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Showing posts from October, 2021

The Boy Merlin (1979)

Watching all these Arthurian Movies lately shook loose a memory of this Thames TV children’s programme, which I saw when it was first broadcast back in 1979 (I think it was on Monday afternoons, about 4.30: not exactly Prestige Drama.) So I looked it up on YouTube - where it’s available for free since it has ‘no commercial potential’ - and what do you know, it’s surprisingly good! Devised by Anne Carlton and written by veteran communist-turned-Wiccan (!) TV writer Stewart Farrar, The Boy Merlin  was expanded from a single episode of the anthology series Shadows . It has the twelve-year-old Merlin living with his foster parents, a smith named Dafydd (Donald Houston)and his wife Blodwen (Margaret John) , and honing his magic skills with the help of his foster-grandmother Myfanwy (Rachel Thomas) But as the illegitimate grandson of local ruler King Conaan of Caernarfon (Meredith Edwards) he’s soon embroiled in his grandfather’s dealings with tyrannical High King Vortigern (Neil McCarthy)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

One of the reasons the Arthurian Legends appeal so much to writers and film makers is that there is no single original version. If there ever was, it was a tale told by some Romano-British storyteller, sitting by a fire in a damp hall, perhaps expounding on the great deeds of a local ruler or late Roman general, and spicing up the action with some motifs borrowed from old Celtic myths. In the centuries that followed, the story grew, and changed. Lots of legends about other heroes got tacked on to it. French and German poets got hold of it and added Camelot, the Grail, and Courtly Love: Malory borrowed from them all in his Morte D’Arthur . Later, everyone from Tennyson to TH White to Rick Wakeman to little me retold the stories, altering them to fit our own vision and reflect our own times. So you can do whatever you like with King Arthur: everyone else has. At least, that’s the theory. Now here's Guy Ritchie’s 2017 box office catastrophe King Arthur, Legend of the Sword to destru

Knights of the Round Table (1953)

This was probably the first King Arthur movie I ever saw. It’s the sort of thing that used to turn up on TV pretty regularly in the 1970s, and I think I have vague memories of watching but not really following it - though it’s so much of it’s time, and looks so like the illustrations in children’s history books or Look and Learn magazine that I may be misremembering. I recall it being very obviously shot in California, but in fact it was made in Ireland and England - Modred’s castle, where a climactic duel takes place, is at Hay Tor, a half hour walk from my house. The weather is unusually nice though - almost every outdoor scene takes place in blazing sunshine, under clear blue skies, so there’s none of the misty Celtic twilight that infuses later Arthurian films. This is a version of Arthur which has been stripped of most of its usual magical elements. The sword Excalibur is revealed at the beginning, embedded in an anvil and hidden behind some ivy in front of a back-projection of th

Perceval le Gallois

I don’t use a Windows computer, but if I did, I imagine that irritating anthropomorphic paper clip would be popping up about now to say, ‘It looks like you’re starting a lengthy occasional series of blog posts in which you try to watch every Arthurian film ever made.’ And I suppose I am, although I doubt I’ll actually be able to find all of them, and there’s no way I’m sitting through that Clive Owen one again.  It’s liable to take a while too, but here to be going on with is Episode 4, in which I take my very first look at what must be one of the most eccentric yet accurate versions of an Arthurian story ever committed to celluloid. The previous Arthurian movies I’ve written about ( Excalibur , Gawain and the Green Knight , and The Green Knight ) all share a similar aesthetic: filmed among the mountains, woods and waterfalls of Wales and Ireland, they draw much of their visual power from nature, landscape, and a certain wintry light reflecting from their heroes’ armour. Éric Rohmer