I was pleasantly surprised by this one: Leonard Maltin rates it a BOMB but I found it great fun, if uneven. Skolimowski's first English-language film was actually shot in Cinecitta' and, in fact, features many Italians in the cast (all of whom struggle with the literary - and very English - nature of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original!).
There's still plenty of amusing detail to savor - the subject matter of the Napoleonic Wars is treated as farce most of the time and, in fact, there's quite a bit of slapstick involved (to which Skolimowski's technique is happy to oblige via numerous camera tricks, pretty much the sole link here to his early Polish films) - and, accordingly, all the performances are broadly delineated: Peter McEnery is a pompous yet likable ne'er-do-well hero; Eli Wallach is a buffoonish (and gay) Napoleon; while Jack Hawkins has a whale of a time (which, alas, happened very seldom in the films he made following the tragic loss of his voice) as the flustered leader of a bandit rabble who have adopted novel means of torture and execution, and are even dressed in Klan-type garb!
Apart from asides to the audience, McEnery also engages in a constantly interrupted duel with British officer Mark Burns - with whom he also spars for the affections of beautiful and fiery Spanish countess Claudia Cardinale. John Neville is the Duke of Wellington in his last film for almost 20 years (when he achieved some latter-day notoriety, in another tongue-in-cheek fantasia no less, with the title role of Terry Gilliam's THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN ). Riz Ortolani contributes a suitably jaunty, yet frequently rousing, score.
Unfortunately, some of the film's visual impact was inevitably lost in the pan-and-scan version I watched (taped off Cable TV); originally shot in Panavision, I wouldn't mind owning this in its proper Aspect Ratio on DVD...