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Prince Valiant (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000129080
Added by: Curtis Owen
Added on: 3/5/2010 18:18
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    Review for Prince Valiant

    The Viking traitor Sligon (Primo Carnera) has overthrown the Christian King of Scandia. Only in England can Aguar (Donald Crisp) find sanctuary with his friend King Arthur (Brian Aherne). To reclaim his throne Aguar sends his only son Prince Valiant (Robert Wagner) to Camelot. He is to become a Knight of the Round Table to assist his father and regain their kingdom. On his way, Valiant spies a rouge Viking with a Black Knight. The Viking will bring a thousand of Sligon's men to England and overthrow King Arthur if this mysterious obsidian conspirator can find where Aguar is hiding. Valiant overhears this and falls from a crag but manages to escape by thieving a horse...

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    Arriving in Camelot, Sir Brack (James Mason) asks Valiant to travel with him to unearth this phantom Knight. It is after Brack disappears that Vikings attack Valiant. He escapes with an arrow in his back. Two women come to the rescue. They are Princess Aleta (Janet Leigh) and Princess Ilene (Debra Paget), daughters of the King of Ord. When Brack arrives at Ord castle, he informs Valiant that his horse went lame and did not see the incident. After talking, Valiant and Aleta, fall in love. Brack is jealous. He suggests they go back to Camelot.

    It is the jousting tournament and the victor will win the hand of Princess Aleta. Valiant finds that the Black Knight wounded Sir Gawain (Sterling Hayden). He is unable to compete. This prompts Valiant to disguise himself as Sir Gawain and joust against Sir Brack. Valiant loses. They arrest him but King Arthur spares his punishment. Meanwhile, Sligon captures Aguar and his wife. Valiant rides to save them. Aleta follows. Vikings attack them and The Black Knight reveals himself. Back in Scandia, Sligon arrests Valiant. Managing to escape, he joins with the Christian Vikings to overthrow Sligon and aid the return of their true King. After a bloody conflict, Valiant returns to Camelot to confront The Black Knight in a battle to the death…

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    "At Last! A Magnificent New World of ADVENTURE! The Tournaments of Camelot! The Siege of Sligon's Castle! The Duel between Valiant and The Black Knight!" This gem of a description from the trailer of Prince Valiant captures the spectacle, splendour and silliness of this 1954 CinemaScope movie. With its epic 'Lucien Ballard' visuals, dramatic 'Henry Hathaway' action, flamboyant 'Dudley Nichols' dialogue and colourful 'Franz Waxman' music you'd expect Valiant to be a cross between The Wild Bunch, True Grit, Rear Window and Stagecoach. However, this is a prime example of the fake multi-coloured fantasy epic Hollywood-Land created during the medieval boom of the late-1950s (think of The Black Shield of Falworth).

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    Even though Prince Valiant does not triumph in the arena of other (more provoking) medieval movies, it is pure playful escapism. Perfect Sunday afternoon tosh you can plug your brain into after filling up on too many roasters. The vibrant and overstated cinematic world of Valiant came to life via the long-running comic-book newspaper panels from Hal Foster. The opening sequence references these gaudy roots. The director, Henry Hathaway brings the origins of the story to life with full-glory reproductions that capture the excitement and pageantry of the comic and the childlike excitement of seeing castles, conflict and men in vibrant crotch firm tights.

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    With Prince Valiant being a family film, it follows a 'tried and tested' formula: the hero must confront and overcome various obstacles, find a love interest and defeat the villain in order to restore harmony and achieve a heightened state of equilibrium. Substitute swords for lightsabers and you have Star Wars and a thousand-million other traditional Hollywood movies. This is why you would be an idiot to criticise Valiant for its simplicity. Morality should be clear-cut. It is a kid's film. Nevertheless, what do those idiot sprogs dislike more than uncertainty and moral ambiguity? Chatting to adults who think they have nothing but fluff between their ears.

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    The capable cast converse with cold detachment (as if they are bored and just want to read from the script). The English accents are dire. Language and lingo are rigid. This is why there is no magic or drama between characters; there is no internal conflict or external tensions to engage us. If we do not care about the characters, why should we care about what happens to them? With such a legendary cast like James Mason, Janet Leigh and Sterling Hayden, you would look forward to more than stale and stuffy. We EXPECT characterisation, we NEED verisimilitude, empathy and passion. We WANT to feel like we are part of the film, experience dirt under our fingernails, sense wind in our face, smell horseshit on our shoes and live the fervent brutality of a sword fight. Saying this, Valiant does have a kick-ass final battle sequence when Vikings raid a castle.

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    The extravagant voice-over from the trailer will be your major hook - "Never before has adventure like this swept you into the exciting spell, because only the magic cameras of CinemaScope and the marvels of Stereophonic Sound could re-create the dazzling magnificence of the court of King Arthur. The crash of lance against shields, the thunder of battle axe against helmet, the Knights, the deeds, the golden age of chivalry and the epic story of a Viking Prince who challenged a kingdom for the kiss of a beautiful princess"…

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