Director John Boorman's passionate adaptation of Sir Thomas Malory's LE MORTE D'ARTHUR stars Nigel Terry as the faithful King Arthur. Necromancer Merlin (Nicol Williamson) offers the magic sword Excalibur to the warlike Ut... more »her Pendragon (Gabriel Byrne) in exchange for a promise that he'll make peace with his enemy, the duke of Cornwall (Corin Redgrave). He agrees but breaks his word after catching sight of Cornwall's wife, Igraine (Katrine Boorman). With the magician's help he makes love to the woman in the guise of her husband. She bears a child, Arthur, who is taken by Merlin as payment for his assistance and left in the care of Ector (Clive Swift). Years pass, and the boy, now a humble squire, pulls Excalibur from the stone in which Uther had sunk it--a task no other could accomplish. With Merlin's counsel, he marries the stunning Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi), finds a champion in Sir Lancelot (Nicholas Clay), subdues the skirmishing knights, and builds the Round Table to unite them. Yet his half-sister, Morgana (Helen Mirren), lurks in the shadows, preparing to poison her brother's reign. Perhaps the best film made in this genre, EXCALIBUR benefits from an extraordinary cast, including appearances by Byrne, Patrick Stewart, and Liam Neeson early in their celluloid careers. Counterpointing ethereally filtered sex scenes against scenes of graphic blood-and-guts swordplay, Boorman's sumptuous production galvanizes the familiar mythology, as he charts the transition from an age of magic to one of reason.« less
Jeffrey W. (JNYC) from NEW YORK, NY Reviewed on 9/25/2011...
This is a great film to watch along with Monty Python's "Holy Grail" at a party. Some nice knight-in-full-armor-on-maiden sex scenes too, so not for young kids. R-rated jousting.
2 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Mary M. (ceresmary) from COLUMBUS, OH Reviewed on 6/5/2011...
Really did not like this version of Excalibur/Knights of the Round table/Aurthur legend. It is Bloody, the dialog leaves much to be desired, and if you're only interested in the wars of Camelot, this is the right version...If you want something more about the Magic of Camelot, my suggestion is to try to find Mary Stewart's "Crystal Caves" that was done in the UK and worth the search. I give my hat off to the British crew that worked hard on this; Helen Mirren, Nigel Terry, Patrick Stewart, etc. but in my opinion was overly bloody, cartoon dialog, and just wasn't worth the time.
2 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jewl W. (wallja99) from CORDOVA, TN Reviewed on 9/2/2010...
Very good movie, great special effects
1 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
Pamela G. (pamgram1) from CHAFFEE, MO Reviewed on 3/28/2010...
I Love, Love, Love this movie. It has the best King Arthur tale that you have ever seen. The musical score is fantastic as well as the costumes. You know it's great as it has 5 stars and I highly recommend this romantic, adventure, action movie!!!
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Larry K. from CROWN POINT, IN Reviewed on 12/11/2009...
This is one of the best Arthur stories you will see. It has all the elements and was a real surprise for the genre. The production was in my mine flawless.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Brad S. (Snibot) from DALLAS, TX Reviewed on 12/8/2009...
Wonderful. Well scripted and acted, the cinematography was ahead of its time as was the special effects. Helen Mirren's Morgana gave a new definition to witchery, she was absolutely amazing, no other actress has come close to be mentioned in the same breath in this role. Nicol Williamson is the Merlin that all others are mere pale comparisons. Then you add in Paul Geoffrey as an amazing Perceval, Cherie Lunghi with an above average Guenevere and top it off with Nigel Terry with a dynamic King Arthur, and you have THE finest Arthurian Legend film of ALL TIME!
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Ronald S. (Tony) Reviewed on 11/29/2009...
This has got to be the best movie about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that I have ever seen, and I've seen a few.
3 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
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."
Excalibur revisited 20 years on by its director John Boorman
D. Roberts | 10/04/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The transfer to DVD is near perfect. The sound is great. It is wonderful to own this piece of film in the super sharp, super clean DVD format, but the real reason to buy this DVD is to listen to John Boorman talking us through the film upto and including the closing credits.Boorman looks back 20 years on a project that in itself waited some 20 years before Orion came up with the backing. In the process it saw Gabriel Byrne, Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson and others debuting to go on to better things. Not so with Nigel Terry, whose performance was greatly under-rated.Boorman is modest, pragmatic and realistic. If the water was too cold for the actors, he would use his daughter or son. Production waited for live fish to be put into a submerged ring of stones from which Merlin would pick up one by hand, only for them to be tipped OUTSIDE the ring to swim away. Effectively, filming was done in his back garden and that of a neighbour. Local Irish stuntmen were used who would then continue fighting in the battle scenes, after "cut" was called, to settle old scores. Wilkinson Sword provided Excalibur. Green filtered lights rendered greener the countryside already made green by the incessant rain requiring many hours and days waiting for the right conditions.As the young Arthur is taken away from his mother he tugs her hair dramatically across the film screen. Unscripted it came free. The bird pecking out the eye of a strung-up knight took many day's filming.Very tight scheduling, ensured seasons exactly consonant with the three parts of the film - the Coming of Arthur and Camelot, The Wasteland and the Passing of Arthur. To the extent of using Oxford Films Natural History Unit to devise a small element of flowers blossoming in the foreground to demonstrate the re-awakening of the land with the renewed kingship of Arthur. Bluebell groves and the avenue of apple trees were constantly inspected before filming began - in one case this did not prevent some technician trampling down some bluebells.Inevitably, comparisons are made between this attention to detail and getting it right on camera rather than the ever increasing postproduction work using digital effects. The lament is fair and reasonable because Boorman. although he would be too modest to claim such, is the director as auteur. He does not look at his work after filming ceases and, if he does, it is only to see the flaws. However he does look at Excalibur because the story is so good and means so much. What he does not say is that it is his presentation of Arthur through Mallory, von Eschenbach and Wagner at Bayreuth that will make us look at it again and again and again. Unlike VHS, the DVD will mean that each look wil be as good as the first. Buy it and enjoy!"