Introduction The Crusades (1935) Saladin (1963) - IMDb The Talisman (1980-81) - IMDb The Dark Side of the Sun (1983) Kingdom of Heaven (2005) Notre Dame de Paris adaptations
I've seen more mediæval-set movies than I can ever recall, some good, some bad. Here I want to jot down a few thoughts that may develop into fuller reviews here or on IMDb.
Knights to Remember (to varying degrees):
The Seventh Seal
Ingmar Bergman's allegory of life and death: Antonius Block returns from the Crusades and plays chess with Death as plague threatens the land...
The Name of the Rose
Murder, monks, long-lost classics and the Inquisition. Its gallery of grotesque characters is reminiscent of caricatures from the margins of a manuscript. Of course, the Dominican villain would probably end up being canonised as a martyr, as Peire de Castelnau was...
Another monk, this time a Russian icon-painter. Philosophical epic by Tarkovskii, utterly stunning, with a burst of colour for the paintings at the end.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Anthony Quinn version, more faithful to Victor Hugo's Villon-esque tragedy. Spectacular and gripping, with a more convincing Dom Claude than the previous versions.
The Lion in Winter
Superb performances and a witty, literate script gloss over the fact that some of the interpretations of characters are questionable. (This is the source of James Reston's depiction of Richard and Phil as bickering ex-lovers!) But the Eleanor/Henry relationship is well done, and I wish Katharine Hepburn had played her in a biopic! And for obvious reasons, I love this exchange between her and Richard:
Robin & Marian
Middle-aged Robin Hood film, with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. Despite setting the story in the wrong time period as ever (Robin is 14C, not late 12-early 13C - Walter Scott again to blame), this is by far the best Hood movie ever, imbuing the characters with wit, charm and pathos.
Kingdom of Heaven
Visually stunning, but let down by fictionalisations and 21C sensibility. However, it is very atmospheric, and has lovely performances from Ed Norton, Jeremy Irons and Ghassan Massoud. Ignore Orlando Bloom, shut your ears, and you may enjoy it just for the look of it. Excellent siege-engines and Greek fire, too!
Far too reverential and pandering to Menendez Pidal's version of events (Alfonso VI and Urraca are both pretty much libelled), filtered through traditional romances. Film history for the Franco era. But it does look good - for 13-14C. Unfortunately, it's supposed to be set in 11C... Great Miklos Rosza score.
Knights to Forget:
Cecil B DeMille's Gustave Doré-inspired epic, with Loretta Young as Berengaria abducted into Saladin (Ian Keith)'s harem and torn between him and Richard... Preposterous. And Josef Schildkraut plays Conrad as a villain, which just isn't on as far as I'm concerned! (My poor boy!) It has him conspiring in England with Prince John to kill Richard - an extraordinary idea, given he was in Tyre at the time, and who may really have killed whom!
King Richard & the Crusaders
Based on Walter Scott's The Talisman: Laurence Harvey as the incognito Scottish prince Sir Kenneth, George Sanders as Richard, Virginia Mayo as Edith Plantagenet, and Rex Harrison in brown make-up as a very English Saladin. Conrad was played by Michael Pate, and Robert Douglas - as usual a villain - was Giles Amaury. Unbelievable, with bad dialogue and ham acting.
A Knight's Tale
Silly, deliberately anachronistic teen comedy, which tries to be too hip for its own good. And it stars Heath Ledger. The talents of Laura Fraser, Paul Bettany and Rufus Sewell are wasted. Rufus is, however, very beautiful in plate armour.
A true disaster-movie, misrepresenting and wilfully distorting everything imaginable - chronology, characters, events, politics, social customs, costumes, material culture, geography, architecture, weaponry, lepers... Possibly the worst film to be Oscar-ed.
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