"I greatly enjoyed this rendition of Sir Walter Scott's famous novel. Although there are significant plot deviations, the series is well acted with fantastic costumes and sets true to the period. The theatrical talent of every single actor in this series was simply outstanding and their great performances made the characters multi-dimensional in scope expressing all the nuances of human nature.
Steven Waddington plays a very strong role as Ivanhoe: champion of the absent Richard The Lion Hearted and fiancee of Rowena (Victoria Smurfit), his dear once betrothed who's now promised by his father to Lord Athelstane. Ciarn Hinds ('Excalibur', HBO's 'Rome') gives probably the best performance as Sir Brian De Bois-Guilbert, the evil Templar knight whose hatred for Ivanhoe is as great as his passion for Rebecca (Susan Lynch), the Jewish healer. Lynch as Rebecca herself delivers one of the best performances as a woman whose forbidden passion for Ivanhoe saves the kingdom from the Templars and Prince John. There's even a brief appearance by Sian Philips (I, Claudius) as Elenore D'Aquitaine, the queen mother who comes to arbitrate between her feuding sons John and Richard. Another outstanding performance was by Christopher Lee (Scaramanga in Bond's 'Man with the Golden Gun) who makes his first performance for the BBC in over 50 years. His role as the sadistic and zealous Grand Templar is convincing enough to give anyone the creeps.
The costumes and armor properly depict the armaments and fashion of the 12th century. The series is filmed on location in Wales showing a few of the many medieval churches, abbeys, manors, and castles that dot its landscape thereby adding to the film's feeling of authenticity. The film is perhaps graphic in violence but this captures the brutality of medieval warfare quite well. Alltogether a great mini-series that has more positive qualities than shortcomings. The story is fluid and the acting is excellent. Definitely worth owning.
Sir Walter Scott's Masterpiece
Kay's Husband | Virginia, U.S.A. | 05/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
With all the other reviews listed here, I will be very brief.
After reading a few of these other reviews I'm not sure they watched the same movie I did! Boy, how people can see the same thing differently.
However, I watched this production when it first appeared on A&E back in the 90s and recorded it on VHS; later as the DVD was issued I bought that. Courses on medieval history caught my interest in college, and this movie is the best portrayal of that time I've ever seen, others may think otherwise, I do not.
All I can say is that if you like the time period you will miss a very well done production if you skip this one. It is one of my favorite films, only problem being like SHOGUN, you must alot several hours to seeing it.
Remember I said I would be brief: Go Out And Buy This One.
(4 you may be very sorry if you don't)
Scott's tale of chivalry played out by a superb cast
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 01/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It seems strange that the title character of the 1997 version of Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe" would end up being one of the least interesting characters in this six-part mini-series, but this is not the fault of actor Steven Waddington. Television writer Deborah Cook ("The House of Elliot," "The Royal") has simply made so many of the other characters more interesting and the cast is quite stellar, especially given how few of them I instantly recognized. But by the time the Ivanhoe/Rebecca/Brian de Bois-Guilbert love triangle is being played on to its tragic end, the Ivanhoe/Rowena/Athelstane one seems rather mundane in comparison.
The quintessential novel about chivalry, "Ivanhoe" is set about a century after the Battle of Hastings, so that there is still conflict between the ruling Normans and the defeated Saxons in England. King Richard (Rory Edwards) is taken prisoner on his way back from the Crusades and is being held for ransom and his younger brother, Prince John (Ralph Brown) is beginning to enjoy being the de facto monarch of England. The story told throughout England is that it was Ivanhoe (Waddington) who betrayed Richard, which is why Ivanhoe's father, Cedric (James Cosmo) refuses to allow his son's name to be uttered in his castle. Cedric is a Saxon noble who had thrown out his son for falling in love with the Lady Rowena (Victoria Smurfit), Cedric's ward. Now Cedric hopes to marry Rowena to Athelstane (Chris Walker), another powerful Saxon Lord.
Ivanhoe returns to England, disguised as a pilgrim, where he befriends a couple of Jews, Isaac of York (David Horovitch), and his daughter Rebecca (Susan Lynch). When Ivanhoe sees how the Normans are treating the Saxons he challenges Prince John's best knights in a jousting tournament: Maurice De Bracy (Valentine Pelka), Front-de-Boeuf (Nick Brimble), and Brian de Bois-Guilbert (Ciarán Hinds). Of course, Ivanhoe wins the tournament, but is wounded in the process and has to be cared for by Rebecca, who is a healer. At this point, things start to become very complicated.
Because this is a mini-series we are able to enjoy every one of Scott's plots complications in "Ivanhoe." We have Ivanhoe trying to get in his father's good graces once again, determined to clear his name, and trying to win back the Lady Rowena. There is the entire political question of John trying to take over the throne and whether the Saxons will start a civil war. Meanwhile, De Bracy is interested in Rowena and Bois-Guilbert becomes fixated on Rebecca. Then Lucard de Beaumanoir (Christopher Lee), the head of the Knights Templar shows up to wreck havoc. All of this is without talking about King Richard meeting up with Robin of Loxley (Aden Gillett), Friar Tuck (Ron Donachie), Little John (David Nicholls) and the rest of the men of Sherwood Forest, who have a few bones to pick with their monarch for abandoning the nation to go off crusading. By the time Elinor of Aquitaine (Siân Phillips) shows up as a regina ex machina, you will be surprised that everything has ended up being resolved one way or another.
The production values for this version of "Ivanhoe" do not allow for a lot of bodies walking around as background figures, but production designers Adele Marolf and Michael Trevor make sure this is a grimy, gritty, dirty world and not one in which knights wear shiny armor. But beyond the look of this "Ivanhoe" there are literally well over a dozen great performances. For once Prince John looks like he could pull off his coup and this Ivanhoe actually gets angry and physical when he finally confronts his father. Then you have Wamba (Jimmy Chisholm) and Gurth (Trevor Cooper), stealing pretty much every scene either one of them is in from start to finish, although the same can be said for Christopher Lee. But the standout performance belongs to Ciarán Hinds who transforms the troubled Brian de Bois-Guilbert into a tragic figure and the most interesting character in the bunch, especially since his character is the capstone to the resolution of the story."
M. Richards | U.S. | 11/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of my favorite book adaptations ever. It's finely crafted and the characters are portrayed realistically. What's more, it has it all, romance, treachery, gritty (realistic) scenes and Ciaran Hinds. :) Oh, my God. He's a must see. If you love the medieval genre do not miss this film! Did I mention C. Hinds? Well as others have said, the R.A. actor IS the film, taking it over completely, no question. I have no idea why Steve Waddington gets top billing b/c he's just okay, okay, he's dull as dishwater and deserves his love, Rowena who is a bit bland too. Rebecca and Brian Bois de-Guilbert are wonderful, however. And for those who whine that the movie did not stick to the book, well I say why should it? This is the movie the director decided to make; all book adaptations are just that - adaptations and are not there to copy the book vis a vis. If you love Ivanhoe the book, don't bother with this b/c you'll just complain. But if you love a finely crafted medeival, this is your film. No paranormal, no bull about chivalry, just the way it was - and one more thing about Walter Scott -- he totally romanticised this period in Norman/Saxon/Crusade history so you should take that into consideration when comparing book to film. The fact is that the knights templar were not saints and many were burned at the stake for their die hard beliefs as well as the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of saracens."
glenn J Notsch | phoenix, arizona United States | 07/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll try to be brief. This is a fantastic movie. I enjoyed it far more than Spider Man 2, or any of the Lord of the Rings.The story is easy to follow, the charachters have reel feelings, strengths, weeknesses, and the acting was exellent. No need for 100-million dollar special effects. My only complaint, and this seems to be true for many of the "new" films, is that the spoken word is sometimes difficult to hear because of all the background music or battle sounds etc.
But this movie has all we wish for. Action, romance, heroes, villians-and the good guys win!"