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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
King of the Gypsies
Directed by Frank Pierson
Paramount Home Video 1979 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Gypsies with an urge to dance and a story to be told. For over 2000 years, they have wandered the face of the earth, an independent community living by their wits. Various words have come to be associated with them freedom, good fortune, and pleasure. But that was many years ago. In recent times, their lifestyle seems even more alien to society and we wonder whether the tribes will endure.
This movie was suggested by a book Peter Maas. It tells the story of David Stepanowicz (Eric Roberts), a young man caught between three forces: his desire to renounce his gypsy roots, his father's (Judd Hirsh) enmity, and his grandfather's (Sterling Hayden) wish that he follow him as King of the Gypsies.
David tries to make a life in New York City but his mother (Susan Sarandon) calls upon him to save his sister (Brooke Shields) from an arranged marriage. Although he rescues her, she perishes in an automobile wreck caused by their enraged father. A final bloody encounter between the two men takes place after David is given a golden medallion and ring at his grandfather's death.
This unusual film offers a fascinating glimpse into the exotic folklore and lifestyle of the gypsies. Technical qualities are all first rate, especially Gene Callahan's production design, Sven Nykvist's captivating cinematography, and David Grisman's lively score - supplemented by the gypsy violin of Stephanie Grappelli. The storyline gives newcomer Eric Roberts an excellent opportunity to display his acting abilities. He more than meets the challenge. The other interesting performance is by Susan Sarandon as his clever mother who survives by reading fortunes and stealing from the rich. King of the Gypsies is a fine wedding of craft and creativity.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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