“You shall have it. But to heal not to hack!”
This is one of those movies from my childhood. My brother first introduced my to this flick when I was in junior high and I have been hooked on it ever since. I have always been a fan of the Arthur Legend and this is one of my favorite versions of that legend. With that said I am mainly trying to watch it with an eye as to whether it has held up over time.
Here is a brief plot synopsis (There be spoilers) – We start with Arthur’s father Uther making a deal with Merlin so that he can get in the pants of the Duke’s wife. Arthur is given to Merlin who then gives him to Sir Hector to raise. Arthur pulls the sword from the stone to give to his ‘brother’ so that he can fight in the tournament. Arthur is now king and the story follows him through the founding of the knights of the round table, the founding of Camelot and the breaking of the sword. Though Arthur is certainly an anti-hero (more then a little unbalanced) he creates his true enemy in the form of his son with his half-sister Moragana – Mordred. Even the Holy Grail is given coverage in this film’s very wide scope.
Helen Mirren – Morgana – I have a bit of a crush on Helen Mirren. She is a wonderful actress and just beautiful. Put that together with the fact that she has been on Top Gear and in one of my favorite King Arthur movies and she is the triple threat. The lurking and lecherous nature of the character she plays in Excalibur not withstanding, she is amazing in this movie.
Nicol Williamson – Merlin – He is still my favorite version of Merlin. The humor, the overacting and the costuming make him the perfect magician. His line delivery is just amazing. He also walks a very fine line between being the asexual <erlin and a bit of a dirty old man.
The Armor and Weapons – Here is the selling point for the whole movie. The armor is eleaborate with almost every suit of plate mail being different. Each helm has a little something to give it that knight’s own look. From the start of the movie through the end you are treated to metallic eye candy the whole way through. The weapons are no less spectacular. Each has its own look and feel. The fact that Lancelot uses a bec de corbin in his fight with Arthur is a wonderful choice. The design for Excalibur, a true long sword, is perfect – not too ornate and not to flashy – perfect. And of course Excalibur is shown to have some limb hacking abilities means it is the +5 Sword of Sharpness we all dreamed of in our D&D days.
The Fight Choreography – While they do take some Hollywood liberties with the fighting they also get a lot of it right. The fighting is not overly flashy. It is very straight forward and forceful. Here is a highlight to look for – Lancelot uses the Hand and Sword style quite a bit – check out the long sword for more on this.
The Lighting – Mysterious Green Glow – For some reason, there is a mysterious green glow in lots of the scenes. Watch for it and see if it starts to annoy you as much as it did me. I am sure that the director of photography or someone thought it would look great and maybe in 1981 it did but it is a little distracting in this movie.
The Sound Effects – The Foley operator had one sound for all swords and weapons hitting all armor. There is a nice clank that they give each and every hit. I would have liked some variety.
Mordred’s Armor – I HATE the baby-head armor. I know that is the look they were going for but I hate it.
Overall I think the movie holds up. The soundtrack is great, the acting is good though at times a little over done, the armor and weapons are beautiful and well placed… just a great movie. If you are looking for ideas for medieval garb for the next faire you attend you could do a lot worse then to take some ideas from this. If I ever decide to go Merlin for a faire – you can bet that I will have the black robes and the little metal hat.