Ivanhoe is easily the most glorious of MGM's British swashbucklers made with blocked funds designed to beat a short-lived embargo on US films being shown in the UK. It's also one of many roles intended for Stewart Granger that instead ended up revitalizing Robert Taylor's career by default. He's not exactly the perfect choice for the part, but he does well enough even if he is outshone by George Sanders' de Bois Guilbert, hopelessly in unrequited love with nice Jewish girl Elizabeth Taylor who is herself hopelessly in unrequited love with Ivanhoe. Indeed, Sanders manages to make him both ruthless and still worthy of pity. That he does is as much down to the quality of Aeneas MacKenzie's adaptation and Noel Langley and Marguerite Roberts' fine script, which strips away Scott's often inaccessible wordiness to find the human story at its heart, adding an intelligent portrait of anti-Semitism along the way.
Richard Thorpe's vivid direction and Freddie Young's gorgeous Technicolor photography ensure the film always looks a treat, while Miklos Rozsa's score is one of his very best, equally at home with both the swashbuckling spectacle and the tragic love story. Although Emlyn Williams `Squire' Wamba is a pain, most of the supporting cast - Joan Fontaine, Felix Aylmer, Finlay Currie, Robert Douglas, Guy Rolfe - acquit themselves well. Grand entertainment.
WHV's NTSC DVD transfer is for the most part excellent, though the ambush of Cedric's party seems a little faded and lacking in depth. Sadly the only film-related extra is a teaser trailer (there was a much better 4-minute trailer for the film), but at least they've made an effort to pad it out with Tom and Jerry's Oscar winning cartoon The Two Mouseleteers and trailers for Scaramouche, Knights of the Round Table and The Aviator.
Out of MGM, Ivanhoe was spared no expense and became the costliest epic produced in England at the time. Though the studio millions that were tied into English banks is more telling than any sort of love for the project one feels.
It's directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Pandro S. Berman. The cast features Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Emlyn Williams, Finlay Currie and Felix Aylmer. The screenplay is by Æneas MacKenzie, Marguerite Roberts, and Noel Langley who adapts from the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. The score is by Miklós Rózsa and Freddie Young is on Technicolor cinematography duties with the exterior location work at Doune Castle, Stirling, Scotland.
Though the pacing is far from perfect and there's some saggy bits in the script, Ivanhoe remains arguably one of the finest and most under appreciated of MGM's historical epics. Naturally there's some differences from Scott's novel (a given in most genre pieces of this type), but Thorpe and his team come through with the material given and deliver a rousing treat.
It looks tremendous courtesy of Young's lensing, where he brilliantly brings to life Roger Furse's costumes and Alfred Junge's majestic sets. Taylor (R), Fontaine and Taylor (E) look delightful, (especially Liz who can easily take you out of the movie such is her beauty here) and their romantic triangle makes for an ever watchable romantic spectacle.
The action is on the money, with the attack on Front de Boeuf castle adroitly constructed (and not skimped on time wise), a jousting competition that vividly comes to life, and a Mano-Mano fight between Taylor's Ivanhoe and Sanders' De Bois-Guilbert that is grisly and adrenalin pumping in equal measure (check out the sound work here too).
It's also worth acknowledging the anti-semitic part of the story, with the MGM suits thankfully deciding to not ignore this part of Scott's literary source.
The three handsome lead stars are backed up superbly by a robust Williams, while the trio of villains played by Sanders, Robert Douglas and the excellent Guy Wolfe as weasel Prince John, deliver the requisite quota of boo hiss villainy.
It made big money for MGM, setting records for the studio at the time. It's not hard to see why. It's a beautiful production across the board, and while it's not without faults per se, it holds up regardless as it firmly engages and stirs the blood of the historical epic loving fan. What a year 1952 was for MGM! 8/10
In common with most young boys of my generation, I grew up reading the novels of Walter Scott, RL Stevenson and Alexandre Dumas, but Scott's Ivanhoe and The Talisman were by far and away my favourite books which I re-visited time again throughout junior and senior school years.
The 1952 MGM film of Ivanhoe was filmed in Britain during the Hollywood 'exile' of the communist witch hunts. The film itself suffers from the usual Hollywood abridgements from the original novel and deviates from the storyline to make the film enjoyable to a wider audience. it suceeeded, being the highest grossing film ever made in Britain at that time.
Robert Taylor replaced Stewart Grainger as the first choice for the lead character as the producers felt that Taylor would have a greater appeal to the US audience, and the strong mostly British supporting cast is topped off by the incomparable George Sanders, and two of the three most beautiful ladies in Hollywood, Joan Fontaine and Elizabeth Taylor (the third being Olivia De Haviland of course). Taylor plays his part well but all of the best lines go to Felix Aylmer and George Sanders.
An enjoyable, colourful and charming Hollywood swashbuckling romp, which I never tire of watching.
I have two versions of this DVD, the US Region 1 which is marginly better than the Region Free Far East Import.
on 9 July 2008
This surprisingly effective 50's historical adventure, based on one of the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott, stars Robert Taylor as Sir Ivanhoe, a Saxon knight under Norman rule, circa 1200. The film is a little lax in historical accuracy in that Saxon rule had suffered its "Stalingrad" at the Battle of Hastings in 1066; the last gasp of Saxonism as an independent force was probably the doomed rebellion of Hereward the Wake in the Fenlands, which ended before the time in which this film is set. Also, the film carries on the tradition of the Saxons as mostly fair and the Normans as "dark invaders", whereas, as the descendants of Northern France-settled Vikings, the Normans were in fact mostly blond. And nationalism as such was only germinal in the 12th (and 13th) centuries: the lords of this or that had lands on both sides of the Channel (the last remnant of which would have been the town of Calais, English until the Tudor period of the 16th century).
Having said all that, this film is one worth watching and from time to time rewatching. It does address issues still alive in the present UK: nationality, race, culture, personal identity etc, as Sir Ivanhoe, as Saxon yet a follower of the Norman Richard the Lionheart (reigned from 1189), is in love with Saxon Rowena, but loved also by a Jewish maiden played by Elizabeth Taylor. The makers of the film also contrived to include scenes involving Robin of Loxley (Robin Hood), but the intrusion is not intrusive. The darker characters are led by a wonderfully villainous and teeth-gnashing Prince John, who has effectively usurped Richard's throne as Regent while Richard is a prisoner of the Austrian king, having been detained while on Crusade.
The film does not have a huge cast, but the scenes of pageantry and jousting etc are splendidly done in lovely colours. The final duel between Ivanhoe and the Norman knight de Bois-Guilbert is great and may have (?) inspired the similar but bloodier scene in the (twelve years) later film El Cid.
Pretty much a classic.
on 25 August 2011
Ivanhoe has been remade a few times since the release of this Robert Taylor and Elisabeth Taylor, and this is by far the best, a real gem, a classic, theres some really superb acting,and Elisabeth Taylor really shines.Both sound and picture have been put onto DVD in pretty good quality, There are no hacks in either sound or picture as in some of the older films.The quality allows me to view the film again and again, knowing that its not going to play like some one quickly put this on dvd to make a few dollars..
If you like any thing in the King Arthur realm of Knights Chivalry and Valliance, then this is a masterpiece thatyou must have
on 8 March 2013
MGM's British Studios were put to excellent use with Sir Walter Scott's tale of bold knights and maidens fair. From Leo's roar, enhanced by the superb music of Miklos Rozsa to the inspiring fade out, this is one magnificent medieval romp with all the great production values of a Hollywood major.
If you are expecting great classical prose, forget it, the dialogue is fine, but written with a general audience in mind. All the cast deliver their lines with straight faces, and you really will beleive that Robert Taylor is Wilfred of Ivanhoe, and Elizabeth of the same surname is Rebecca of York, and Finlay Currie is a Saxon warrior. Joan Fontaine is effective as the other love interest, Guy Rolfe gives King John a bad name, but best by far is George Saunders as the villain, finally, doing the right thing, and dying for love. A young Stanley Baker, playing King Richard, pops up at the end and gives a rousing speech that would win votes in an election.
This import from the Netherlands is a decent transfer, with a nicely designed sleeve evoking the original poster.
"Ivanhoe" is from an age of innocent enjoyment. If approached with that in mind, it still has the ability to reward the viewer with a rattling good tale.
This is one of those movies that wrap you up in the story and the adventure. There are many find actors that do not overwhelm the character they play. However you do notice right off James Mason as Isaac of York because of the strange attire. An odd surprise is the inclusion of the Herald, John Hallam who also plays Cedric Crackenthorpe in "Miss Marple: 4:50 from Paddington".
As with the movie Avalon where King Arthur is just a part of the story, it is interesting to find Robin Hood, of which many movies were made, to be just a part of this story. Usually these films leave everything in black and white (good or bad) however this version did have shades of gray in the story and people. Even Sam Neill as a de Bois-Guilbert was a good-bad guy. He had to choose between faith, courage, love, and honor and usually picks the wrong side but realizes this too late.
The story line follows fairly true, of which I will not repeat, as that is why you are buying the film. It is the getting there that makes this film interesting.
The Mists of Avalon
on 4 July 2015
I quite liked this. Robert Taylor did a far better job as Ivanhoe than in his role as Quentin Durward. Elizabeth Taylor and Felix Aylmer were possibly miscast as Jews. Finlay Currie performed splendidly as the irate Saxon father. George Sanders was at his wicked best, and Joan Fontaine added a touch of elegance to the proceedings. The tournament where Ivanhoe pits his wits against the best of the Normans is clearly the highlight of the movie, and the introduction of Robin Hood into the story is well conceived. I fail to understand why the film studios decided to remake this movie with Anthony Andrews as the eponymous hero. It's utter rubbish !
on 20 April 2013
A stylish Hollywood adaption of Sir Walter Scott's novel set in the Middle Ages. Released in 1952, it was one of that year's biggest money-makers. I'd not seen the film for several years, so was greatly pleased to return to it on DVD and find the film as enjoyable as I'd remembered it. It has many radical departures from Scott's novel, but I'll not get into that.
For some reason I've yet to discover, there seems to be no English edition of Ivanhoe currently available. This copy is therefore a European import from the Netherlands. But, actually, if I hadn't have known that, I'd have been none the wiser - it played straightaway on my region 2 player, with its correct English voices and no over-dubbed sounds or added on-screen captions anywhere in sight. So, quite what was meant to be different is a bit beyond me. The only thing I can think is that I do know MGM had permanently lost a lot of their masters in a warehouse fire or some such event, so perhaps this was one where they weren't sufficiently happy with the digital transfer; but, like I say, it seemed okay to me.
So, to the story... Ivanhoe's been away fighting the crusades, comes back home; Prince John is abusing his brother's throne; Ivanhoe wants to raise the ransom to get King Richard back from his Austrian prison. The storyline has of course been part of many different versions of the popular Robin Hood legend, and is especially close to the recent big-budget version starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. Robert Taylor is the lead actor in the role of Ivanhoe, with Joan Fontaine playing his young sweetheart the lady Rowena (that's a kind of Maid Marion role, but without her going outdoors too much). Robert Taylor was one of MGM's big-name stars, on a long-term studio contract, and its a shame that more of his films aren't preserved (that pre-video era fire, again, sadly).
Aiding Ivanhoe in his bid to raise money and thwart evil are a grand cast of estimable old character actors. Principle amongst these is Felix Aylmer, who magnificently plays the role of Isaac of York, a wealthy Jew and patriarch of his tribe. Isaac's shy and beautiful daughter Rebecca is played by Elizabeth Taylor in one of her early adult roles (although she had of course been acting throughout the previous ten years). Also present, as Ivanhoe's grumpy Saxon father Sir Cedic, is Finlay Currie, who gives a fine distinguished performance which many of today's actors could learn from studying. Alongside Ivanhoe in his endeavours is his father's fool, Wamba, played by Emlyn Williams with great style, charm and conviction. His main antagonists are Norman barons De Bois-Guilbert, played menacingly by George Sanders, and the less guileful Sir Hugh De Bracy, played with callous indifference by Robert Douglas.
All told it's 106 minutes of well-structured plot, some strong narrative, good chivalry and jousting action, drama, intrigue, suspense, and plenty of entertainment. There was no CGI or special effects in those days, so it all had to be done in front of the camera. MGM stalwart Richard Thorpe was director for this film and it contains original music by Miklos Rozsa. Essential viewing for anybody interested in the history and art of cinematography.
on 21 June 2011
No need to review the movie itself. I collect historic fiction movies and I love this version of Ivanhoe. I think details such as real chainmail instead of knitted improves the impression of a movie.
However, I was not able to play the disk on my almost new Samsung DVD player. Fortunately it did play in my Sony Blu-ray player. But it is connected to my projector, and the resolution of the movie on the disk does not really allow it to be blown up to 2m on the wall. Therefore I reduce two stars, not for the movie but for the disk quality.
Anyway, I am happy to have found this version of Ivanhoe on DVD at all.