DIRECTOR: Richard Thorpe

The medieval English myth of King Arthur has been mined for literature and film as much as Robin Hood, the subject of numerous films over the format’s hundred or so year history. I admit that I’m not sure how the rest of the world see Arthur but here in the U.K., he is as well know as any historical character.

But like all characters of this type, there are two main versions of his tale. The first is a realistic portrayal, often very serious, mystical and sometimes boring. The other versions are fairy-tale like, with three act structures and swashbuckling heroes rather than deep characterisations.

This is the latter. Robert Taylor is Lancelot, Ava Gardner is Guinevere and King Arthur? Who? (Mel Ferrer) It hardly matters as he is not the focus here, Lancelot is. He is a noble hero to the end and Mordred, Stanley Baker, is defeated in true MGM fashion.

In short, this is a vacuous take on the myth whcih would be so much better served later with John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981), and in some ways King Arthur (2005). The production design in cheap, though very much in keeping with the style of the time, the costumes all wrong and the characterisations are weak.

This film offers nothing in the way of historical context and only serves as a run of the mill commercial vehicle for its stars and the studios obsessed with historical pics at the time.

You might as well read the Ladybird book of Lancelot as it may well be the novelisation of this movie!


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