Helsing. This can lead to confusion when reading Rupert of Hentzau for the first time.
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  • Harsher in Hindsight: The remake becomes a little harsh to watch if you follow it up with Young Bess - where this time it's Deborah Kerr with unrequited love for Stewart Granger and she dies rather than their amicable parting here.
  • Ho Yay: Between Rupert and his cousin Rischenheim in the sequel.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Rudolph gets locked in a prison with barely any food and water, and is nearly drowned. True he was a pompous womanising drunk beforehand, but it's implied he got Break the Haughty as a result of it.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Both Michael and Rupert on the baddies' side, and Zapt on the goodies'.
  • More Popular Replacement: Deborah Kerr from the 1952 remake is considered a superior Flavia to Madeleine Carroll.
  • Narm: Nothing, alas! being perfect, Rassendyll's disposal of Bersonin by stabbing him under his arm, and the subsequent convenient exit of the defeated down "Jacob's Ladder" with a "Whaaaaa!" is not effective.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • One reason Rassendyl comes off as a bit of an ass in the novel is his casual sexism, entirely ordinary at the time.
    • Additionally, modern readers or viewers are much less likely to sympathize with the notion that Rudolf is simply the "rightful" king, and be more suspicious of the way that Michael's supporters (which are numerous enough to be mentioned) are described as the "largely criminal" class.
  • What an Idiot!: Antoinette seems to be the queen of ill-considered actions in this film.
  • The Woobie: Flavia has been one for most of her life. Betrothed to Rudolph, she had long nursed a crush for him but he constantly treated her horribly. She recalls inviting him to a birthday party and getting excited for it, but him never turning up.


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