20 November 2003 | cariart
Exuberant Camelot/Viking Adventure a Great Family Film...
There is such a sense of childlike wonder and fun in Henry Hathaway's 1954 Camelot tale, PRINCE VALIANT, that it's easy to forgive the obvious incongruities in accents (Robert Wagner's broad American tones...hard to believe he plays Donald Crisp's son...Sterling Hayden, looking and sounding more like Wild Bill Hickok than Sir Gawain...Victor McLaglen as the most Irish Viking you'll ever see!), and concentrate, instead, on the energy, pageantry, and sweep of the adaptation of Hal Foster's classic comic strip.
Certainly, one would be hard-pressed to assemble a finer cast; in addition to Wagner, Hayden, McLaglen, and Crisp, you have James Mason as the villain, Sir Brack, dazzling, and far more believable than he had been as Rupert of Hentzau in MGM's remake of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA; Janet Leigh and Debra Paget, both ethereally beautiful as the sisters, Aleta and Ilene; and Brian Aherne, as King Arthur, so perfect in the role that you wish his part had been larger.
In the early 1950s, there was a resurgence of swashbuckling films in Hollywood, and a new sub-category appeared, 'Knights in Training', with Fox's PRINCE VALIANT, and Universal's THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH (starring Tony Curtis) both devoting ample screen time to the education of squires in the knightly skills of jousting and sword fighting. These scenes are great fun to watch, particularly for children (knights had to go to school, too!), and paint a far more accurate picture of the difficult work involved in mastering the required talents than did the recent film, A KNIGHT's TALE.
As we follow the adventures of the Viking Prince as he restores his kingdom, finds love, and wins a place at the Round Table, special credit must be given to Franz Waxman's spectacular music. One of the most memorable scores ever produced for a film, the theme has become a staple at the Hollywood Bowl, and for the Boston Pops. Once heard, it is not forgotten!
While the magical elements of the story are downplayed (the mystical powers of the 'Singing Sword' are more implied than actually shown), the story itself has such a sense of wonder that it isn't missed. The heroes of Camelot are all present (Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, Gawain, and Galahad), and the Round Table scenes are as majestic as any film has ever accomplished.
PRINCE VALIANT may not be in a league with EXCALIBUR, but it certainly holds it's own against KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, CAMELOT, and FIRST KNIGHT, and as a family film it can't be beat!