Blu-ray reissue: Excalibur ***1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on July 2, 2011)

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Excalibur – Warner Bros. Blu-ray

Eclectic director John Boorman tried his hand at adventure-fantasy in this umpteenth version of the King Arthur legend, with varying results (mostly good). Although purists might see it as bit of a Cliff Notes take (and granted, there are some jarring jumps in the narrative), I think this is one case where style trumps substance.

Photographed in a gauzy, dreamlike haze (by Alex Thomson, who also shot Legend and Labyrinth), the film is buoyed by a marvelous cast, including Nigel Terry, Nicol Williamson, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart, and the great Helen Mirren (as a deliciously evil Morgana). One thing’s for sure-there’s much more sex and violence than previous versions of the Arthurian legend, and more emphasis on the darker aspects of the tale (like the incest, for example). Definitely not recommended for a double bill with The Sword in the Stone on family movie night, if you know what I’m saying.

Warner skimps on extras, but the Blu-ray transfer is excellent.

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