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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 27 February 2008
I am in so much shock!!
I can vividly recall running home from school in the early 1970's in order to see this show; remember, no video/DVD/Sky+ in those days. If you missed, it, you missed it!
It was a great show for kids; lots of fight scenes and great characters, including Brian Blessed, and of course Oliver himself.
I know that many people have tried to get this show recreated onto DVD, including myself; no one quite knew who owned it. All I can say is this is great news.
Of course, it will be dated. But it's linked to my past and catapulted Oliver and others to bigger things [no, not The Stud]. The stars even did their own stunts, but to people of my generation it was fun and enjoyable to watch.
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on 21 April 2017
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Part of that curious British tradition of half-hour adventure series made largely for children's television, 1972's Arthur of the Britons offers an interesting revisionist spin on the King Arthur myth, with its young Celtic warlord trying to unite the divided tribes against the Saxon invaders, and is better funded than you might expect (it even boasts an Elmer Bernstein theme tune) but stumbles with some dodgy casting. Oliver Tobias' Arthur doesn't project much presence beyond sulking and tends to stumble over the better lines in the script, while the various tribal leaders are an odd bunch - Norman Bird's nostalgic wannabe Roman and Shouty Shouty Brian Blessed's loud and untrustworthy bullheaded rival - leaving much of the heavy lifting to Michael Gothard's moody and competitive Saxon sidekick, Kai. Indeed, so much so that they might have been better off calling the series Kai of the Saxons. Gothard had a limited range that generally typed him into intense and threatening roles, but he's perfectly cast here and for the most part a lot more interesting than the nominal hero in the first series. By comparison, Jack Watson's father-figure and mentor to both tends to get the short straw at times as the writers take several episodes to work out quite what to do with him.

The first six episodes of series one are generally pretty poor, self-contained simple morality tales that are more a throwback to 50s adventure shows like The Buccaneers or Robin Hood than the kind of adventure series Richard Carpenter would revitalise in the 70s and 80s. The initial uninspired choice and use of visually boring locations doesn't help, nor do the seriously underpopulated battles, but the show does improve as it reaches the halfway point thanks to better stories and more complex characterisation and storytelling as not every situation can be easily solved in time for a warm wrapup, and the film-making and use of locations improves dramatically too as the show finds its feet. Decent guest stars like Clive Revill, Esmond Knight, Peter Firth, Bernard Bresslaw and Mike Pratt help, though others, like Rupert Davies as a bloodthirsty Saxon warlord, aren't exactly well cast.

But it's in the second series that the show really finds its tone. It's not so much that more money has been spent, more that more thought has been put into the stories, while the easy moralising of the first half of the first run gives way to lessons that are left unlearnt and chances that are missed. Arthur takes centre stage and Tobias' performance improves with it as, along with the practicalities of holding together and widening a fragile alliance, cultural differences between the Celts and the Saxon invaders are more pronounced, turning them from stereotypical villains into a people who may be making more of the land than the people they are usurping. Rupert Davies comes into his own too, no longer an unlikely warlord and now a more rounded figure capable of being cunning and deceitful but also of being more pragmatic and even forgiving when circumstances allow, while the female roles generally improve with the introduction of Louis Malle's muse Gila von Weitershausen as a far from submissive romantic interest. While the first season started out as something of a chore, by the time the penultimate episode, The Treaty (the best directed of the series and the only one where no director is credited), comes along, the quality of both the writing and the execution had improved so much that it's a pity there never was a third season. It's by no means a great show (and the image quality of the various episodes on the Network UK DVD set varies wildly), but it does end up a pretty good one.
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on 17 November 2009
Nothing will ever top Arthur Of The Britons for those of us who waited with baited breath for each episode back in the 70s. The feel of authenticity that made you want to travel back in time, the great stories, the sword play, and most importantly the very human stars that seemed so superhuman to us ... it all added up to magic greater than any Merlin could have conjured up. And of course it didn't hurt to have two heartthrobs like Oliver Tobias and Michael Gothard on the screen together much of the time, supported by a wonderful cast. While waiting for the DVDs to arrive a few months ago I feared the series wouldn't live up to my memories. It did that and more. How I wish our children would be lucky enough to be exposed to such wonderful historical fiction, without bells and whistles and blood and gore, but with the simple power to enchant and trigger a lifelong interest in history. Although the series was targeted for kids, viewers of all ages enjoyed it tremendously. Oliver Tobias was the perfect Arthur, and in spite of his large body of work since, he will always be Arthur first and foremost.
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on 12 March 2010
This brought back wonderful memories of when I was 15 years old and madly in love with the gorgeous Oliver Tobias. It was a great series with what, to my untrained eye, seemed like a fairly authentic representation of the Dark Ages after the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain. Lots of mud and everyone and everything looks quite grubby and unkempt. Much more believable than the politically correct 'historical' series we see today with the leading ladies in full make up and wearing polyester. I remembered some of the episodes quite well which shows what an impact it made on me. After all I only saw them once - no VCR's or repeats in those days! Others I hadn't remembered at all - and it was a joy to watch them all. Highly recommended.
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on 29 March 2009
Excellent children's television series which should appeal to adults as well, particularly those who remember it from when it was first aired. I was certainly impressed with the series as a child without necessarily understanding fully it's appeal. In short it dispenses totally with the idealized, romantic twaddle surrounding the Arthurian legend and delivers a believable and what would appear to be a realistic account of life in Britain after the Romans left. Tobias is excellent as our eponymous hero. Camelot is a collection of wooden huts and his knights rough and ready peasants who eke out an existence in a land thankfully devoid of grails, round tables and chivalric code. He is wonderfully supported by the always reliable Jack Watson and the superb Michael Gothard. Brian Blessed always gives an extra lift to those episodes where he makes an appearance. OK, the fight scenes are a little clunky and awkward but all the episodes are well written and constructed. The Bernstein score is rousing and helps make this a classic piece of seventies TV.
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on 27 March 2009
If there was a real King Arthur, which I hope and believe there was, his wisdom is to be shown in these most wonderful episodes. Since I have purchased the entire series a few months ago, I have not ceased from watching them. When I am not watching them I find myself playing them in the background where I find a great comfort in hearing the dialogues between Arthur, Kai and Lud.
I would also like to say that these episodes portray King Arthur as a tribal leader verses the images of Arthur with his large castles, round tables, shining armor, etc...
The only problem I had with these D.V.D.s were the occasional drops of audio. There were never absolute drops and you can adjust your volume to hear all that they said. This should not spoil your joy in owning these!
I give this a 5 star rating for a feel of realness and the inspiration to continue my studies in Arthurian legend, lore, history, etc.
Lastly, I would like to say that there are good moral lessons within these episodes that our children can learn and we as adults relearn!
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on 3 January 2011
I really enjoyed this series years ago so it was great to be able to watch the complete series on a 4 disc DVD set. I know I will view it again and again. I was impressed by the exceptionally realistic fight scenes and the grittiness of life in 6th century Briton.
Oliver Tobias as Arthur is totally believable as a young Celtic Chieftain trying to unite the warring Celts against the Saxons (no mean feat) and the late Michael Gothard as Kai made a superb right hand man.
To Arthur he is "as a brother" a friend and also rival, he is also totally loyal and would lay down his life for Arthur and the "cause". As a Saxon by birth, Kai brings another ingredient to the already potent mix.
These 2 actors had an amazing on-screen chemistry and were ably supported by other great actors such as Brian Blessed, Jack Watson and
Tom Baker. This DVD set although not enhanced in any way is a real "gem" to watch, with a catchy theme tune and well written episodes; it is a showcase for a clssic 70's TV series. So buy, watch and enjoy!
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on 21 June 2010
Like alot of people my age I can remember rushing home from school aged around 6 to watch Arthur of the Britons- Oliver Tobias was my first big crush and I loved the excitement of the battle scenes and the underlying morality of each episode. The characters talk to each other not at each other, they use reason to justify their actions and they reflect on the consequenses of the decisions they have made.I am currently watching the series with my 7 year old daughter who also loves it.
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on 4 November 2011
Arthur of the Britons is an attempt to portray Arthur as a real king within the context of the time in which he was supposed to have existed. The fifth century was a hard one for Britain. The Romans left and the Saxons chose that time to invade since the British were divided and leaderless without the Roman government. During this pretty much undocumented time lived Arthur. Probably. Nobody really knows for sure since the only sources that mention him were written more than a century later. He was the British (i.e. Welsh) hero who was supposed to return from the grave (the once and future king) to drive out the hated Saxons (i.e. the English). The transition from Welsh war hero to English mythic king is an interesting one which I don't have room to go into here. Suffice to say that usually films and movies follow the English/French tradition, not the Welsh one.

There are exceptions to this of course. King Arthur and The Last Legion both do this, but this was the earliest attempt and it gets a lot right. Arthur of the Britons doesn't feature knights in armor, giant battles, wizards, or any of the other things associated with King Arthur. This is a low key series and is about as realistic as an early '70s BBC programme was capable of being. There are no epic heroes and while Arthur is smarter than his competitors it isn't by another order of magnitude. He has to fight tooth and nail to keep them united and resisting the Saxons.

The real problem with the series is the budget. It was a very low budget series and it really needed a much larger budget to succeed completely. A dozen men makes a battle, and the fighting is utterly unimpressive. The costumes are similarly cheap and phony, although the sets are fairly nice. A sense of scale is utterly lacking. It really is just a few villages resisting a few dozen Saxons. The Romans must have been kicking themselves had they known that it was possible to invade Britain with a dozen men and succeed. The scale shouldn't be as large as Hollywood would have us believe, but armies would have numbered in the hundreds and the kings would have had access to towns numbering in the thousands. It just looks bad.

This is unfortunate because the series is otherwise excellent in almost every way. Oliver Tobias is great as Arthur, a man who is slightly distant from the others but only because he sees the situation for how it really is. Brian Blessed is wonderful as the over-the-top Mark of Cornwall, just like he was wonderful as the same over-the-top character in every film he's ever been in from Blackadder to Flash Gordon. The rest of the cast is fine as well. The plots start off as somewhat generic unite-or-die rhetoric but quickly get better.
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