Knights of the Round Table (1953)

KnightsOfTheRoundTablePosterI think it was all those speeches that Robert Taylor as Sir Lancelot delivered in his stentorian monotone that did it. When it finally came time for Arthur to banish Lance from the realm, he may have said it was because Lance couldn’t quite seem to avoid hanging on to Guinevere’s green ribbon with an almost fetish-like fervor, but honestly, he was just tired of hearing all of Lance’s chivalry babble.

A “yonder” here and a “beseech” there isn’t that big a deal, but Lance could be counted on to stop any gathering dead in its tracks with some speech whose most impressive part was that Robert Taylor actually managed to memorize it at all. Shipping Lance’s traitorous ass off was just a way of getting some much needed peace and quiet.

A few pretty speeches though could be forgiven if they were followed by a lot of action or drama or characters that grabbed your interest. Knights of the Round Table, despite its name, is really only about Lance though.

That round table that they had looked to me like it was pretty good sized and could have fit 10 or 12 knights around it without anyone bumping gauntlets, but in this movie the only guys we ever spent any time with was Lance, Arthur, and to a lesser extant Percival, but only so that Lance could be given a happy ending. (Uh, you just totally botched Camelot and the fellowship of the Round Table, Lance – there is no happy ending for you no matter what else you do!)

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Occasionally we might run into or hear mention of another knight (usually some guy whose name began with “G”), but that was about it. Far from giving us a full accounting of all the Round Table occupants, the movie was content to focus on the love triangle between Lance, Gwen, and Artie as well as Modred and Morgan Le Fay’s efforts to bring them all down.

The love triangle is fine to focus on since that’s the sort of thing we can identify with more than the finer points of whether the rightful successor to the throne should be the daughter of the dead ruler or his bastard son.

Right from the get go though, I had some questions about this love affair. First of all, when we meet Lance, he’s be-bopping through the woods looking for Artie. He’s gotten it into his head that he is going to serve Artie no matter what.

No explanation is given for this loyalty to a guy he’s never met and once they finally meet up, Artie just accepts this stranger’s pledge to kick as much ass for him as he could. Of course, the other side of this arrangement that I also didn’t get was just what was so great about Arthur.

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In this movie, Arthur barely registers as a presence and is mostly shown as a weak ninny. (Don’t worry though, Mel Ferrer would go on to work in better films such as Eaten Alive, Nightmare City, and The Great Alligator.)

There is nothing in this movie that shows Arthur should be a leader of men or someone that another would cross the street to help, let alone leave his own country to swear allegiance to. In fact, Arthur’s highlights in this movie are almost all moments that showcase his weakness!

We’ve got him refusing Merlin’s advice when he should’ve taken it (having Lance come home) and taking it when he shouldn’t have (not kicking Modred out). We’ve got him being so weak that he lets Modred manipulate him into first getting rid of Lance and his wife, and then into a war.

And here’s the thing about Modred – anyone with two good eyes could just look at the sneer permanently affixed to his face and his constant whispering with Morgan Le Fay (who everyone knew wanted to be on the throne) and see that he was a bad guy!

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Technically, it’s a good looking movie – one of those big CinemaScope productions with picturesque Irish locations and bright and shiny colors everywhere. In fact, you might wonder just who it is that’s doing all of Lance’s and the rest of Camelot’s laundry because these guys never wear anything faded or dirty!

Ava Gardner as Guinevere looks appropriately regal, but is given little else to do and Taylor carries himself with the sort of class you expect out of Lance in spite of all the silly monologues he’s given.

It’s not a laughably bad film, it’s just that outside of a few fight scenes, there’s not much here beyond its looks.

There is a moment that probably is more amusing to us now than when it first came out in 1953. I dare anyone to watch Lance tipping over part of Stonehenge in an effort to block a bunch of enemies and not think of Clark Griswald knocking over the whole blasted thing with his car in National Lampoon’s European Vacation!

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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