El Rey Pasmado (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Although its 14 Goya nominations make it one of the most honored films in Spanish history, El Rey Pasmado (The Astonished King) failed to make it across the big puddle to Los Estados Unidos.

¡Que lastima!

Before the story:

Although the ruler of England in 1598 was the redoubtable Elizabeth, the new king in rival Spain was Felipe III, in all of history one of the least capable rulers of a major country. The lad was completely unfit for kingship, and let control of the country fall completely out of his grasp and into the hands of some powerful nobles and the Church. The king's own life was passed amid lavish court festivities, or in the practice of puerile public piety. They say the king never committed a sin, not even a venial one. Of course, the system of an inherited monarchy was not his idea, and he didn't choose to be a simpleton. It just worked out that way. His foolishness and weakness in this critical period in Spain's history, when that country was still locked in a battle with France and England for control of the New World, is an important reason why this web page is written in English, not Spanish. He died at Madrid in 1621, never really having ruled at all, never even really having learned to care for himself, the monarchy passing to his naive 16 year old son, Felipe IV.


Laura del Sol shows her bum and pubes as the courtesan whose naked body inspires the king.


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This is where our movie begins:

The new young king, Felipe IV is technically a married man when the film begins, because he was wed to a young woman in a grand religious ceremony. The churchmen who actually controlled the country at the time, however, never even saw to it that their titular king was educated in matters of sex. His simple-minded father was no help, either. Therefore, Felipe's marriage is actually unconsummated. He has never even seen a naked woman, not even his "wife".

One of the king's aristocratic friends takes pity on the schmucky pseudo-ruler and fixes him up with the court's favorite prostitute. She's even the designated hooker for the hypocritical Grand Inquisitor himself! The king is so astonished by his experience with a naked female body, that he returns to the palace with a public declaration: "quiero ver la reina desnuda"  - I want to see my queen naked.

This declaration both amuses and scandalizes the court, depending on whether they are expressing their private views or their official public stance. Meanwhile, rumors of the king's rendezvous with the whore travel quickly through the city, finally landing in the ear of the Inquisitor, who promptly sends out two delegations with conflicting instructions. For public consumption, he sends out one team to arrest the sinful wench. Because the prostitute is also his own lover, he sends out another messenger to tell her to hide, because she is to be arrested.

The churchmen behave in similarly hypocritical fashion as they determine the correct theology for the situation. For example, they can't decide whether the king has committed adultery with the prostitute, since by some legal definitions used at the time, and according to some theological scholars, the king is not really married to the queen because of the non-consummation issue. Like the nobles, the churchmen hold their debate on multiple levels, often taking the theological position most suitable to achieve their own goals.

That pretty much gives you the flavor of this historical comedy/drama, which satirizes the hypocrisy and gossip in the court and Church, centering around their solemn public debates about whether their king should be allowed to see his wife naked.

After the story:

Felipe IV "ruled" Spain for 44 years, during which time Spain managed to lose the Netherlands, Catalonia, and Portugal. By reputation, he was intelligent but initially lacked any interest in the affairs of state, which were handled for more than twenty years by his trusted friend, the count de Olivares. Olivares ran the country, in a sense, operating in continuous negotiation with the other nobles and the powerful Church. By the time Felipe was ready to assert his personal authority, he had neither the power base nor the knowledge required for the task. The king was, however, a patron of the arts, and even a bit of a playwright himself. Because Velázquez was his court painter, Felipe may be the most frequently painted monarch in history.

About the only other interesting thing about Felipe is that he was smart enough to marry his daughter off to the powerful Sun King himself, France's Louis XIV. The existence of a daughter, as well as Velazquez's famous painting of Felipe's family, suggests that he did eventually get to see the queen's naughty bits.

One other thing in Felipe's defense. Unlike most men, he did expect the Spanish Inquisition. 


I have often wondered why Joaquim de Almeida, one of the stars of this film, never became a bigger star. Although Portuguese, he speaks beautiful Spanish and beautiful English, and has appeared in French language films as well. He is a handsome guy, but he can hide it or use his good looks to be sinister when necessary, and he moves effortlessly between good and bad characters.

Although you don't know his name, you surely are familiar with his face. He was the evil dual identity dude in Clear and Present Danger, and Bucho in Desperado, which brought him to the brink of Hollywood stardom. He is also Eric Robert's co-star in La Cucaracha, which (believe it or not) is a terrific little film in which Eric shines. (No irony intended. He's good. Really.)

I am very curious to see de Almeida as Sherlock Holmes in the Brazilian film O Xangô de Baker Street, which also stars Maria de Medeiros (Pulp Fiction, Henry and June),

The Critics Vote

  • The film was nominated for 14 Goyas, winning 8.


The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, B if you speak Spanish. Part history, part comedy, very entertaining. No grade otherwise, since it is not available in a English-dubbed edition. At my weak level of Spanish, I kept missing all the nuances.

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