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King Arthur the Young Warlord

April 15th, 2008 (11:25 am)

Last night's dramatic entertainment was King Arthur the Young Warlord, a TVM assembled in the 1970s from episodes of HTV's Arthur of the Britons (1972-1973). I'd only seen one episode of the latter, when it was repeated on ITV during the 1980s, and not been greatly impressed, as the episode consisted of a series of weapons trials which seemed to show that the cast had enjoyed themselves on a sunny afternoon in the West Country and not a lot else. I bought this compilation from the US several months ago, before I realised that the whole series was being released on DVD by Network this month.

The compilation, despite the lack of a plot (there was a linking narration which fought valiantly to simulate one) was largely watchable, although it could have stood more editing, even though one episode, about a confrontation with Picts, was cut down to about a minute of clips. The series raided the British legendarium freely - Arthur's foster brother is Kai, for example, but their foster-father is not Ector but Llud the Silver-Handed. Arthur's rivals include Ambrose, a Mithras-worshipping tribal chief who wanders around in a simulacrum of Roman dress and is mocked for it; a priest of Nodens; and Mark of Cornwall, played by Brian Blessed and of interest to Blessedologists as an early example of the characterisation brought to Vultan in Flash Gordon, Richard IV in The Black Adder and Yrcanos in Doctor Who's Mindwarp. Early on Blessed is provided with a slightly-built peasant to pat heartily; peasant duly falls over. He still can't remove the stone from the sword, though (yes, stone from the sword, not the other way round) - that takes Arthur's team leadership skills.

The only speaking female character was Rowena, performed by an actress only credited in the titles as 'Gila' but actually Gila von Weitershausen, whom I'd not seen before, but she appears to have been prominent in Germany and was here making a rare foray into English-language work. Rowena works hard, as she represents the Rowena of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Guinevere, and Isolde all at once. She and Arthur have a backstory which contributes to the last-minute failure of her betrothal to Mark, of which we hear little but it involved her fighting alongside Arthur and then taking off her dress so it could be ripped up into bandages to bind his wounds. However, this is a children's series and especially a boys' one, so all Arthur can do is puzzle over why he's so possessive about Rowena, and trot off in denial back to his encampment. It's probably a sign of how online fandom has corrupted me that when Arthur's narration refers to his attempt to "have his way" with Mark, in a later sequence where Mark is tricked into helping with a rescue mission, my eyebrows are raised, though I am sure that there is much in this edited compilation from which others with more, shall we say, creative minds than mine would derive great amusement.

There's no writing credit on the film, which speaks volumes, and no closing scroll of actors other than the so-called leads. Peter Firth as Corin, 'son of Mordor' - someone had been reading their Tolkien - appears in one sequence, while sometime Maigret, Rupert Davies, as Cerdig appears in two and is more relevant to the ongoing series theme, but Firth's star was rising when the compilation was made in 1975, probably explaining why he appears in both the opening and closing titles. The film is valuable mostly as a concise edition of the television series, one of the first of the many in which HTV took their cameras out around their ITV franchise area of Wales and the West, and dramatised the 'identity' of their region by appealing to and embellishing British mythology, all but making legend their property within the bounds of ITV during the 1970s and 1980s. I will see if I can get my hands on the unedited DVDs in some form.


Posted by: the cross compiler (crouchinglynx)
Posted at: April 15th, 2008 01:55 pm (UTC)
``peasant duly falls over''

This makes me very happy. In fact, I think I'll add "make Brian Blessed userpic" to my todo list.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 15th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
Re: ``peasant duly falls over''
Arthurian Logo

There is also much Blessedian slapstick, particularly in the wedding episode when Mark is attempting to present himself as a civilized and placid bridegroom.

Posted by: brewsternorth (brewsternorth)
Posted at: April 15th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
Re: ``peasant duly falls over''

There must and shall be screen captures of this. Plz?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 15th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
Re: ``peasant duly falls over''
Kirkcudbright Samoyed

I will try, but problems might include this being an NTSC DVD and my not having been able to save screen captures for a long time, from any of the programs which I run; I'm sure this means I'm missing something obvious.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: April 15th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who

the characterisation brought to Vultan in Flash Gordon, Richard IV in The Black Adder and Yrcanos in Doctor Who's Mindwarp

Not to mention the CGI frog in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 15th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)

Of course! Though that's a film I seem to have blocked from my memory as far as possible...

...and I suspect his roles in Space: 1999 and maybe even Branagh's Henry V also owe something to the Blessed persona.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: April 15th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
Radcliffe Camera

I'm slightly ashamed to say that I quite like The Phantom Menace but have never seen Branagh's Henry V.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 15th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)

I've not seen Henry V either, and it's a long time since I've seen Blessed in Space 1999.