John Boorman's 1981 retelling of the Arthurian legend is a classic. With its sweeping panoramas of the English countryside, its epic battles of clashing men in full plate armor, and its mature storytelling, it is without a doubt the most faithful adaptaton of the legend ever told on film.Excalibur is a gorgeous spectacle that attempts to capture the essence of the Arthurian mythos in its entirety. Most of the time, it succeeds. It begins with Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, and ends with the final climactic battle between the King and his illegitimate son, Mordred. Merlin (Nicol Williamson) is the glue that binds the story together, as he is there to both witness and shape the beginning and the end.
In addition to its lavish sets and costumes, Excalibur boasts some of the best medieval fighting to ever grace the screen, as knights in full armor brutally clash and clang, lopping off limbs and sending blood spurting everywhere. If it weren't so deadly serious, it could almost be funny in a "Monty Python's Holy Grail" kind of way.
Although at times it focuses a bit too much on some of the drier aspects of the legends (The quest for the Holy Grail goes on WAY too long, with an unsatisfying end), the love triangle between Arthur (Nigel Terry), Guinivere (Cheri Lunghi) and Lancelot (Nicholas Clay) is handled with just the right ammount of pathos. Likewise, Helen Mirren delivers the goods as the lascivious, treacherous Morgana Le Fay, who seduces both Merlin and Arthur - the former for power, and the latter for a son to take the throne.
Drive-In Triple Feature Picks for Excalibur:
Braveheart - even though I'm sick of all the lame parodies and people screaming "They'll never take our freedom", this was still a great fucking movie with some killer action.
Henry V - Branagh revamps the Shakespearean play about the battle of Agincourt with gusto! His "Band of Brothers" speech is gauranteed to make the manliest of men fight back a tear.
Acceptable Substitution: Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring.Major props to Boorman for picking through the murky haystack of Arthurian legend and finding a golden needle. Likewise, Mad props to Nicol Williamson for the most memorable Merlin that ever was or shall be.