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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visuals and soundtrack will knock your socks off
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...
Published on 29 Dec. 2002 by Mr. Joe

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excaliblur
I'm keeping my review of this film strictly to the quality of the transfer (it's a given that if I've bought it again - third time, first on video, then DVD, now Blu Ray - that I love it):

It's visually and audibly better than the current DVD version, but that's about it. I doubt that we'll ever get anything better, so if you want the best quality currently...
Published on 27 Jun. 2011 by Scott Dean


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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visuals and soundtrack will knock your socks off, 29 Dec. 2002
By 
Mr. Joe (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Excalibur [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excaliblur, 27 Jun. 2011
By 
Scott Dean (Lincolnshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Excalibur (Blu-ray)
I'm keeping my review of this film strictly to the quality of the transfer (it's a given that if I've bought it again - third time, first on video, then DVD, now Blu Ray - that I love it):

It's visually and audibly better than the current DVD version, but that's about it. I doubt that we'll ever get anything better, so if you want the best quality currently available then grab this. But don't expect anything like what is now acceptable when it comes to most Blu Ray transfers of older films such as this one. It's saving grace is most definitely the John Boorman commentary.

Disappointed, but still the best quality currently available to buy.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forged by a god, foretold by a wizard, found by a man, 22 May 2005
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Excalibur [1981] [DVD] (DVD)
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).
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64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The days of our kind are num-ber-ed, 8 Nov. 2005
By 
David J. Smith (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Excalibur [1981] [DVD] (DVD)
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.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars shimmering dazzling, 13 Mar. 2005
This review is from: Excalibur [1981] [DVD] (DVD)
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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Almost But Not Quite, 18 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: Excalibur [1981] [DVD] (DVD)
If you could judge a film on one scene then Excaliber would have many choices. A revived Arthur charging his shiny armoured knights through an apple orchard with the blossoms falling around them with Carl Orf's O Fortuna blasting away is just one image that blows you away.

Iconic music, some breath taking visuals and images.

But the trouble is the film in the main and the acting is hokey. What? Well, it's like watching a stage play filmed. The actors seem determined to make each line into a Shakepeare classic line. Some work, some so not.

It's not that it's a bad film. When I first saw it (in my late teens), the film was a tour de force of the Arthur legend. EVERYTHING you wanted from an Arthur film is in this film, but you get the feeling that Boorman, the director, truly never grasped the nettle. Apparently at the time he was hoping to get Lord of the Rings, so perhaps in him making this we have something to be thankful for.

One day this will get remade and the truth is the 'remakers' will have to refer back to this. Face it. To date this is the best Arthur film (and that includes the one with Dudley Moore).
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a film!!, 19 Oct. 2004
By 
Gavin Moore "Gav" (Gateshead. England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Excalibur [1981] [DVD] (DVD)
This has to be one of my all time favourites.
Everything about it is excellent, right down to the costuming and even the soundtrack! The haunting sound of Carl Orff's 'Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi' and some excellent stuff from Wagner's 'The Ring' for good measure adding that epic feel that classical music often brings.
Expert cinematography and sets really bring it together making it very memorable.
A nice blend of myth & magic done very well indeed and one of the best in this genre. Personally I prefer it to The Lord of the Rings!
Absolute Genius.
I love it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Thing: The Dragon's Breath (guaranteed CGI-free). ., 21 Mar. 2015
By 
Mr. G. Morgan "wes" (Haywards Heath, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Excalibur [1981] [DVD] (DVD)
When I leant this to my cousin he thought I'd passed him a clunker: many moons later he acknowledged it was a work of genius as I had insisted. It is visually ravishing, brilliantly written and musically a delight, using Wagner inspiringly, 'La Fortuna' too. Following Mallory and casting actors with daring - Nicol Williamson as a Brummie Merlin is truly bold and somehow it works; Nigel Terry manages to convince as Somerset bumpkin to unlikely King; Helen Mirren is a delicious Morgana and Cherie Lunghi and Nicholas Clay embody eros and agape as Guenivere and Lancelot, (important since their 'betrayal' is as inherent in the mythos as Judas's treachery is required in Christianity); A nicely forceful Cabalyard by Patrick Stewart and Clive Swift as Arthur's mournful foster father complete a fine leading cast; Corin Redgrave's cameo is powerful too (Charley Boorman as Young Mordred, Liam Neeson as Bors are surprisingly terrible, imperfect lip synch renders Gabriel Byrne's Uther not as compelling as he might have been. The way Merlin leaves him to die, taking the promised Arthur is the first hint of this Merlin's unconcern for Men, although "it is easy to love folly in a child" his possession of the boy shows he is not of our world and possesses a terrible power. Magic and Our World coexist but uneasily and Christianity is coming. The set pieces such as the marriage in a Cathedral-that-is-an-avenue-of trees, the bearing away of the New Dead Arthur to Avalon flanked by beauties including the statuesque Lady of The Lake; the initiation of Arthur in the woods at night are magical, as are the scenes among the megaliths, almost new, "before the One God drives out the many", symbols of a time "when Death was but a dream" as Merlin says. Which brings me to the true delight, it demonstrates that Myth is not the opposite of truth, it is a version of it. In addition to featuring the pithiest definition of Pantheism I have ever heard "the Dragon. It is everywhere, it is in every thing"; Arthur's tragic predicament, he is not a man but the stuff of legend, trapped, longing for marriage in a time when "we owe no more to the future", one of many moments that can move me to tears. This is, despite slight casting flaws, the most poetic film I have seen and it makes real a time that never was in way that actually seems to live and breathe, not just while watching: THAT is myth. It changed me, as well as giving me more quotations to slip into conversation than even 'Bladerunner', no mean feat. As with Tim Spall's brave take on Turner, much rests on whether you appreciate Williamson's Merlin. I did. It is a reminder that he was once considered the finest actor of his generation (see his Maitland in John Osborne's excoriating 'Inadmissable Evidence' to feel his power and skill). It is a great performance, quite unforgettably idiosyncratic.
If it is to your taste, this film is more than mere entertainment, it breathes life into a great myth. One reason Tolkien films seem anaemic is that I saw this. It inoculated me against the pallid lifelessness of what are essentially pale imitations, literally and metaphorically.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excalibur is a credit to the genre., 5 Dec. 2014
By 
IP - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Excalibur [Blu-ray] [1981] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
The perfect gift for all Historical movie enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, majestic and thrilling, 6 Jun. 2010
By 
This review is from: Excalibur [1981] [DVD] (DVD)
A great movie made based on the Arthurian legend. Beginning with the retrieval of the sword from the Lady of the Lake by Merlin to give to King Uther Pendragon, thus beginning the saga, and ending with Sir Percival (Paul Geoffrey) returning the sword to the Lady of the Lake, after King Arthur (Nigel Terry) is mortally wounded. This includes all the important elements of the Arthurian from the classic 'Le Morte d' Arthur'.
Uther Pendragon's captivation by the beauty of Queen Igraine, and how this causes the war between Pendragon and the Duke of Cornwall to be renewed. Pendragon's disguise by Merlin as Cornwall so he can partake of Igraine, and Merlin claiming the infant Arthur promised to him by Uther. I was struck by the anguish of the child Morgana ( Barbara Byrne) who knows her father is dead and that the disguised Uther is not her father, as he ravishes Igraine , followed the child's cruel treatment by Uther.
The classic scene where the young Arthur removes the coveted sword from the stone, followed by the wars of his succession.
The mood is dark throughout most of the movie, and the evil of Morgana (Helen Mirren), the enigma of Merlin (Nicol Williamson), the anguished lust between Queen Guenevere ( Cherie Lunghi) and Lancelot (Nicholas Clay), Arthur's great champion and the jealousy of Sir Gawain (Liam Neeson) whose suspicions that lead to his destructive actions are planted by Morgana. The joust between Lancelot and Gawain and the final surrender of Lancelot and Guinevere to their lust, leading to Arthur, finding them together asleep and naked in the forest and thrusting Excalibutr between them. Lancelot flees, sorrowfully exclaiming the doom of the kingdom and Arthur is struck by lightening in prayer.
Largely focuses on the relationship between Merlin and Morgana and the sorcery that Morgana uses to entrap Merlin. The ravages of time and the decay and suffering of the once great and thriving kingdom of King Arthur, and the hunt for the Golden Grail.
Gruesome scenes of how the sinister young Mordred (Charley Boorman) lures Arthur's knights to their deaths. And the final battle between the forces of the evil Morgana and Mordred and King Arthur, where Mordred mortally wounds Arthur and is himself killed by Arthur with Exaclibur.
No effort was spared to make this a visual and sound extravaganza, with all the majesty, entrapment and darkness to make this the perfect Arthurian epic movie. Scenes of nudity/sex and extreme violence make this an adults only movie.
This on a par with the 21st century Lord of the rings trilogy for its sheer captivation, majesty and unforgetability.
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