70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
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" (correction: "SIEGFRIED'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!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A film classic based on Sir Thomas Malory's 1485 book "Le Morte D'Arthur". Everyone has a favorite part. Few remember the whole film. And we notice something more with each viewing.
When you first see Excalibur rising from the lake you know you are in fro a great cinema graphic movie.
We get our entire favorite King Author stories well spliced together of form one cohesive tale including the search for the Grail. The round table had a unique symbol in the center.
Some time is spent trying to recognize our favorite actors when they were young. Who would have guessed that Igrayne (Katrine Boorman) was in the film "Zardos" (1974) also produced by John Boorman.
Also trying to identify the music mostly Richard Wagner (from "Parsifal", "Tristan und Isolde" and "Götterdämmerung").
After viewing this film it is time to get a different view of the same stories with the film "The Mists of Avalon" (2001) or maybe Merlin (1998).
64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2005
This is the story of the magic and mysticism in the tale of Arthur, as seen by John Boorman. The story starts with Uther Pendragon convincing Merlin to help him bed Ygraine, and ends with the return of excalibur to the Lake. It is also the story of Merlin, played excellently by Nicol Williamson with a massive vocal range, and the intrigue of Morgana (Helen Mirren in a seductive and evil role). Merlin muses both wryly and poignantly about a changing world in which magic is fading, the natural order is threatened with the arrogance of men, lamenting the "lachrymae mundi", while Arthur and his knights, wearing impossibly heavy armour, lop limbs of their enemies with big weapons. All to the hard-drinking monk's tune of Orff's "O Fortuna". What more could you want from a film, by turns whimsical, sad, mystical, violent, passionate, tender, mysterious and aloof? Speak the charm of making Merlin, set the world to rights.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 13 March 2005
I appear to write reviews only for deranged films with beautiful colours and mad actors-well once again I invite you to be ravished by wonderful cinematography, blood spattered axe weilding madmen,and more madder than you can possibly imagine Mr N Williamson (on top eye popping thespian overdrive).
If you "enjoyed" Gary Oldman in Fifth Element and The Third Stage Guild Navigator in Dune then add this to your collection at once.Hours of mad sword slashing fun and power mad lust crazed grubby snarling troglodytes in beautiful colour.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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The fact that this film was made back in 1981 is evident as some of the effects do look a little dated but are nonetheless unobtrusive and very well used. The graphic and occasionally brutal swordplay is well set out and choreographed and far from ruling the piece it is nicely balanced by the mythological and magical aspect to the story. John Boorman offers a beautifully photographed and marvelously directed movie that is visually lavish and stunning. Immersing itself deeply into dark age mysticism the film offers an almost alien atmosphere at times but this works in its favour resulting in a captivating film. Some superb and grand set designs afford a sumptuous backdrop. The costumes courtesy of Bob Ringwood are marvellous but the very impressive armour designed by Terry English is simply amazing.
A fantastic cast provide some excellent performances, the late Nicholas Clay was born to play Lancelot and his haunting performance is one that is likely to stay with you. Equally memorable is the eccentric and occasionally hilariously camp performance of Merlin by the superb Nicol Williamson is impressive as he romps away in possibly the best character adaptation of Merlin I have seen and holds the movie superbly together.
The sultry Helen Mirren evocatively oozes her performance of Morgana combining a distinctly sinister and sexy presence. Nigel Terry shows his inexperience but nonetheless provides a good lead portrayal as King Arthur. He is no Lawrence Olivier but he is in keeping with the "boy king" emphasis of the story. The elfin Cherie Lunghi provides an occasionally tedious performance as her terribly false accent grates horrendously but she is on the whole quite enchanting as Guenivere. Amongst the notable cast members are some early performances by Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne provides one of his better performances as the proud King Uther. John Boorman slips some of his family into the film, most prominently Katrine Boorman plays Arthurs mother Igrayne whilst her sister Telsche Boorman waxes fishy as the Lady of the Lake.
The music score by Trevor Jones breathes life into the production and also uses to great effect two classical music motifs in order to convey some grim weightiness and promote a truly dramatic and heroic feel. The hair raising tones of the "Tannhauser Overture" by Wagner wash over you whilst the stirring "O' Fortuna" taken from Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" is a truly rousing piece (some may remember it from the "Old Spice" advertisements) which fits exceptionally well with the imagery of King Arthur and his knights charging off into battle through the countryside. The enchanting combination of imagery and sound is captivating and exhibits some real power seldom found in "modern cinema". Boorman's direction is almost flawless and the pacing is excellent combined with some superb atmosphere and cinematography (for which it received an Academy Award nomination).
The early eighties did of course sire a whole flurry of sword and sorcery movies but Excalibur is a credit to the genre and is one of the better offerings. Boorman's vision created in Excalibur is both powerful and stirring and makes this one of his best films.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2007
Anyone who really likes "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, will most likely enjoy this movie as well. "Excalibur" is over 25 years old, but this film stands the test of time. The costumes and locations are superb, and the battle scenes are both exciting and ravishing. The intense and beautifull music score makes this film truly magnificent. The actors in "Excalibur" are very good, especially Nicol Williamson and Gabriel Byrne. If you like action packed sword and sorcery films, then you should give this one a try. It's one of the very best, if not The Best.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2000
Oh yes - this is truly the GREATEST film EVER. With such great directing by John Boorman, and an all star cast, from Patrick Stewart ( startrek ) to Liam Neeson, this film is not to be missed. Delving deep into the mystical fantasies of Arthurain legend, this film brings up all the aspects that are needed to know by a true devotee. Even though there are some descrepencies, like percival threw Excalibur into the lake, and the fact that Galahad and Lancelot aren't related, this film is still the one to watch. Merlin, the greatest portrayal by Nicol Williams, is brought to life by his eccentric/paganistical powers, and the viewer's love for this character grows deep. Filmed in Ireland, the scenery is magical, especially with the classical soundtrack, which I am sure many of you will recognise. There is too much to say about the film in such a short space, so buy it, and see what all the fuss is about. Just over two hours long, this is indeed a film to settle down with and watch. Enjoy!
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2000
For years, I only ever saw the beginning of this film. Gabriel Bryne is practically unrecognisable as the brutish Uther, in what must be one of his best acting performances. It's his lust for Igrayne that sets the film in motion. To satisfy his hunger, Uther must make a deal with the mercurial Merlin, which, needless to say, he later regrets.
So Arthur starts out on his hero's journey, in scenes quite similar to young Luke Skywalker's tutelage by Yoda in 'The Empire Strikes Back', with Arthur both beguiled and horrified by the creatures of the forest, featuring the ubiquitous owl present in such films of this period. After the boy king draws the sword from the stone, he is much in need of guidance. However, Merlin is an excellent teacher who seems to draw knowledge from Arthur rather than leading him to it. Yet it's not long before Arthur is seduced away from Merlin to other attractions, such as Guenevere. It's around about here that I usually stopped watching the film when I was younger. It was Boorman's battles that had first attracted me, so shiny and brutal as sword impales and thrusts armour.
It's true that Arthur's Round Table is rich and lush, but rather boring. A time of plenty, but very little drama, apart from Gawain's slander. Arthur does not hear Merlin warn him about Guenevere, and ignores the evidence of his own eyes, as Guenevere becomes a tease and a burden to all his men and in a bizarre and highly staged dance in Leondegrance's fortress. It's also taken time for me to like Nicholas Clay's performance as Lancelot. Cherie Lunghi as Guenevere has never really convinced me. The DVD edition makes her chirpy Irish accent even clearer, which is an irritation. Their romance is treated as on the level of a high school fling, the sort of thing that is done so much better in your average episode of Buffy each week. You squirm in your seat as Guenevere catches sight of Lancelot at the drawbridge of Camelot, with Morgana playing the role of bitchy friend. Clay's wig at the end is also quite embarrassing: did the make-up artist also work on Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Having said that, most of the other characters do grow old with a bit more grace. Of course, the main reason why their treacherous romance is so unconvincing is due to the fact that it is the only part of the film that feels rushed. I'm pretty sure Lot was supposed to be Gawain's father in Malory, but Ciaran Hinds looks no older than Liam Neeson here!
However, there are plenty of fine performances. Nicol Williamson has never played a better role than Merlin, and there are lots of other more familiar faces, like Patrick Stewart. It's the unknown actors who also catch the eye. Ciaran Hinds makes the most of a small role as Lot. Hinds is one of my favourite actors, and it's a pity he hasn't done much more film work like Neeson and Bryne. Arthur is also Nigel Terry's biggest role to date, and I think he makes an excellent transformation from squire, to boy king, to battle hardened warrior, peaceful monarch, and cuckolded husband. Helen Mirren plays her most seductive role as Morgana, and Charley Boorman makes a deliciously evil Mordred. As I've watched this film again, I'm more and more impressed by Paul Geoffrey's portrayal of Perceval. He seems to have been introduced as a counterpoint to Arthur, the young boy who dreams of being a knight, but whose cowardice makes him fear that he has lost the grail forever. Of course, it looks as though Bedevere was just one knight too many, but you do think that Perceval would have made an excellent king if he had obeyed his gut instinct.
All in all, a beautiful, luscious Pre-Raphaelite movie, with Wagner's music to produce the adrenaline high. There is a slight suspicion that this film could be quite right wing, timed to coincide with Thatcher's lamentable rise to power. Certainly, fascists have abused the Arthurian myth and Wagner before now, in their own bid for world domination. However, I believe that Boorman and Rospo Pallenberg were just attracted by such an excellent and archetypal story, and had been trying to make the film for years before the doomed British film renaissance so proudly proclaimed by Colin Welland. This film is indeed a "dream to some, a nightmare to others!" I'm on the side of the dreams, the charm of making and the breath of the dragon. Ireland, my ancestral homeland, has never been filmed so darkly and sublimely. Excalibur is a film I reach for again and again, and its haunting images will never leave me.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2007
Watched this as I was growing up. Surely the best movie about Arthur and Merlin. The acting was great and direction well done. Everything in this movie is believable. The scene where Oother visits Egraine because Merlin turns him into Egraine's husband using scorcery. The scene was hot. They dont make them like that anymore. Great Battle scenes. Great fun.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2005
If you have any interest in the legends of King Arthur or the mystery of the Dark Ages in Britain, this film is a must-see. It takes you on a magical journey right into the heart of the myth, through stunning photography and the most awe-inspiring soundtrack. The fact that mostly unfamiliar actors are used adds to the experience, from unyielding warrior Uther Pendragon to dreamlike Merlin and charismatic Arthur himself. Ignore any poor reviews occasionally wheeled out. These critics clearly didn't "get it" and I feel sorry for them. I watch this film several times a year to reconnect with a visionary heroic world that puts present-day Britain to shame. Rise again, King Arthur, we need you now!