Actors: Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi, Paul Geoffrey
Director: John Boorman
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Raised by merlin, young Arthur draws the mystical sword of Excalibur from the stone and becomes King. He grows to manhood and with his wife Guenevere and first knight Lancelot unites the country and founds the Knights of t... more »
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Not Perfect, But About as Definitive As It Gets
Brian Jay Jones | Damascus, MD USA | 02/01/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's tough to compress the 900-some-odd pages of text that Thomas Malory used to tell his story of Le Morte d'Arthur into 140 minutes of film, but director John Boorman and screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg give it a good shot. While it sometimes leaves out important details or compresses events in the interest of time, it can never be accused of playing fast and loose with the legend. However, the film also requires a bit of work on the part of the viewer to fill in some of the details, and it's obvious Boorman expects his viewer to be at least passing familiar with the traditions of the Arthurian legend (anyone unfamiliar with Arthur's fate after his death, for example, will be baffled by the film's final shot). So brush up just a bit before you sit down to this one.With its darkened, cloud-streaked skies, lonely stone castles, eerie green lighting, (all caught in beautiful widescreen glory on the DVD), and effective use of the music of Richard Wagner, you won't find a moodier, more beautifully shot film. In fact, there are some downright breathtaking cinematic moments in this film, none more so than when Perceval hurls Excalibur back into the water, and Wagner's music swells just in time for the Lady of the Lake to make a dramatic clean catch. Great stuff.It also helps that Nicol Williamson turns in a very game performance as Merlin, but it's Nigel Terry who carries the film in an underappreciated but wholly believeable interpretation of King Arthur. Terry leaves the scenery-chewing to Williamson, and anchors the film instead with a steady, understated performance. Look also for stars-in-the-making Liam Neeson as the jealous Gawain, and Patrick Stewart as Guenevere's father, Leodegrance.EXCALIBUR has all the elements one expects in a fantasy, yet, in a sense, Boorman does for the sword-and-sorcery film what Sergio Leone did for the western: whereas prior horse operas showed cowboys riding across the desert and shuffing down dirt streets without a bit of sweat, and firing pistols that never drew blood, Leone made everyone look hot and sweaty, and showed that a Smith & Wesson could rip a real hole through your gut. Boorman does the same for the knight in this film -- knights clunk around clumsily in heavy armor, get skewered on pikes, get their heads bashed in, and cough their guts out in bloody mud puddles. It all lends an air of veracity to the film that makes it all seem like It Could Really Have Happened This Way.The widescreen format available on DVD gives this film the weight and heft it has long deserved, and there are some real gems lurking among the additional features -- including a surprisingly cheezy, Grade B trailer, and a really great alternate soundtrack in which director John Boorman discusses the action and shares some behind-the-scene goodies (such as the fact that Nicol Williamson and Helen Mirren couldn't stand each other, or that the actor playing the grown-up Mordred was actually a first-rate horseman).Give this one a try."
Visuals and soundtrack will knock your socks off
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 12/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Within my memory, there've been only a couple films featuring the legend of King Arthur. However, one of them released in 1981, EXCALIBUR, is the standard by which all others, past and future, must be judged. It's positively stunning in its excellence, and a must-see for any devotee of the tale.In a sense, EXCALIBUR is more a story of Merlin than Arthur since Nicole Williamson's fabulous, unique portrayal of the former overshadows Nigel Terry's role as the latter. However, the film faithfully depicts the Arthurian legend from his conception and birth at Tintagel Castle, to his death at the hands of Mordred. In between are all the other elements of the story one would hope for and expect: Uther Pendragon, the Sword In the Stone, the Battle of Mount Badon, Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Lancelot, Guinevere, Sir Percival, the Quest for the Holy Grail, the Lady of the Lake, and Lady Morgana (a.k.a. Morgan La Fey).A note of caution for parents of young children. At times, the film is intensely violent, bloody and sexual. (Gee, it sounds like any normal day at the office.) You are warned. And it's not a movie for squeamish adults, either.The costuming is superb. The brilliant cinematography and film editing, combined with a magnificent soundtrack that includes "Carmina Burana" and "Tristan's Funeral March" at just the right scenes, make EXCALIBUR absolutely awe-inspiring. You'll want to watch it over and over. (I've talked myself into wanting to view it again right now!) The final scene is one you'll wish you could extract from your TV screen and frame, with sound.Oh, my! What a cinematic achievement!"
The best Arthurian film interpretation
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 09/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of course, many would disagree and state that the older movies capture Malory's originaltext and vision. There are many Arthurian films, i.e. Knights of the Round Table, Sword of Lancelot, etc. But Boorman's is the finest. It makes the legend come alive with brilliant color, drama and music. It is graphic. There is nudity and blood. But such film should be appreciated and not seen by a more immature audience. The use of Wagner's music is perfect. It truly captures and enlivens the moments. Scene: Lancelot and Guinevere meet for a liasion in the forest. Wagner's Tristan and Isolde Prelude music plays. And the final scene: Three queens take Arthur on a barge. Wagne'rs music to the Ring opera plays. I suggest you get the soundtrack which is a rare thing to get a hold of. If you can't, get the following classical: Tristan and Isolde Prelude to Act 2, Siegfried's Funeral March - both by composer Richard Wagner. And Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana - O Fortuna " a work for chorus that is beyond belief, used in the film as music to accompany the battle scenes. Not only the music makes this film great. Great performances by the actors, in particular Nigel Terry and Mirren as Merlin and Morgana. Also check out Liam Neeson doing the role of one of the knights. This is the best interpretation of Malory on film. Great music, great drama, great performances."
The greatest Arthurian movie ever made
D. Roberts | Battle Creek, Michigan United States | 09/09/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie comes the closest of any theatrical rendition to capturing the grandeur and pageantry of Mallory's Le Mortre De Arthur. From opening scene to closing credits, this is one of the most well-done movies ever made. Boorman is at his best in its direction & the soundtrack is all Wagner. Who could ask for anything more? Also, unlike many other Arthur films (Such as First Knight) Excalibur addresses the entire scope of the legend instead of just one aspect. Fans will furthermore delight in seeing a young Liam Neason and a performance of Patrick Stewart from his mid-life years. This film is, quite simply, excellent."