‘Excalibur’

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Excalibur (1981)

Rated PG/R

Director: John Boorman
Written by: Thomas Malory (book), Rospo Pallenberg (screenplay)

Starring
Nigel Terry: King Arthur
Helen Mirren: Morgana
Nicol Williamson: Merlin

Tagline: No mortal could possess it! No kingdom could command it!

By Gurn Blanston

Past Memories: When this film was released in 1981 I was still one year away from a driver’s license. Which meant that any movie I saw had to be with my parents, or I had to arrange my own ride and money. Since they had no interest, and I had no ride or funding, I had to wait until 1982, when I had a license and the movie was playing at the local dollar theater, to see it.I went with several like minded friends, by like minded I mean bored and cheap, and we all pressed into the tiny theater with butter saturated bags of popcorn and Bacardi Rum laden soft drinks, (just because we were a bunch of Asteroid playing, Star Trek quoting geeks doesn’t mean we didn’t know how to party,. …which we didn’t) to watch the show.

What I remember most was the stylized portrayal of the knights and ladies, the grand matte painted castles, very flashy and clean, and how everyone seemed so polished and energetic. Forget the story, this film looked cool! The scene where the Lady of the Lake (or the moistened bim if you’re a Python fan) was stunning, and the sword itself made my hands itch to wield it, even though my massive 120 pound frame probably could not have lifted it. At the time we all assumed that this was historically accurate and that we had been educated as well as entertained. It’s not that we were stupid, just slightly tipsy. We ran around the parking lot afterwards engaging in pretend, mostly non-homosexual, sword fights and jousts.

The strength of Max von Sydow as Merlin, the allure of Genevieve Bujold as Guinevere, the pageantry and the spectacle all combined to make this the standard, in my mind, for all medieval era films I was to see for the next decade. Unfortunately, I now know that neither of these actors were actually in the film, and that it was also the first film for both Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson, neither of whom I remember being in it at all. Bacardi marred memories be damned, Mr. Von Sydow, you will always be Merlin to me.

New Memories?

Download: Episode IV: Excalibur.

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