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Cecil B. DeMille
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Cecil B. DeMille
The Third Crusade as it didn't happen. King Richard Coeur de Lion goes on the crusade to avoid marrying Princess Alice of France; en route, he marries Berengaria to get food for his men. Berengaria.is captured by Saladin, spurring Richard to attack and capture Acre. But Saladin, attracted to her, takes her on to Jerusalem, and Richard is in danger of assassination. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Not just historically inaccurate but amazingly dull considering the subject matter
While "The Crusades" features a very impressive cast, the film itself is tedious as well as often historically inaccurate. It's not terrible...but you could do a lot better.
In movies from the 1930s-50s, Richard the Lionhearted (Richard I of England) is a very noble warrior (such as in "Robin Hood" and "Ivan hoe") but in real life he was a blood-thirsty maniac--a man who had no interest in ruling England (having spent very little time there during his lifetime). He was NOT very noble or chivalrous and was probably one of England's worst kings. Instead, he delighted in going to war and was renowned for his bravery and brutality--sacking cities and killing everyone inside! He spoke French--or at least the French language of his empire in what is modern Western France. Although he adored war and manly deeds, he showed little interest in women--and pretty much ignored his wife. This has led to speculation that he was gay. Not surprisingly, he didn't leave an heir.
Now the Cecil B. DeMille version of Richard (Henry Wilcoxon) in "The Crusades" is not as flowery and ridiculous as that in many other films of the era. He was a warrior first in this film--which is who Richard truly was. But, in the film he is a nice and good king--a man to be admired (ha!). And, although initially showing no interest in women or his poor wife, the film later shows a touching romance between him and his queen, Berengaria (Loretta Young). Weirdly, however, his strange relationship with his enemy, Saladin (Ian Keith) isn't that far from reality. Despite being enemies, there was a strange respect and admiration between them--and when ill, Saladin really did apparently send doctors to treat Richard! Let's put aside the historical problems with the film (there are many more). After all, as a retired history teacher, it's easy for me to go on and on about this...and thus bore you to tears! How is the film as entertainment? Well, it's a very mixed bag. Despite being a film about war and death and the like, it's amazingly subdued and VERY talky through the first half of the film. I kept hoping to see someone kill someone--but they kept talking and talking. Some of this wasn't all bad (there was a serious rivalry between Richard and the King of France--and a lot of plotting) but for an action film, there was a tremendous lack of action. Later, things did heat up a bit and I must admit the costumes and battles were pretty well orchestrated--though on a relatively small scale (despite nice props, for a DeMille film is lacked the huge cast you'd usually expect). And, even when fighting FINALLY broke out, there still was a lot of talking and talking. It's not good...but at least it beats "King Richard and the Crusaders"--a horrible epic about the same material done in the 1950s.
So, overall, it's a dull film with some historical errors. It's certainly not among the worst films about the subject but you can certainly do better. For example, the wonderful series on the Crusades by Terry Gilliam is leap-years better--more interesting, more accurate and, oddly, a bit funny.
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