Excalibur (1981)

Excalibur (1981, GBR) C-140m. *** D: John Boorman. Starring Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi, Paul Geoffrey, Nicol Williamson, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, Corin Redgrave, Patrick Stewart, Charley Boorman. Powerful, tense, atmospheric rendition of the Arthur legend, dealing with the life of the legendary king, from his conception and his adulthood (pulling Excalibur out of the stone) to his manhood and his fellowship with the Knights of the Round Table. Earthy, perhaps too much for a fantasy film but Boorman's direction is so stylishly forceful, you are swept away by the proceedings and the narrative hardly reflects upon itself (which may be another liability). Film finds its focus in the final third (the quest for the Holy Grail) and becomes a thoroughly great motion picture. Startlingly graphic and adult in some scenes, this is not a children's movie. Performances range from Williamson's slightly over-the-top Merlin to Terry's utterly believable King Arthur. Good use of music by Wagner (from his operas) and Carl Orff. Produced and cowritten (with Rospo Pallenberg) by maverick filmmaker Boorman.


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© Ron Altman