Review: ‘Queen of Swords’

Queen of Swords

Senor Zorro, it took a few decades, but you finally have a fine female counterpart. Her name is Tessa Alvarado, a.k.a. the "Queen of Swords," and the action adventuress will be swashbuckling her way all over syndication this fall. The plotlines of this new series may rate high on the cornball scale, but the inviting Andalusian landscapes, the well-executed action sequences and the swift pace of the series could earn this newcomer a dedicated fan base in the months ahead.

Senor Zorro, it took a few decades, but you finally have a fine female counterpart. Her name is Tessa Alvarado, a.k.a. the “Queen of Swords,” and the action adventuress will be swashbuckling her way all over syndication this fall. The plotlines of this new series may rate high on the cornball scale, but the inviting Andalusian landscapes, the well-executed action sequences and the swift pace of the series could earn this newcomer a dedicated fan base in the months ahead.

In the series opener, 19th-century Spanish aristocrat Tessa (Tessie Santiago) decides to pack her bags and go back to California, where she grew up. Accompanied by her Gypsy servant Marta (Paulina Galvez), who has a tendency to say things like “The dead don’t visit our dreams for nothing,” she arrives in the U.S. only to find out that her dad has been killed by the shady characters who run the town.

Before you can say Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tessa has decided to wrap her mom’s shawl around her face, jump on a majestic stallion and fight the bad guys with her quasi-supernatural fencing talents. This little corner of the world attracts a surprising large number of heavies: There’s the nasty Machiavellian dictator Colonel Montoya (Valentine Pelka), the mustachio-swirling mercenary Grisham (Anthony Lemke) and the shifty spy Vera (Elsa Pataky), and these are only the ones we meet in the first episode.

It’s only a matter of time before the town brainiacs will put two and two together and realize that Tessa and the speedy Queen of Swords are twins or something. But that’s just one of the regular pleasures of this type of Saturday matinee fare.

Among the show’s other guilty pleasures are Alwyn Kumst’s top-notch photography (those Spanish skies never looked bluer), Philip Stanger’s electric guitar-driven music, and Evelyne Correard Trompier’s costumes, not to mention Santiago’s modern California-girl-as-19th-century-Spanish-swordfighter line delivery. It’s also nice to see a strong-minded Latina headlining a regular series. It may not be primetime, but it’s still a landmark.

According to the colorful press kit, “the crimes against humanity, oppression and misery that surround Tessa choke her youthful idealism.” Something tells us Tessa will be choking week after week, but she’ll do it magnificently, gracefully and photogenically. And for sweeps, maybe we can have her duke it out with Xena.

Queen of Swords

Series; syndication; Mon. Oct. 2

Production

Filmed in Almeria, Spain, by Fireworks/Morena Films/Amy Intl. Prods. in association with Telefonica, and M6, distributed by Paramount Domestic TV in association with Mercury Entertainment. Executive producers, Jay Firestone, Adam Haight, David Abramowitz; producer, Ken Gord; director, Jon Cassar; writer, James Thorpe; director of photography, Alwyn Kumst C.S.C; production designer, Fernando Gonzalez; music, Philip Stanger; wardrobe designer, Evelyne Correard Trompier; supervising editor, T.C. Martin; "Behind the Mask" theme song performed by Jose Feliciano; special effects, Carlos Fernandez, Tomas Urban; art director, Carlos Suarez Bodelon; set decorator, Marta Agullo Laguna. 60 MIN.

Cast

Tessa Alvarado - Tessie Santiago Marta - Paulina Galvez Col. Luis Montoya - Valentine Pelka Capt. Marcus Grisham - Anthony Lemke Dr. Robert Helm - Peter Wingfield Senora Vera Hidalgo - Elsa Pataky Don Hidalgo - Tacho Gonzalez
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