“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Theatrical Release: 1981 / Director: John Boorman / Actors: Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren ... / DVD released 15 May, 2000 at Warner Home Video / Features of the DVD: Dubbed, PAL, Widescreen „
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Whats it about
This is a big budget retelling of the storyof King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, it is taken from Sir Thomas Malory's classi Le Morte D'Arthur.
It is an enthralling story told with a sense of fairy tale rather than the gritty realism we see in some versions of this film. It tells how Arthur removes Excalibur from the stone, the rise and fall of the Knights of the round table and the internal politics which eventually destroy everything.
Who is in it
Nigel Terry plays King Arthur and his story is very interesting, he starts as a simple country boy but having removed Excalibur from the stone as his destiny predicts he is faced with responsibility he is simply not mature or capable of handling. Nicol Williamson is excellent as his mentor Merlin the Wizard and plays a solid mix of dependability, unpredictability and humour. Cherie Lunghi is a real modern women as Guinevere, a lady who knows what she wants and how to get it, Nicholas Clay is good as the headstrong Lancelot and Helen Mirren is superb as the evil witch Morgana, the nemesis of Merlin, their power struggle is a huge part of this story.
The cast includes young Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne and Patrick Stewart, it's a great cast full of seasoned thespians and young stars of the future.
The film is a John Boorman film so mixes a real cinematic style with a brilliant dark fairy tale, a lot of thoughts and actions are implied which relies on great acting, the scenery is stunning, the chemistry between Guinevere and Lancelot is unmistakable and the heroic King Arthur is portrayed much more in the vein of a Shakesperian character with responsibility thrust on him and people around him wishing to destroy him, it destroys a lot of the aura around this legend but replaces it with a realism and darkness which make much more sense. Boorman controls the scenes expertly he gets the most from his cast and this is overall a really interesting take on the legend. It is well thought out, well plotted and the battles are realistic and great to watch while the politicking and internal disputes are realistic. Overall a really good film for adults, not really one for the kids.
The DVD packaging is fairly poor there are no real DVD extras as this isn't remastered or anything its just an old film on DVD, overall its good value at £2.98 on Amazon.
If you're looking for a proper film about the Arthurian legend then this is an essential one. Made in the 80s, it has some dated aspects such as sound in some areas, but it has also kept it its own atmosphere and other-worldly quality.
For like so many heroic or fighting versions of Arthur, this one doesn't leave out the magical quality that gave the stories a lot of their strength and mysticism, at a time when Christianity began to replace the older religion. You should also read Marion Bradley's 'The Mists of Avalon' as an accompaniment. The book is as good as this, and really enhanced this spiritual side for me after I'd watched and known this for years. They complement one another.
John Boorman uses The Death of Arthur but Thomas Mallory for its basis. So the British director gives us a mix of the classic stories, and condenses it with all the juicier elements. British actors are also gritty and superb, and many of them quirky here. It might change your perspective of Arthur and the Round Table, for here they are dirty, quite brutal warriors - quite a rowdy bunch - but it's all for the best....
You will recognise some faces here: Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne.
This earthiness and quirkiness is not easy to get used to: Merlin is an appropriately real character in this, but also retains a sudden, quiet wisdom and power, and Arthur in many ways too. But once 'acclimatised', it's a vision of Arthur that has stood the test of time. The characters change as time passes. Whereas other productions have come and gone, this one remains a set-piece, and able to tie up the different aspects of the legend very well. For, on reflection, surely an earthy and yet quirky production is just perfect for this enduring Legend, because the stories are such a mix of reality and fantasy. And chivalry is always the more flawed area that doesn't win sympathy too well.
So, here we have a very decent mix, where the characters of Lancelot, Gawain, Perceval are powerful but fallable too ... so they come to life.
The music is used superb - Carmina Burana for the final ride - and so is the imagery. Because above all we have a British-made film to convey a very British legend.
I have always taken a great interest in the Arthurian legend and loved the musical Camelot. So when in 1981 the film Excalibur hit the screens I couldn't wait to go and see it.
It isn't the cutie style of the musical or many of the other 'happy ever after' type of films. The fight scenes are very gory in parts and the story is very dramatic with little humour apart from an occasional comment by Merlin.
The film is an adaptation of a book called Le Morte D'arthur which was written by Sir Thomas Mallory in 1740.
The book was adapted for the screen by director/screenwriter John Boorman and fellow screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg who did an excellent job in making it watchable whilst keeping the important elements of the book.
Firstly I'll tell you who to look out for:
Nigel Terry - King Arthur
Nicol Williamson - Merlin
Nicholas Clay - Lancelot
Cherie Lunghi - Guenivere
Helen Mirren - Morgana
Gabriel Byrne - Uther Pendragon
Robert Addie - Mordred
Corin Redgrave - Cornwall
Paul Geoffrey - Perceval
Patrick Stewart - Leodegrance
Katrine Boorman - Igrayne
Liam Neeson - Gawain
Clive Swift - Sir Hector
The film begins as there is fighting throughout the land with the main protagonists being Lords Cornwall and Uther Pendragon. Finally Merlin, the ancient wise wizard, takes Uther to the edge of the lake where The Lady of the Lake gives him the sword Excalibur which will give him victory in battle over his adversary.
Lord Cornwall accepts Uther as king and bows to him in exchange for a large area of land and a feast ensues to celebrate the new peace.
Unfortunately for this new found peace Uther takes a shine to Cornwall's beautiful wife Igrayne as she dances at the feast and since this lust is obvious to everyone the peace is short lived and fighting breaks out again! Uther then demands that Merlin to help him to 'lie with Igrayne' (if you know what I mean!)/ Merlin isn't happy with this but eventually relents on the condition that the child which ensues from the lust will be handed to Merlin. Uther agrees as he is so besotted by this time he would have agreed to anything! Merlin changes Uther's outward appearance so that he looks like Cornwall and he gets his way eventually resulting in the birth of a son who is given to Merlin as promised - much to the anger of Igrayne and her daughter Morgana.
This does nothing for Uther's popularity and he is killed shortly afterwards, having first thrust Excalibur into a large rock. As we all know the sword can only be removed by the next future king and for years all is restless across the land. We have to wait for Arthur to grow up after all!
Eventually Arthur reappears as a squire and when, at the annual joust, his knight realises that Arthur has forgotten to bring his sword he sends him back to camp to fetch it. Arthur spots the sword in the stone and draws it. At first the others aren't happy but when he replaces it none of the others can draw it - only Arthur.
Arthur is a bit confused about all this until Merlin explains that this is how it is meant to be and it is up to Arthur to unite the people which of course he does.
He takes Guenevere as his wife and announces his plans for the round table and all is well until Lancelot turns up that is!
The rest as they say is history and I won't go any further into the story as there may be people out there who don't know the ending so I won't spoil it for you!
Let's just say that the evil sorcery of Arthur's half sister Morgana and her son Mordred combined with the search for the Holy Grail by the Knights of the Round Table will hold your attention.
Suffice it to say that this is an intriguing tale which is sometimes gory, sometimes exciting and sometimes moving. The acting is all good enough to carry the film with no one standing out above the others for me.
The music for this film was so amazing to me that I went out and bought the album of the soundtrack! Most of it is from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff with additional music by Wagner and modern input from Trevor Jones. You may remember O Fortuna so magically performed on Last Choir Standing recently and this film was where I first fell in love with that piece of music!
This film runs at 2 hours 20 minutes and is rated 15 and I would not recommend that young children be allowed to watch it as there are scenes of nudity, sex and some very gory moments!
In conclusion I would say that this is an excellent film of the Arthurian legend and is well worth a watch.
I for one am glad that historical films are being made with a more realstic feel to them, and a better attention to historical detail, Gladiator and Braveheart spring to mind. They might not be historicaly factual, but they are mud-splattered, blood soaked, and look and feel right. Excalibur is the total opposite of this; for a story set in the Romano-British dark ages, it is overly glossy, the weapons and armour is all wrong, the great stone buildings are 1000 years too early... I could go on. So why in the hell do I love this film so much.
I think the first thing you need to do is detach yourself from the historical angle and watch it as a pure fantasy, only then does it come into its own. It follows the medieval series of tales of Malorys Morte D`Arthur, it self a pure fantasy when placed along side what little we know of the 6th centuary.
Without recapping on the actual story line, which after all will be familiar to most, its the cinematography and the casting that make the film stand out. Even the more mundane scenes have a fairy tale quality, green light seems to catch the weapons at every oppurtunity, yet there is a moodiness and dark quality that prevent the look of the film from being quaint or storybook like. Some of the scenes are even played out quite gruesomely, especially when we are introduced to Mordred and his wicked ambitions, and the re-emergance of the fallen Lancelot and his followers. The sound track is used to great effect, Wagnerian epics accompanying evey cavalry charge and every battle scene.
The casting is terrific, and one character in particular will stand out and he, Merlin, will either make or break the film for you. As mentor to Arthur , Nicol Williamson steals the show, playing the part slightly tongue in cheek , with some great lines delivered in a unique style. He comes across as a world weary, slightly mad uncle who is fed up with the vainities and greed of mankind and you will either love him or hate him, there is no middle ground. Helen Mirriam makes an excellent Morgan and as Merlins nemesis contributes to a great double act. There are a host of familiar faces haming it up in the side lines, not least Patrick Stewart, but in a film so rich and over the top it does not seem to detract.
Im sure now that historical and fantasy films are back in fashion, a big budget version of the Arthurian tales will be with us soon, but even if it does Excalibur will remain an enduring, high fantasy with just the right balance of humour and tragedy to justify its existance. Watch it as pure fun and you will not be dissappointed.
People rave over the classic literary masterpiece created by Tolkien over fifty years ago. They wonder at it's longevity and it's place in the history of the world. But swords and sorcery were used in stories long before Tolkien was born. Perhaps the one I am about to mention fuelled his imagination? It is a tale of Knights on horseback, battling evil across the land. Of myth and legend, love and incest, hero's and villains. That story is of the boy king Arthur, born to lead the land and unite the people. Written by Sir Thomas Malory in 1470, "Le Morte D'arthur" was the original title for the story of Arthur and his sword of kings, Excalibur. John Boorman took up the challenge to make the 1981 film epic after giving up on Lord of the Rings. Although he would have preferred to turn Tolkiens classic story into a film, the practical problems in doing so at the time were so great that he turned to Malory's older and perhaps simpler tale, and threw his energy into that instead. Excalibur was born and in turn cinemagoers the world over were in for a treat. Mixed reviews from the critics were luckily ignored by the paying public and it was a box office smash. I hope I can do it justice, it is another of my all time favourite films!
Nigel Terry - King Arthur (the hero)
Nicol Williamson - Merlin (the sorcerer)
Nicholas Clay - Lancelot (the betrayer)
Cherie Lunghi - Gwenevre (the love interest)
Helen Mirren - Morgana (the mad sister)
Gabriel Byrne - Uther Pendragon (the lustful)
Robert Addie - Mordred (the inbred)
Corin Redgrave - Cornwall (the loser)
Paul Geoffry - Perceval (the wannabie)
Patrick Stewart - Leodegrance (the honourable)
Katrine Boorman - Igrayne (the temptress)
Liam Neeson - Gawain (the accuser)
Battle rages throughout the land and as with all wars, the people suffer. Two lords predominately fight for the
crown, Lord Cornwall and Lord Uther Pendragon. Being finely balanced, the battle drags on for years and it is only through the help of a wise old wizard Merlin, that the deadlock is broken. Merlin recognises that the balance of power must be broken and one Lord must overcome the other in order for peace to prevail.
Summoning forth the Lady of the Lake, Merlin calls Uther to the waters edge and instructs him to reach out to the Lady and receive from her a sword that will give him an edge over his rival. Uther gladly excepts the sword known as Excalibur and heads off to confront Cornwall. Recognising the sword of power, Cornwall yields to Uther, and agrees to except him as the one true King in exchange for land. Peace is finally established, Merlin pats himself on the back for a job well done and a large feast is held in honour of the new King.
Unfortunately Cornwall has an attractive wife Igrayne, and although he yielded to Uther in battle, he can't help but flaunt his lady in front of the new King (in an attempt to have the last word perhaps?) But Cornwall's attempts to irritate Uther backfire. Igrayne performs an erotic dance in front of Uther who instantly becomes besotted with her and his lustful desires are plain for all to see, particularly to Cornwall. Yet again war is declared and the two knights storm off in a huff and prepare to do battle.
Cornwall retreats to his castle, and the fortified building proves impenetrable to Uthers army. Spurned on by lust, Uther demands that Merlin helps him get his wicked way with Igrayne. Reluctantly Merlin agrees, but on one condition. Through Uther's union with Igrayne a child will be born. That child is to be given to Merlin. Ruled by his pants, Uther agrees and covered by one of Merlins illusions Uther enters the castle magically disguised as Lord Cornwall. It is safe to say that the castle is not all that Uther enters and eventually a child is born.
Uthers actions cost him dearly though. Merlin turns up to retrieve the child and shortly afterwards, Uther is beaten to a pulp by his disgruntled followers who disapprove of his deceit. In one final act of selfishness, Uther plants Excalibur firmly in a large rock and and promptly dies. The sword can only be removed by the next future king and for years all is restless across the land.
The people starve and just when all hope is lost a lowly squire Arthur, chances upon Excalibur. Not realising the significance of the sword he plucks it out of the rock without a second thought. This upsets a few of the knights who have been battling in a tournament just down the road. They feel that the future King should be of noble blood, not to mention an adult as this squire is just a boy. Not all the knights feel so upset about it though. One of them, Leondegrance, insists that the boy has been chosen and the boy should be king. Outrage ensues and guess what? yes war breaks out again!
Meanwhile Merlin who up until now has been lurking in the shadows, pulls Arthur away from the action. Advising him of his heritage, Merlin instructs Arthur to go forth and unite the land. Confused and bewildered, sword in hand, Arthur makes his way back to the battle, can this boy king really unite the land once more?
I have only mentioned the beginning of the film. Want to know more, well yes you guessed it, go and rent it out as I will say nothing more about the plot to enable people to view it for themselves (even though I guess most people already know the story!)
The cast is great, although there are no particularly spectacular performances. Nigel Terry is more convincing as a mature king and knight than he is as a squeaky voiced teenager. The rest of the cast are believable, but the only real performance of note is that of Nicol Williamson as Merlin. It is so hammed up and over the top at times that you feel like shaking him
! Despite this, he is just so entertaining in his own way that it still manages to add that certain something to the film as a whole. If you note the cast list you will see a few recognisable names. Liam Neeson being one, an early performance that fails to overwhelm you but most likely was the launching pad for some of his more noticeable roles. Old captain Picarde, Patrick Stewart can also be spotted and it amazes me that he still looks quite old even way back then, was he ever young? So as far as the acting goes, well I enjoyed the performances for various reasons but none of them were especially good.
The director/screenwriter Boorman, collaborated with fellow screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg to bring this classic story to the screen. Inevitably it has been chopped and changed in order to make it more viewer friendly but it does retain all the important elements of the book.
There are two aspects that really stand out in this film. The cinematography and the sound track. Filmed, mostly in Ireland, the views are spectacular to say the least. Incidentally, most of the location scenes were filmed in County Wicklow, within a few miles of John Boormans home and a number of other scenes were filmed at Cahir Castle in County Tipperary.
John Boorman always intended to use a classically themed music score and he contacted Trevor Jones to fill in the areas that could not be filled with the sound of Wagner and Orff. He also got him to write alternatives to the music he had chosen for the beginning and the end of the film, incase he was unable to obtain the rights to them. It was not necessary though, he got the music he wanted and boy does it add to the film. One track you may even recognise from an old spice aftershave advert! It truly is amazing and it will help you to be absorbed into the whole atmosphere and feel of the film. I believe a remastered picture CD version was released last year and if you find it particularly inspir
ing you may feel like splashing out!
Well you may be getting the odd mixed message in this review. I say the performances aren't great, which is true. But they do have a certain charm. It is also fascinating for me to see all those actors that have moved on to other things. The story is a classic and has been wonderfully adapted in this film. The music is inspiring and the scenery absolutely beautiful. If you like Lord of the Rings in written or film format then you will probably enjoy this. Very much a "whole being so much more than the sum of it's parts" and something for you to gawp at until they release the second part of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy! There is some brief nudity, mild sex scenes and violence so really not for the little ones though!
This film runs at 2 hours 20 minutes and is rated 15
Excalibur is a 1981 movie about a sword that made King Arthur king of the land. It is about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. This movie brings in the fantasies of Merlin and the magic he has. Then you have the evil sorceress Morgana who is out for revenge. In the Dark Ages the land was divided and without a King. Out of those Lost Centuries rose a legend of the Sorcerer, Merlin, of the coming of a King and of the sword of power. Excalibur was known as the sword of power. It starts out in the Dark Ages when everyone was fighting and killing each other over land and power. Merlin finally gets Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake for Uther to become King and have a truce in the land. As they were celebrating Uther had to have the Duke's wife so he had Merlin bring up the dragon so he may have her and break the truce. Merlin agreed as long as Uther promised to give him what comes out of his lust. Arthur was what Merlin had in mind, so he took the boy when he was young to be raised by someone else. Uther's lust was the destruction of him, so before they finished him off, he cast Excalibur into the stone. As the legend says, he who pulls the sword out shall become king. Time went on and no one has pulled the sword out and Arthur was now a young man. By accident he drew Excalibur out of the stone one day as he was trying to get his brothers sword back that was just stolen. No one could believe a boy could be the king, so the kingdom was split again. Only one Knight (Leondegrance) stood by Arthur and the rest went to war against Leondegrance and his castle. With the help of Merlin, Arthur came to battle to help out Leondegrance, as the battle went on Arthur had the chance to kill one of the Knights. He offered the Knight his life if he would stand by his side, the Knight said he couldn't serve a boy as a king. Arthur agreed and gave him Excalibur and told him to Knight him. As Arthur kneeled down every
one was astonished that he would give the Knight Excalibur. As much as the Knight wanted to cut Arthur's head off with Excalibur he could not, the power of Excalibur made the Knight do what was asked of him. Now Arthur was a Knight and all stood beside him. Through all this Arthur falls in love with Leondegrance's daughter Guenevere. Arthur sends his best Knight Lancelot to bring his bride to Camelot, as Lancelot and Guenevere meet eye to eye you can see the lust building in both of them for each other. Arthur and Guenevere do marry and as time goes on Lancelot and Guenevere cannot resist their lust any longer. Arthur has a half sister Morgana who has picked up the sorcery of Merlin and finally traps Merlin and takes his power. Morgana puts a spell on her brother Arthur and makes him think he is making love with Guenevere. A son is conceived and Morgana with her evil is out for the boy to be King. For the sins of Arthur and Morgana having an evil son born, the kingdom falls apart. Arthur asks all his Knights to search for the Holy Grail so it may bring the King and land back as one. As the search goes on over the years Arthur's son Mordred becomes a man and is out to get the kingdom no matter who is in the way. Directed and Produced by John Boorman Rated: R, Running Time: 140 minutes The Cast Nigel Terry (King Arthur) Helen Mirren (Morgana) Nicholas Clay (Lancelot) Cherie Lunghi (Guenevere) Paul Geoffrey (Percevel) Nicol Williamson (Merlin) Robert Addie (Mordred) Gabriel Byrne (Uther) Keith Buckley (Uryens) Katrine Boorman (Igrayne) Liam Neeson (Gawain) Patrick Stewart (Leondegrance) DVD Extras Languages and subtitles are in English and French. 45 Scene Selections Theatrical Trailer Information on the Cast and Crew Watch the movie with a commentary from John Boorman throughout the movie. For me this is a great movie abou
t King Arthur and Merlin and how the Knights of the Round Table unite. I highly recommend it.
This is quite a noteworthy movie indeed. There are different reasons for this. First, it is the first movie-appearance of both Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart (with hair!). This alone will make any Star Wars or Star Trek fan at least be interested in the movie (although it is not science fiction at all). Second, the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is told like it might have actually happened. No glamour like First Knight, no loveliness like Disney's cartoon version, not funny, like Monty Python's version, but the brute and dark reality of the dark ages. The movie shows the horror of medieval combat, and the struggle to create some order in the chaos. The movie covers all major episodes in king Arthurs' life, from the moment he receives the sword from the woman in the pond, the magician Merlin, that basically rules from the background, the forming of the Round Table, Lancelot and his betrayal, the search for the Holy Grail and many more. All of this is presented in high quality -although sometimes gory- scenes. It's definitely not a crisp and clean-cut movie, and the 15+ rating serves a purpose. The battle scenes are really outstanding, even after all this time. The DVD itself doesn't really add that much to the movie, apart from delivering the best possible screen-quality, and the standard multiple languages and subtitles. No further extras, no behind the scenes. To compensate this, it is released on the 'nice price' label, which enables you to pick it up for about ten pounds (I paid 11 Euro for it in The Netherlands). The region 1 version encloses some more additions, being some commentary by the director, production notes and the theatrical thrailer. This version costs about $10 (at Amazon.com). One odd thing: I seem to have the Region 2 version, but with the Region 1 cover. It might be that it has been re-released using a different cover over here. Don&
#39;t worry, the contents are the same. If you are a fan of middle age or fantasy movies, and are not afraid of some major blood-spilling, than this is the movie for you. If you are interested some early works of Liam Neeson or Patrick Steward, you'll enjoy it even more. This is a classic, although not everyone recognizes it as such.
Excalibur is one of the most inspirational films for me. It even inspired me to read Sir Thomas Mallory’s La Morte D’Arthur, a volumous tale written in the fifteenth centaury by a knight who faught on both sides during the War of the Roses, and written whilst Tom was imprisoned for rape. Mallory’s tale is a sprawling mass of different legends and books and is quite a read, not least because paragraphs hadn’t been invented yet (perhaps I’ll do a dooyoo on it). Although not the only source for Arthurian legends it was certainly taken to hart by Messers Boorman and Pallenberg when they penned the screen play for this film. The film is beautifully shot and was filmed entirely on location at the bottom of Boorman’s garden in southern Ireland, my only slight quibble is that it was not shot in cinemascope (rather the 1.85:1 ratio). The film itself splits neatly into three parts (the book splits into countless parts), the Tale of Uther Pendragon and the conception of Arthur, Arthur the Boy-King and the Quest for the Holy-Grail. The first part is dark and brooding, filmed in winter in muddy forests with Gabriel Byre (his first film) tying desperately not to sound like he’s just left a Dublin pub. The armour in this section is particularly fantastic, dull and pig-like. The second section is a little lighter but has some high drama as Arthur lifts the sword from the stone and eventually wins support of the dissenting Knights. Lifting the sword from the stone is surprisingly inaccurate, in the great tome, it is a different sword that is pulled from the stone (which eventually becomes a gift for Sir Kay), Excalibur itself is taken from the Lady of the Lake afterwards, but a forgivable cinematic shortening. The final sequence, the Quest for the Grail, is perhaps the weakest, it seems to loose a bit of direction (in terms of story), perhaps because the major characters (Arthur and Sir Lancelot) take a back seat in favour of the yo
ung Sir Percival. The film runs the full gamut of seasons, from muddy winter, to apple blossom in the spring to summer joust festivals. Boorman used the seasons creatively, for example the scene where Uther is attacked was shot in a muddy forest during winter, but when Merlin is seen walking away it is a leafy spring glade. Boorman also uses some strange lighting effects, often a green glow can be seen shining on the knights armour, possibly signifying some magical element. The acting is good too, Nicol Williamson is particularly noteworthy as the over dramatic, over acting Merlin and Helen Mirren makes a pretty good bad girl as Morgana. Special note should go to Nigel Terry for his portrayal of Arthur, from boy to grey haired man. It is sad that he never made it beyond this film as an actor (I remember him in some TV knight thing on ITV, but it never made it past a bank holiday special). Other, perhaps less impressive, performances have rewarded the actor’s with long movie careers. This was the first film for both Liam Neeson (Sir Gawain) and Gabriel Byre (Uther). For me this film is untouched in cinematic terms since it was made in 1982 (I'm a lover of the grand epic). Although it cannot boast the spectacle of thousands of extras in the battle scenes, such as can be seen is Spartacus, it captures that big Hollywood feel from the late fifties. Only Braveheart comes close today (I haven’t seen Gladiator yet), but for me that film is just a bit too aimed squarely at a standard audience. After all it is the little nuances that make something interesting.
Yes, John Boorman 's masterpiece once again graces our screen. For a portrayal of the Arthurian legends, the most watchable comparision is the glammed-up dumbed-down SPFX-ridden "Merlin". Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father, is played by Gabriel Byrne - now Satan in "End of Days"! Strange that Dubliner should play a British King whose claim was "One land, one King" - but what the hell, stranger things have been known. Richard Harris once played Oliver Cromwell! The real star of the film is Merlin, played by Nicol Williamson - best known as Sherlock Holmes in "The 7% Solution". Other interesting names in the credits [beyond Liam Neeson, who was later in "Krull" and "Star Wars: Phantom Menace"! !] are - Creative Associate - Neil Jordan - Igraine - Katarine Boorman - Young Mordred - Charley Boorman
Classic Arthurian myth with the addition of stunning visuals, and a compelling soundtrack. Director John Boorman, filming in Ireland, stays close to the 15th century version of the legend, Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, with some new ecological ideas. Excalibur opens with a dramatic battle sequence a superb depiction of the ‘dark ages’ as Uther Pendragon defeats a rival army. This is the first use of the epic theme music from Wagner’s Ring Cycle. This is, appropriately, Siegfried’s Funeral March, and it beautifully carries the film on. Each dramatic scene sees the theme build, until it finally reaches a conclusion with Arthur’s tragic end. Along the way, Boorman shows all the glory and dangers from the legend. Merlin (Nicol Williamson) explains that the King is linked to the Land, and the backdrop changes from green fields and orchards to bleak wildernesses to reflect Arthur’s condition. Morgana (Helen Mirren), who is hungry for his magic, opposes him. There are several battles, shown in gory detail, but the underlying conflict is between virtue and temptation. It is Arthur’s own mistakes that lead to the eventual tragedy. Visually and aurally impressive, Excalibur is a strong telling of the old story, bringing feeling and character to the myth. Even the sense of inevitability is part of the glory and tragedy. I was surprised to find this was actually made after Monty Python’s version (The Holy Grail), which takes an opposite approach, but both are great watching. It rises far above the clichés and familiar story.
A lush retelling of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Excalibur is a dark and engrossing tale. Director John Boorman (Deliverance) masterfully handles the tale of the mythical sword Excalibur, and its passing from the wizard Merlin to the future king of England. Arthur pulls the famed sword from a stone and is destined to be crowned king. As the king embarks on a passionate love affair with Guenevere, an illegitimate son, and Merlin's designs on power, threaten Arthur's reign. The film is visually stunning and unflinching in its scenes of combat and black magic. Featuring an impressive supporting cast, including early work from the likes of Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, Excalibur is an adaptation of the legend both faithful and bold. --Robert Lane