In 1191, King Richard the Lionhearted, along with several other European monarchs, is in the Holy Land intent on retaking Jerusalem from the Saracens. There is much infighting and outright treachery in the European encampment encampment however. Two nobles in particular, Sir Giles Amaury and Conrad of Montferrat, want to eliminate the English king and attempt to have him assassinated. Severely wounded and on his death bed, Richard is brought back to health by a Saracen doctor recruited by one of his loyal knights, Sir Kenneth of the Leopard. The king recovers from his wounds but when he hears that Sir Lawrence wishes to marry Lady Edith Plantagenet, the knight is banished only to be taken in by the very doctor who treated the king and who has an altogether different identity. Written by
The film invents a military order of "Castelaines" or "Castlers", of which Sir Giles (Robert Douglas) is the Master. In the source novel, these characters are Knights Templar, whom Sir Walter Scott invariably depicted as villains. It is unclear whether the change was made because of the Production Code (Templars were a monastic order, so hostile depictions might fall under the rules against negative depictions of clergy), or to avoid upsetting the Masonic Knights Templar, of which a number of distinguished Hollywood figures were members. See more »
Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat, is described as a "wise Venetian" in the script, ignoring the fact that his title indicated where he is from. Montferrat (Monferrato) is in Piedmont, in NW Italy; Venice is in the NE. See more »
The problem with this movie isn't so much the hokey dialogue, the relatively cheap sets, and the slapdash makeup. The story isn't bad, but it never gets as gripping as Max Steiner's spectacular musical score suggests it should be.
There are a few good battle scenes and a good jousting match, but only Rex Harrison (in absurd makeup as Saladin) and George Sanders (as Richard the Lionheart) give the film any substance. Virginia Mayo still looks like Cody Jarrett's wife in WHITE HEAT; this is a substandard performance for her. For that matter, Rex Harrison still looks like 'Enry 'Iggins, despite all the soot they've smeared on his face to make him look like a Kurd.
This is a fun film, but I can bring myself to give it five stars, because it was somewhat boring. It's campy, but not campy enough to be enjoyable from start to finish.
At least I saw it in a widescreen German print (in English); to my knowledge there has been no video widescreen release of this film in any format.
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