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Old 10-22-2011, 02:36 PM
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Arthurian -Books, tv and film based on Arthurian legend

This thread is for discussing all sorts of works based on the Arthurian legends. There is a huge wealth of stuff based on the Arthur legend, from film to tv to modern fiction to medieval literature. Some examples:

Merlin miniseries -1998 tv mini starring Sam Neill as Merlin and Helena Bonham Carter as Morgan Le Fay.

King Arthur -2004 film based on theories of a historical Arthur, starring Clive Owen as Arthur and Keira Knightley as a fighting Guinevere.

Excalibur -1981 film shot in Ireland, with Helen Mirren as Morgana, Liam Neeson as Gawain, Patrick Stewart as Leondegrance, Gabriel Byrne as Uther and Nicol Williamson as Merlin. Based on Malory's Morte d'Arthur and other works.

First Knight -1996 film with Sean Connery as King Arthur, Julia Ormond as Guinevere and Richard Gere as Lancelot. Focuses on the love triangle.

Merlin -2008 onwards BBC series about the young Merlin and his quest to protect Arthur. With Buffy's Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) as Uther Pendragon.

The Mists of Avalon -1982 fantasy novel, feminist version of the Arthur story, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A tv mini series version was made in 2001 with Julianna Margulies as Morgaine (Morgana) and Michael Vartan as Lancelot.

The Pendragon Cycle/Trilogy by Stephen Lawhead -80s/90s series of fantasy novels that started as the Pendragon Trilogy (Taliesin, Merlin, Arthur) and was later expanded into the Pendragon Cycle.

The Once and Future King -mid 20th century fantasy novel based on the legend, by T H White. Takes a less than entirely serious approach to the legend, at least at first.

Morte d'Arthur -late medieval (published 1485) book of Arthurian stories about Arthur, Merlin, Morgan, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain and all the rest. The basis for a lot of later works and arguably the most significant Arthurian work in the English language. By Sir Thomas Malory, "knight prisoner".

Chretien de Troyes's Arthurian Romances -medieval (12th century) French Arthurian stories that had a big influence on later works. Includes the original story of the Lancelot/Guinevere romance, which Chretien seems to have invented.

Gawain and the Green Knight -14th century English story (in poem form) about Gawain in his most famous adventure. Events in the story are a result of Morgan's manipulations.

The Mabinogion -collection of medieval Welsh legendary tales, including the key early Arthurian story Culhwch and Olwen.

The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth -medieval (written in the 1130s) pseudo-history (taken as real history for centuries), telling the legendary history of Britain from time immemorial down to the 7th century AD, including a section on Merlin and Arthur that pretty much founded the legend as it came to be known and created the figure of Merlin by mixing two legendary figures.

All sorts of works like the above are the subject of this thread.

To start it off, here are my reviews of 21 Arthurian films:

Camelot (1967): Adapted from the musical Camelot, which was in turn based on T H White's famous Arthurian novel, The Once and Future King. The movie stars Richard Harris as King Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere and Franco Nero as Lancelot. Irish actor Richard Harris, who many years later played Dumbledore in the early Harry Potter films, is excellent as Arthur. Redgrave is bland as Guinevere. Nero's Lancelot is a pompous stuffed shirt. The film centers on the love triangle. Merlin doesn't appear much and there's no Morgana. It's a surprisingly good movie, notably for Harris's performance.

Excalibur (1981): One of the best known Arthurian films, directed by John Boorman. This is based on Malory's Morte Darthur and other works. Filmed in Ireland, it's a classic take on Arthurian legend, but with some of its own ideas too. Irish actors Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson are Uther and Gawain respectively. Unfortunately, Gawain is a nasty brainless brute in this and gets the crap beat out of him by Lancelot, who's a serious pain in the neck. Scottish actor Nicol Willliamson plays Merlin, who gets significant screen time. Helen Mirren (from The Queen, etc) plays Morgan (who's the major villain) and Nigel Terry plays Arthur. Mordred appears in the Grail quest and the fall of the kingdom (bad performance, though) and Percival is significant in it too. Arthur’s conception and rise to kingship, the love triangle, the quest for the Grail and the fall of the kingdom are all shown. It's a bit weird, because the performances tend to be theatrical and overdone, but it works quite well if you're prepared for something other than an ordinary film.

Mists of Avalon (2001): Three hour miniseries based on Marion Zimmer Bradley’s feminist Arthurian novel of the same name, telling the classic Arthurian story from a female perspective. The portrayal of Celtic religion is nonsense, but the movie has some merits, most notably Julianna Margulies (ER, Canterbury Tales, The Good Wife) as Morgaine, the film’s non-villainous version of Morgan. Morgaine is the central character, though she doesn’t do all that much. Julianna is very good in the role. Everything in the story is manipulated by Morgaine’s aunts Vivianne the Lady of the Lake, an annoying character played by Angelica Huston, and Morgause, a villain played by Joan Allen. Arthur is played weakly by Edward Atterton and Michael Vartan (Michael in Alias) is a weak Lancelot. Merlin is a fairly minor role, played by Michael Byrne, who was the Nazi officer Vogel in the third Indiana Jones film (Last Crusade) and the English soldier rapist in Braveheart. Mordred is played by Scottish actor Hans Matheson as a very screwed up guy. The film benefits from its three hour length, which lets it have sweep.

Merlin miniseries (1998): Another well-known Arthurian film, this three-hour work centers on Merlin, played by Sam Neill and tells the story of the wizard's life and the story of Arthur and his kingdom. Sam Neill is a good actor (see him do brilliant work as Cardinal Wosley in The Tudors season 1 for example), but that’s as far as the good in this film goes. The story is a silly take on the legend, with a lot of miscasting and bad writing. Morgan (played by the talented Helena Bonham Carter) is reduced to a pawn and shoved aside in favour of a character called Queen Mab, played in an extremely annoying manner by Miranda Richardson. Mab’s sidekick in villainy is Frik, a supposedly humorous character played by Martin Short. Isabella Rosselini does a weak performance as Merlin’s girlfriend, Nimue (cue pathetic romance here). Arthur is horribly miscast, with some young guy called Paul Curran playing the role. This Arthur is not at all believable as a king or leader and comes off as an ineffectual nothing. Lena Headey is a good Guinevere but unfortunately doesn’t get enough screen time. Jeremy Sheffield plays Lancelot. Sebastian Roche plays Gawain rather well. Mark Jax does a terrible Uther and Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, etc) is entertaining as Vortigern, the king before Uther. A major villain is defeated by everybody turning their back on the villain (literally) and ignoring the villain. That should tell you the level of the writing in this film. Still, it’s watchable (thanks mainly due to Sam Neill) -IF you can tolerate the way Queen Mab talks.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975): Parody of Arthurian legend, by the Monty Python comedy group, directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. There’s a lot of funny stuff in this film. The budget was not enough to provide real horses, so the knights mime riding horses while a guy goes behind them banging coconut shells to imitate the sound of horse hoofs. Sir Galahad’s famous chastity (medieval Grail story writers thought you had to be a virgin to be the knight of the Holy Grail) is nicely parodied. The story is about Arthur, Lancelot, Bedevere, Galahad and Sir Robin going on a quest for the Holy Grail. This is one of the most famous of Arthurian films.

First Knight (1996): Weak film, centering on the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle. The three main actors, Sean Connery (Arthur), Julia Ormond (Guinevere) and Richard Gere (Lancelot) are good actors, but the characters aren’t well written, Connery is not at his best and Lancelot doesn’t come across very real. The film feels very unenthusiastic. Ben Cross (Spock’s father in the recent Star Trek movie) plays the evil Prince Malagant. Versions of this character have kidnapped Guinevere in numerous versions of the Arthurian legend down through the ages and he does so here too. Cue Lancelot to the rescue, an old story element invented by 12th century French writer Chretien de Troyes. Irish actor Liam Cunningham plays Agravaine, here Arthur’s lead knight and a much nicer guy than in the legends. This is a version of the story in which there is nothing supernatural and no Merlin or Morgan.

King Arthur (2004): This is the historical take on Arthur. It’s based on the bullcrap theory that the legend is based on Arthur’s warriors being Sarmatian warriors (the Sarmatians were an Iranian-related people). Arthur is portrayed as a half-Celtic, half-Roman officer of the Roman army who fights to defend Britain against the Saxons, a plausible enough take, even if I don’t buy the specific identification with historical figure Artorius Castus. The film is set in the historical setting of a Britain being abandoned by the Romans and left to the ravages of the Germanic Saxon invaders. Merlin is a Pictish leader (not much screen time, played by Stephen Dillane) and Guinevere is a Pictish warrior (Keira Knightley is definitely sexy in this role). (The Picts were a people in Scotland in ancient times.) Lancelot, Gawain, Galahad (who was invented by 13th century French writers), Tristram (who wasn’t originally connected to the Arthurian legend) and various others make up Sarmatian warband who serve Arthur. Stellan Skarsgaard (father of Alexander Skarsgaard who plays Eric on True Blood) is impressive as the sinister Saxon leader. Clive Owen does a good job as Arthur. Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd plays Lancelot, a good actor but not terribly convincing as a great warrior. Danish actor Mads Mikkilsen, on the other hand, gets the warrior thing just right as Tristram. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, it’s not a great film, but it’s good enough. The director’s cut is better than the theatrical release, and people who know my views on Star Wars will know how ironic it is that I’m saying that.

More on two favourite Arthurian films:

I really didn’t go into enough detail on these two and I think they’re the best Arthurian films, so they deserve revisiting.

Camelot:
What I said about it before:
Quote:
Camelot (1967): Adapted from the musical Camelot, which was in turn based on T H White's famous Arthurian novel, The Once and Future King. The movie stars Richard Harris as King Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere and Franco Nero as Lancelot. Irish actor Richard Harris, who many years later played Dumbledore in the early Harry Potter films, is excellent as Arthur. Redgrave is bland as Guinevere. Nero's Lancelot is a pompous stuffed shirt. The film centers on the love triangle. Merlin doesn't appear much and there's no Morgana. It's a surprisingly good movie, notably for Harris's performance.
Richard Harris was an incredible actor, maybe Ireland’s best. He brought intelligence and personality to his roles, tinged with danger, and he made his characters feel complex. His Arthur is my favourite screen Arthur and really seems like someone of substance and character, unlike the many weak Arthurs that have appeared onscreen. There’s a good sense of humor to his performance too. Harris makes the film.

Beyond that, Camelot is a fun, positive-spirited film which uses its three-hour length to fill out the character development and interaction. To be sure, it’s lightweight in some ways, but it feels deeper in other ways, particularly in how much the characters are brought alive. The film is whimsical, but plays with some serious ideals.

Franco Nero is excellent making Lancelot seem pompous and full of himself and I enjoyed seeing the character sent up like that. Every since Chretien de Troyes was writing about him in the late 1100s, there has been an insufferable amount of worship of Lancelot, who’s basically a Mary Sue interloper who was founded on idiotic notions of courtly love. Nero’s Lancelot doesn’t come off like a wimp, which is a relief after so many weak Lancelots. If Lancelot is supposed to be the toughest warrior in the land it’s inappropriate to cast an actor who’s there just to be pretty. Vanessa Redgrave is the film’s main weak point, kind of cold and flat in the role of Guinevere. Notably missing from the story, apart from Morgan, is Gawain, who was the primary Arthurian warrior in the legends before Lancelot was introduced. Maybe that’s for the best though, rather than have yet another scene of him being beaten down by Lancelot. In the development of the legends, Lancelot was introduced as a representative of newer knightly ideals and he had to be shown as besting Gawain, who represented an older version of the knightly ideal. Ever since then, we have been plagued by scenes of the earlier champion being humiliated by Camelot’s favorite adulterist. While Morgan doesn’t appear, Mordred does, and David Hemmings’ version is another weak point in film, coming off rather lightweight for such a celebrated villain and being a bit annoying. Lionel Jeffries is likable as the comical old King Pellinore, who is very different from the Pellinore of the legends. The boy who appears at the end of the film is actually intended to be Thomas Malory, the writer of Morte Darthur, the best known work of medieval Arthurian fiction. No mention of how Malory was a rapist and a bandit, mind you.

Excalibur:
What I said about it before:
Quote:
Excalibur (1981): One of the best known Arthurian films, directed by John Boorman. This is based on Malory's Morte Darthur and other works. Filmed in Ireland, it's a classic take on Arthurian legend, but with some of its own ideas too. Irish actors Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson are Uther and Gawain respectively. Unfortunately, Gawain is a nasty brainless brute in this and gets the crap beat out of him by Lancelot, who's a serious pain in the neck. Scottish actor Nicol Willliamson plays Merlin, who gets significant screen time. Helen Mirren (from The Queen, etc) plays Morgan (who's the major villain) and Nigel Terry plays Arthur. Mordred appears in the Grail quest and the fall of the kingdom (bad performance, though) and Percival is significant in it too. Arthur’s conception and rise to kingship, the love triangle, the quest for the Grail and the fall of the kingdom are all shown. It's a bit weird, because the performances tend to be theatrical and overdone, but it works quite well if you're prepared for something other than an ordinary film.
I didn’t like this film when I first saw it, but it grew on me. Many of the performances are a bit weird or overdone and it can seem kind of stupid at times, but it’s a vigorous attempt to put the Arthurian legend on the screen and captures some of the feel of it successfully. It feels more medieval than many films set in a medieval period (though the tinfoil armor doesn’t help). It does well in the area of atmosphere as well.

Nicol Williamson gives Merlin an extreme accent and way of talking that takes some getting used to. Nigel Terry’s Arthur comes off a bit dumb and inadequate, but is played with feeling and has a certain feel of being genuine, as well as feeling more medieval than many screen Arthurs . Not an ideal Arthur, but better than some. Helen Mirren’s Morgan doesn’t work. Just too overdone in a way that isn’t good. Nicholas Clay gives Lancelot some dignity, but otherwise is bland and stiff until the character goes mad, and he comes off for the much of the film like he’s just there to be pretty. But at least he’s better here than he was playing Tristan in Lovespell. Cherie Lunghi’s Guinevere is neither particularly bad nor particularly good. Irish actor Gabriel Byrne’s Uther is vigorously played, if a bit over the top. Irishman Liam Neeson is a great actor (see Schindler’s List or Michael Collins), but here it seems he was told to play Gawain as a nasty idiot. Not my favourite Gawain. Igrayne and the child version of Morded are played by the director’s children. The rape of Igrayne is done with Uther in full armor. And the actress’s father filmed this. Weird. It’s fun seeing Star Trek’s Picard, Patrick Stewart, playing Guinevere’s father, and he does an energetic job. One major Arthurian character who gets little attention in many Arthurian screen adaptions is Perceval, but he gets a good deal of screen time here. He was the original hero of the medieval story of the Holy Grail, but later medieval writers pushed him aside in favour of the insufferable Galahad. Here he has his original role. Mannix Flynn, who plays Morded’s lieutenant in the end section of the film, ran for a seat in the Irish parliament (Dail) earlier this year.

Guinevere (1994): This is a tv movie focused on Guinevere as the central character. She's played very blandly by Sheryl Lee, who's famous for being murdered in Twin Peaks. Noah Wyle (Dr Carter in ER) is totally miscast as Lancelot. Just as badly miscast is Sean Patrick Flanery (from Young Indiana Jones Adventures) as Arthur, doing a very weak performance indeed. In this film, Camelot is Guinevere's kingdom, which she's the heir to, and Arthur is the young warrior High King who comes and marries her and gets the kingdom. Lancelot is her original love that she was raised with. The film shares some of Mists of Avalon's mistaken ideas about Celtic pagan religion. Morgan is a sort of nasty feminist pagan high priestess and a villain and she calls the sword in the stone a "fatal phallus" (yes, really). She's played with some force (but not exactly subtlety) by Irish actress Brid Brennan. Merlin is played by Donald Pleasance as a curious sort of old guy. Pleasance does the best performance in the film by far. Arthur gets kidnapped and Guinevere goes to rescue him, an intentional reversal of the usual kidnapping of Guinevere story. It's not a very good film. It's bland and stupid and I hope they weren't trying to make any of the characters come off as medieval, because if they were they failed utterly. The best thing in the film is the images of a very picturesque Camelot on a small island in a lake, connected to other islands by bridges. The film is based on a Guinevere trilogy of novels by Persia Wooley. Its only significance is as an example of feminist Arthurian film, but it’s not a very good example. Mists of Avalon, for all its faults, far surpasses this.

Lancelot du Lac (1974): This one is a French film by Robert Bresson. It's pretty weird. Everybody stands around reciting their lines in monotone, with as little facial expression as possible. Battles and major events happen offscreen. The actors were instructed to put as little emotion into their performances as possible, or so I've read. But it isn't totally useless. It's an interesting take on the Arthurian legend and it has a positive take on Gawain. The actor who plays Lancelot (the main role) is stoney-faced but effective in a way. It has a fateful, grave feel to it. It deals with the story after the Grail quest, with Lancelot and Guinevere's adultery and conflict between the knights, finishing up with the war between Mordred and Arthur. No Merlin (he's dead) and no Morgan.

Merlin’s Apprentice (2006): This is a supposed sequel to the 1998 Merlin miniseries. “Supposed” because it doesn’t fit with the story of the original at all. Sam Neill is back as Merlin, but doesn’t get enough screen time. The focus is on his dorky young apprentice, played by a chap called John Reardon. Apparently, Merlin walked out on Arthur and went to sleep for 50 years, in which time the Grail was lost, Arthur died and Camelot declined. Barbarians and the Lady of the Lake threaten Camelot, and Merlin, his apprentice and various other characters have to save it. One of the characters is a woman who is supposed to be passing for a man, except she looks nothing like a man (likable enough character otherwise, though). It’s not a very good film. At all. The characters include some who are likable enough, but Miranda Richardson (playing the Lady of the Lake) is still annoying. Pathetic writing, bland style. The original Merlin miniseries, poor as it was, is sort of a landmark among modern Arthurian films. This is not.

Prince Valiant (1997): This film is based on the long-running Prince Valiant comic strip about a Viking prince who becomes a knight of the Round Table (the character Valiant in the Merlin episode Valiant is a reference to the comic strip). Stephen Moyer (Bill the vampire in True Blood) plays the young Viking hero and does a good job. Katherine Heigl (likable for a change) plays the princess he’s fallen in love with. Edward Fox, Emilia Fox’s father (he looks like her), plays King Arthur but doesn’t get a lot of screen time (he’s good, though). The director plays Gawain, not very well. Thomas Kretschmann (the good Nazi in The Pianist) plays a bald, beardless evil Viking brute and obviously can’t find a pair of trousers. Udo Kier plays his brother, who has usurped the Norwegian throne that Valiant is heir to. Ron Perlman turns up. Joanna Lumley is an overdone evil Morgan. It’s not a very serious film and it’s not very strong, but it’s fun enough and quite likable. There was a 1954 film based on the comic strip too.

Knights of the Round Table (1953): This is an example of the sort of big, dramatic, heroic-style historical films they did circa the ‘50s and ‘60s. The film is a fairly straightforward take on the legends and is based on Malory’s Morte Darthur and other stuff, but it makes its share of changes to the original story nonetheless. It tells the tale of Arthur becoming king, his conflict with other kings and knights, his formation of the Round Table order, his marriage to Guinevere, Lancelot and the love between Lancelot and Guinevere, Lancelot’s involvement with Elaine, Percival’s quest for the Holy Grail, Mordred’s treachery and the final war with him. Morgan is just a schemer, not a sorceress. She’s allied with Mordred and wants to put him on the throne. Morderd seems to be no relative of Arthur’s and is acted by Welsh actor Stanley Baker. Lancelot is the central character of the film and is played by Robert Taylor (known for playing Ivanhoe in the 1950s Ivanhoe film). Merlin is a pudgy old man. Gawain and Gareth have their share of screen time but have no conflict with Lancelot. Gawain seems to be a jolly fellow and is played by a Scottish actor. Mel Ferrer plays Arthur (reasonably well) and Ava Gardner plays Guinevere with poise. Robert Taylor makes Lancelot suitably stern, warrior-like and heroic. However, his manner (to an extent) and his accent are reminiscent of something out of an old western, making the film come off as sort of King Arthur:The Western, particularly with the old-style music and the knights galloping around on their horses. This is unintentionally amusing. It’s curious to hear very Arthurian-style lines delivered as if by John Wayne. This is an old-fashioned film and is thus very different in tone and mentality from modern films. It also has rather unconvincing fight scenes.

Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1984):
This is one of three films based on the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (one of the others had the brother of Anthony Stewart Head (Giles, Uther) in the main role, but I haven’t seen that one). This is an odd film, a low budget movie with many faults, but not entirely without merit. You have to get past the awful wig they put on Gawain. The wig and beard they put on King Arthur doesn’t help either. Nor does Sean Connery’s dreadful costume. Connery plays the Green Knight and does a good vigorous job –if you can get past the costume. The story of the film concerns Gawain (here a new-made knight) taking up the supernatural challenge of the mysterious Green Knight, which involves beheading among other things. Unlike in the original story, Gawain here goes on a long complicated quest and this is one of the film’s merits. The core material of much medieval Arthurian literature was not the story of Arthur himself, or of Morgan or Merlin or Mordred. Rather, the focus was on knights of King Arthur’s court going on quests, often complicated quests involving much supernatural material. However, this aspect of the Arthurian tradition is not much addressed in Arthurian films. You get the Grail Quest in Excalibur, but that’s all you get there, and you get less in most other films. Sword of the Valiant fills in that gap, and while it’s not true to the specific story of Gawain and the Green Knight, it is true to the Arthurian tradition in general, in a way that other films generally aren’t. Gawain is played by Miles O’Keeffe. Gawain’s squire here is played by Leigh Lawson, who plays King Mark of Cornwall in the German Tristan film Fire and Sword. King Arthur is played by English actor Trevor Howard (not very well). French actress Cyrielle Clair plays Gawain’s love interest, Linet. Manipulating things behind the scenes (as in the original story) is Morgan, here played by Emma Sutton. Peter Cushing turns up. He’s best known as Moff Tarkin, commander of the Death Star in the first Star Wars film and as Van Helsing in the Hammer Horror Dracula films. John Rhys-Davies (Sallah in Indiana Jones, Gimli in The Lord of the Rings) turns up too. It’s not a very good film by any standard, but it is of interest from an Arthurian point of view.

Lancelot and Guinevere (also known as Sword of Lancelot) (1963):
Directed and written by Cornel Wilde, who also stars as Lancelot, this is very old-style movie, though it manages to make its combats more real than Knights of the Round Table’s. It tells the story of the Lancelot/Guinevere/Arthur love triangle, with the focus on the romance between Lancelot and Guinevere. Wilde was better than I expected in the role. Expressive eyes help him here. Some depth. Guinevere isn’t terribly impressive (played by Wilde’s wife Jean Wallace) and Brian Aherne’s Arthur is too distant. Mark Dignam is convincing as Merlin, but doesn’t have a lot to do. Mordred, played by Michael Meacham, is the villain of the piece. Morgan is nowhere to be seen. Sir Lamorak, played by Scottish actor Archie Duncan, is Lancelot’s buddy here. Gawain has his standard feud here with Lancelot over the killing of his brother. The end of the movie is pretty downbeat.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949):
There have been numerous films based on Mark Twain’s Arthur-parodying novel. This one is semi-musical (not really much singing) and involves Bing Crosby in the main role (likable), as Hank, the guy from a more recent time (early 20th century in this version) who goes back in time to Arthur’s court. The film is likable and genial, but pretty lightweight. Cedric Hardwicke plays a comical old King Arthur. William Bendix plays Sir Sagramore, basically Hank’s sidekick. Rhonda Fleming plays Alisande, the Arthurian woman Crosby’s Hank falls in love with. As in the book, Merlin (Murvyn Vye –does a good job) is a villain. Morgan (Virginia Field) is a villain too. Henry Wilcoxon plays a stuck-up Sir Lancelot who’s rather humorously put in his place by Hank. I think the film works better for modern tastes than either Knights of the Round Table or Sword of Lancelot, as long as you’re not expecting anything too serious.

Prince Valiant (1954):
This was the first film made based on the Arthurian comic strip Prince Valiant. It’s another old-style film. Not very good, but genial enough. Scandinavian prince Valiant is a refugee in Arthurian Britain, his father’s throne having been usurped by an evil man. He must oppose a sinister plot in Britain, defeat his family’s enemies and win Arthurian knighthood. Robert Wagner is Valiant, not very impressive. I also wasn’t terribly impressed by Janet Leigh, playing Valiant’s love interest, Princess Aleta. Valiant becomes Sir Gawain’s squire and Sterling Hayden plays Gawain as a vigorous character, but, hilariously, he makes him come off more like a 19th century American frontiersman than like an Arthurian knight. I kept feeling I was watching a Western. Brian Aherne is Arthur here, as in Sword of Lancelot. Renowned English character actor Victor McLaglen plays a Viking warrior loyal to Valiant’s family. The best thing in the film is the talented James Mason playing the slimy Sir Brack. The film is big, dumb entertainment and rather silly. Very much inferior to the 1997 Prince Valiant film.

Merlin and the Book of Beasts (2010):
This is a Sci-Fi Channel movie and it’s not very good. The highlight is James Callis (Battlestar Galactica’s Baltar) playing Merlin. He’s a good actor and his performance is fun in some ways, but ultimately he overdoes it badly and it’s a mess. The rest of the film is worse -bad writing, weak acting, people standing around blandly delivering their lines as if they’re reading them out. It’s set after the fall of Arthur and the Camelot. A band of warriors including an aging Galahad, Arthur and Guinevere’s daughter Avlynn (played by Laura Harris from Dead Like Me and 24), Tristan and Iseult’s son (called Tristan –how original) and a young chap called Lysanor seek out Merlin. Together with him, they go on a quest to stop a sorcerer called Arkadian (who turns out to be Mordred), who is unleashing magical monsters on the land from his “Book of Beasts”. Anyway, not much use.

Merlin and the War of the Dragons (2008):
This is a direct-to-video film by The Asylum, a studio that specializes in making low budget, low-quality, campy films that often tie in with better-known releases. For instance, they made a film called The Transmorphers when The Transformers was coming out. I wonder if this was put out to capitalize on the Merlin show starting in 2008. Jurgen Prochnow is the only actor most people will recognize in this. He plays a wizard who’s Merlin’s mentor. The story is set before Arthur’s time and Merlin is a bland young dork in this, not very well played. The acting in this film doesn’t exactly shine, nor does anything else about it. It involves a sorcerer using dragons to fight a war and Merlin has to stop him. Characters from legend such as Hengest, Vortigern, Uther, Igrayne, Viviane and Nimue show up. The main point of interest, for me at least, is that the movie was filmed in Wales and used local Welsh talent. (The film is also known as Merlin and the War of the Dragon Emperor.)

The next three films are Tristan films. The Tristan story was not originally Arthurian, but became tied into Arthurian legend and Tristan was made a knight of the Round Table and his story was eventually retold in Malory’s Morte Darthur, the best known work of Arthurian literature. The Tristan movies here do not include King Arthur, Camelot, Merlin or any of that stuff. They don’t include any classic Arthurian elements, but they can be counted as Arthurian films because the Tristan story has become part of the Arthurian legend. For those who don’t know, the legend is the story of the love between Tristan, foremost warrior of Cornwall (the nephew of King Mark of Cornwall), and Isolde, princess of Ireland, who’s his uncle Mark’s wife. Adultery and jealousy ensue, followed by death. It’s traditionally a very tragic story.

Tristan & Isolde (2006):
Despite having multiple Irish characters, this film has only one significant character played an Irish actor (Bragnae, played by Bronagh Gallagher from The Commitments) and I wonder if this is because it’s so anti-Irish. The film takes the legend’s conflict between Ireland and Cornwall and magnifies it into a sinister Irish plot to dominate all of Britain and oppress the hell out of the British. The evil Irish commit atrocities and hatch sinister plots. This might be more tolerable if the film was half good otherwise, but it’s not. This is a film with no enthusiasm to it and thus it is as dreary as they come. James Franco, as tragic hero Tristan, spends the whole movie looking like he wishes he was somewhere else. Sophia Myles (Moonlight’s main female cast member) puts forward a mediocre performance as Isolde. At least Rufus Sewell is good as a sympathetic King Mark of Cornwall, but he can’t save the film. In addition to the story of Tristan and Isolde’s love, the film’s version of the story concentrates also on a looming threat from the king of Ireland and his desire to dominate Britain. The king of Ireland is played by Scottish actor David O’Hara (the mad Irishman in Braveheart). O’Hara is usually good, but here his tendency to play his roles often a bit tongue in cheek backfires and undermines the film. Mark Strong, who’s everywhere these days, is in the film, as is Henry Cavill, who’s the new Superman and had a regular role in The Tudors. (The film is also known as Tristan + Isolde.)

Lovespell (1981):
This film was filmed in Ireland and has a beautiful soundtrack from Irish band the Chieftains. Those are its good points. It’s a bland, poorly-made film with weak performances from its central cast. Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway in Star Trek Voyager, younger here) as Isolt is off-key and comes off like she’s had too much coffee. Nicholas Clay (Lancelot in Excalibur) as Tristan is bland in the extreme. Veteran Welsh actor Richard Burton is grim and dull as Mark and gives a performance that feels like it comes out of a mid-20th century movie rather than something from the 80s. The film seems to want to make Mark ambivalent and relatable, sympathetic even, rather than just a villain like he is in some versions of the legend. However, they blow this badly by having him try to rape Isolt. Disappointing film. (Also known as Summer of the Falcon.)

Fire and Sword (1982):
This is a German film filmed in Ireland. There were two versions made, a German-language version and an English-language version. They come as two discs in the DVD set (region 2 only). Unfortunately, the English-language version is given in VHS-level visual quality. This is the best of the three Tristan films. It’s not a great film, but it has atmosphere and dignity and brings out the tragedy of the legend better than the other two. Nonetheless, it can be a bit incompetent at times, in acting and other things. German actress Antonia Preser is the best Isolde of the three in the films here, on account of the tragic dignity she gives the character, but that is not to say her performance is always good. Christoph Waltz, the Austrian actor who won an Oscar for playing a Nazi Jew-hunter in Inglourious Basterds, is Tristan here. He’s much less effective as Tristan than he was in that film, but he’s not entirely hopeless. Mark, sympathetic here, is played by Leigh Lawson, who played Gawain’s squire in Sword of the Valiant. He does a good job. Peter Firth, who more recently played an intelligence chief in British spy show Spooks, plays Tristan’s friend Dinas. Irish actor Liam O’Callaghan, plays Irish warrior Morolt and looks convincing in the armor. Unfortunately, he’s not in much of it. The film has good music, which helps the feel of it. (The film is also known as Tristan and Iseult and in German it’s called Feuer und Schwert.)
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Old 10-23-2011, 11:41 AM
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Can the mods edit the title so as to it make "Arthurian" into "Arthuriana"? I forgot the a.
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Old 10-25-2011, 07:03 AM
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Brooding TV hunks Kit Harington and Joel Kinnaman front-runners for “Arthur and Lancelot”

by Linda Ge

Let’s be clear here: I’m a huge Arthurian legend fan and even bigger Lancelot fan. After a string of onscreen adaptations that have seen the marginalizing of Arthur’s best friend, right hand man and ultimate downfall (“King Arthur”, “Merlin”, “Camelot”, I’m looking at you), it’s a relief to hear of a project that has Lancelot’s name right there in the title. No way they can mess him up in this one, right? Comedy director David Dobkin has been tasked with developing and directing “Arthur and Lancelot”, a modern re-imagining of the iconic friendship and rivalry between King and Knight, and the project is one step closer to becoming reality as he has zeroed in on a couple of newcomers for the title roles.

The Playlist reports “Game of Thrones” star Kit Harington and “The Killing” star Joel Kinnaman are the front-runners for the two lead roles, though it’s unclear who’s up for which. The two relative unknowns beat out a legion of other up and comers, some fairly more famous but no A-Listers: Sam Claflin, Dominic Cooper, Hans Matheson, Jim Sturgess, Ben Walker and Liam Hemsworth. Harington and Kinnaman have not officially signed on nor received official offers, but did screen test together for the director in London a couple of weeks ago.

The plot of the film remains vague, with Dobkin seeming to indicate it might be a loose interpretation of the basic structure of the legend (sigh!). “I pulled the legend apart. I only kept a few things. I kept certain characters, I recreated the entire launch of the legend and why it starts the way that it starts, I don’t want to give away too much but it’s always had a flaw,” he told The Playlist. “I pulled the flaws out, I reinvented the characters as grounded characters. I took a much more realistic and grounded approach towards everybody, you know why would this character be this way and why would this character be that way? You know Arthur’s superpower is compassion and vision. I will tell you this, the whole thing is wrapped around the birth of democracy as a concept and it’s positing Arthur as the first man to say all men are created equal.” Ok, that sounds great, but at least some of it is about Guinevere… right?

We’ll get to see when the movie is released on March 15, 2013, but in the meantime, Harington is back at work on season 2 of HBO’s monstrous hit “Game of Thrones”, while Kinnaman is on the second season of the slightly less successful and much more divisive “The Killing”. On film though, Kinnaman’s star should be rising fast after breaking out in hit Swedish thriller “Snabba Cash”; with roles as Daniel Craig and Robin Wright’s magazine co-editor in David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and as the man who operates Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington’s “Safe House.” He’ll next be seen as one of a quartet of young Americans -with Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor and Max Minghella – who fend off an alien attack in Russia in “The Darkest Hour”, out in December.

Brooding TV hunks Kit Harington and Joel Kinnaman front-runners for “Arthur and Lancelot” | Up and Comers
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Old 10-25-2011, 07:23 AM
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Thanks for posting that.

Now let me reply to Ms Ge:
Quote:
After a string of onscreen adaptations that have seen the marginalizing of Arthur’s best friend, right hand man and ultimate downfall (“King Arthur”, “Merlin”, “Camelot”, I’m looking at you), it’s a relief to hear of a project that has Lancelot’s name right there in the title.
Lancelot was a French Mary Sue stuffed into the story, upstaging previous hero Gawain, and based on ridiculous notions of courtly love. His addition did much to damage the story and we've been stuck with his insufferable presence ever since. It's a relief when a screen adaption plays down Lancelot, because so many have given him far too much importance. It added greatly to my enjoyment of those mentioned adaptions that they were not dominated by Lancelot.
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Old 10-26-2011, 08:08 AM
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This 2008 movie is a bit of a curiosity, a Christian take on the Arthurian legend. It was made by the Burns Family Studios, which pretty much sums it up by looking at the entry at IMDb:

Pendragon: Sword of His Father (2008) - IMDb


Fun fact: it was made on a budget of $88.000.

This is the synopsis:

The year is A.D. 411 - the Empire of Rome is crumbling. As the legions are called back to the Eternal City, the Isle of Britain is abandoned to Saxon marauders…

Son of British Chieftain Justinian the Pendragon, young Artos has grown up in a quiet coastal village. Justinian entrusts the boy with a vision – to defend the people God has trusted them with. But, with the attack of Barbarian raiders, the village is destroyed, and Artos, the only survivor, is taken as a Saxon slave.

Artos’s will is crushed as he toils under Saxon masters… He begins to despair.

One snowy night, Artos is forced to flee. As he collapses at the end of his own strength, God intervenes. With a new understanding and faith in God’s sovereign plan, he sets off with renewed hope.

Artos journeys high into the Welsh countryside to the mountain stronghold of Arfon, where the British ruler Ambrosius is raising an army to halt the invading Saxons.

Among Ambrosius’s troops, Artos finds what he has been seeking. Brotus, a young comrade, becomes his loyal friend, and Artos’s faith and vision has soon won the hearts of many among the British force… including Ambrosius’ daughter, Wenneveria.

However, there is one among the Britons who does not share Artos’ golden dreams… or rejoice at his battlefield successes. Artos soon crosses paths with Cadeyrn, a British commander seeking to amass his own power. Jealous of his young rival’s growing popularity, Cadeyrn plots to remove the young Pendragon…

Through the treachery of his bitterest enemies and the betrayal of his closest friends, Artos is once again alone - the hunted defender of Britain. Soon he must make a deadly choice – between the girl he loves and the people he is called to defend.


About the Movie: Story Synopsis


Oh, there's even a trailer:

Official Theatrical Trailer: "Pendragon: Sword of His Father" - YouTube
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Old 10-26-2011, 08:26 AM
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I've read about that one but didn't bother watching it. Half the cast are from the same family.
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Old 10-27-2011, 06:58 AM
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Yeah, half the cast are the same family. The Burns family also wrote the music, did the costumes, and produced it.


There was an more or less Arthurian book published in the 1980's titled The High Kings by Joy Chant. The author main point of influence started with Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain.

This is how it's described: A storyteller in the court of King Arthur recounts the legendary tales about the adventures of the King's ancestors.

There are ten tales, nine are about Arthur's ancestors, one is about Arthur.

INTERVIEW WITH JOY CHANT


There was also an Arthurian magazine, Avalon to Camelot.

This was it's mission statement:

About Avalon to Camelot

On the one hand, it might be simplest to share the Statement of Purpose that appeared as the first page of the first issue of Avalon to Camelot, which was published in the autumn of 1983… but that would only be part of the story.

Avalon to Camelot was a magazine whose eight issues were published between 1983 and 1987. By bringing together the scholarly and popular interest in the Arthurian legend for the first time, it was developed in an exciting creative crucible. And was staffed by a group of stalwart Arthurians - nearly all of whom volunteered their time and talents.


Avalon to Camelot
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Old 10-27-2011, 01:29 PM
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Interesting. There's an Arthurian everything by now. For example there's a roleplaying game called Pendragon.
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Old 10-28-2011, 11:37 AM
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True, Arthuriana is everywhere now.

The Black Knight (1954) stars Alan Ladd as John a blacksmith and swordsmith in Camelot who's in love with Linet (Patricia Medina), the daughter of a nobleman. He can't hope to win her because of his low birth. He takes on the secret identity of the Black Knight to aid King Arthur when Camelot is threatened by Saracens. Actually, the leader is a the Saracen knight Sir Palamides (Peter Cushing) who enlists the aid of a dastardly Scottish noble (Patrick Troughton), Cornishmen, and Saracens posing as Vikings. Cushing is quite entertaining as the villain. Oh, I forgot the mention the attempted virgin sacrifice at Stonehenge, which is then demolished by a company of knights. Some note ought to given to the chicken-crested helmet worn by Alan Ladd. Lastly, it's all in glorious 1950's color!
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Old 10-28-2011, 12:13 PM
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Cushing as a Saracen is a funny idea.
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Old 10-31-2011, 11:03 AM
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I linked to some posts on this thread, over on Merlin's Arthuriana thread, and quoted your Black Knight review over there.
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Old 11-02-2011, 02:06 PM
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I am not jealous of Lancelot. You can only feel jealousy toward someone for whom you have some kind of respect or affection. Jealousy is what I feel towards Gawaine. What I feel towards Lancelot is something only the demons in Hell can have a name for, something that should probably frighten me about my eternal salvation, if Lancelot did not deserve every breath of it.

Sir Kay's thoughts expressed in Chapter 4, Idylls of the Queen by Phyllis Ann Karr


Idylls of the Queen is Arthurian mystery novel published in 1982. It is based on an incident in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, with some earlier Celtic sources, although the title paraphrases Tennyson's Idylls of the King.

Queen Guenevere is presiding over a dinner party at Camelot when Sir Patrise dies from eating a poisoned apple. The murdered knights cousin Sir Mador accuses the queen of murder. Guinevere's guilt or innocence will be determined with trial by combat. Much to Guinevere's misfortune, all the finest knights were present at the dinner, disqualifying them from serving as her champion. Plus, Sir Lancelot has gone missing. Sir Kay, Arthur's seneschal is given the task of investigating the crime, with Mordred functioning as his "Watson", more or less. Kay is the sharp-tongued, loyal narrator of this tale; who interviews an entire cast of well-known Arthurian characters.

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Old 11-02-2011, 05:27 PM
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Two things I like about that book: She sets her story in a Maloryesque Arthurian setting rather than the pseudo-historical setting everybody else seems to set their books in, and she isn't enamored of Lancelot. She also wrote a sort of Arthurian encylopedia called The Arthurian Companion. It's linked to the Pendragon roleplaying game.
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Old 11-11-2011, 06:13 AM
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I'm going to watch that lame-looking Pendragon Sword of His Family Business film and I'll give my views on it when I do.

Malaguetta, I quoted your Idylls of the Queen post over on the Merlin board equivalent of this thread.
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Old 11-18-2011, 02:40 PM
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Thanks, sum1, for moving my post to the Merlin board.

I'm going to re-read Idylls of the Queen. I do agree with you on the point of Phyllis Ann Karr setting her story in a Malloryesqe middle ages. I recently found a pretty good copy with the original cover art. I have to check for her The Arthurian Companion.


Some more casting news for the upcoming Arthur and Lancelot movie. They've cast the the title roles. There also has been speculation that Gary Oldman may be cast as Merlin.

Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington has plucked the sword from the stone and will play the future King Arthur in Warner Bros.’ Arthur & Lancelot.

David Dobkin is directing the movie, which seeks to spin the King Arthur myth into a bit of a lighthearted action movie the way the studio did with Sherlock Holmes.

'The Killing' Star Wins Lancelot Role in 'Arthur & Lancelot'

In the classic myth, Lancelot was one of Arthur’s knights and ends up in an adulterous relationship with Arthur’s wife, Guinevere. The movie sees Arthur as an illegitimate son being raised by a humble and poor knight in a village who will grow into an inspiring leader while Lancelot is a rebellious noble who distrusts the established government. (Guinevere, at this stage of the game, is simple a cameo but will figure more prominently in potential sequels.)

The movie is eying a March 2012 start.

Harington’s role of Arthur has parallels to his character in Thrones, where he plays an illegitimate son with hidden potential to the lord of the northern kingdom.

Harington made his screen debut with Thrones and is also cast in Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. The actor, who screen tested twice for the Arthur role, is repped by CAA.


'Game of Thrones' Star Nabs Role of King Arthur in 'Arthur & Lancelot' - Hollywood Reporter
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