Monday, June 26, 2017

They Eat Ham, and Jam, and Spam a-Lot, or Thoughts on John Boorman’s Excalibur

John Boorman’s visionary Excalibur (1981) sticks close to Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur and is revisionist only in the modern presentation of the sex and violence inherent in the story and the fantastic, full plate armor design which looks even cooler from a modern perspective because it’s all hand made and actual steel; the armor moves correctly, it feels heavy on screen.  Other than that it’s your boilerplate Arthurian legend; there’s a wizard, a king, and a sword in a stone.
However the world the film creates is immersive, with a reality and a leisurely narrative that seems reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings (2001), but for the fact that it preceded the movie by 20 years.  I’m surprised Peter Jackson hasn’t cited Excalibur as one of his references, because his vision of the trilogy was obviously influenced by it.  Most remembered for Nicol Williamson’s witty performance as Merlin and Helen Mirren, 35 at the time of filming, as Morgana le Fay, the movie is a far more mature and nuanced film (but still chock full of the requisite boobs and blood) than the more recent King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017).  
Also with Gabriel Byrne as King Uther Pendragon, Liam Neeson in one of his earliest films as Sir Gawain, Ciarán Hinds as King Lot, and Patrick Stewart with hair (well, some hair) as King Leondegrace.  English director John Boorman is arguably most remembered for Deliverance (1973) but also directed Point Blank (1967), Zardoz (1974), Hope and Glory (1987) and The Tailor of Panama (2001).

Nicol Williamson’s last film appearance was in Spawn (1997) as Cogliostro, which I will probably review at some point, because you people love your comic book movies. 

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