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Young Prince Valiant, son of the exiled King of Scandia, journeys to Camelot to become a knight at King Arthur's Round Table. He hopes to help his father reclaim his throne from the pagan usurper Sligon and restore the Christian faith to their homeland. On his journey he stumbles on the mysterious Black Knight plotting with the Viking pretender to overthrow Arthur. Barely escaping with his life, Valiant encounters Sir Gawaine, a friend of his father's who tutors the young Viking in the skills needed to be a knight. Valiant and Gawaine's pupil/mentor relationship is complicated by their romantic involvement with Princess Aleta and her sister Ilene, daughters of a British nobleman. If Valiant is to restore his father's throne and prevent the coup d'etat against Arthur, he must uncover the true identity of the Black Knight. Written by
Gabe Taverney (email@example.com)
The average shot length of this film is about 7 seconds. This is fast for an early CinemaScope film, and is low given the 8 - 11 second average of most Hollywood films made between 1930 and 1960. See more »
When Prince Valiant (Robert Wagner) is hiding underwater from the Black Knight, the reed through which he is breathing changes size between shots. When he first cuts it, it is so large in diameter it barely fits in his mouth, but in the next shot it is only half that size, easily discernible as a smaller reed than the original one. See more »
What's wrong with Sir Brack? His blood is as good as Arthur's!
And he never lets us forget it as his own father apparently did.
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Too bad so many aren't good, and this is no exception. Stiff and routine in the extreme. Henry Hathaway was never anything more than a substandard director of action films, but you still thought he'd breathe more life into this production just for the simple reason he had such a decent cast and such scenic locations to work with. It just seemed like no one involved gave much of a damn, least of all Dudley Nichols who adapted the screenplay. Errol Flynn's Robin Hood proved a great film could be made in this genre, and it's a sin this, based on solid comic strip material, is such a clunky, structureless, and mostly badly performed misfire.
Being one of those films that never, or rarely, turns up on TV, and because it boasts a cast with the likes of James mason, Victor McLaglen, Donald Crisp, and Sterling Hayden, I've always had it on my list of classics to see. Sterling Hayden is the only reason I'm not disappointed I did. Don't get me wrong; it's a TERRIBLE performance. So terrible it's good. It could have been a great terrible performance if Hathaway didn't direct the proceedings with such dour seriousness. Hayden's Sir Gawain is so brash, so outrageously miscast, so full of hammy bluster and blunder you keep looking for signs his tongue is welded firmly to the inside of his cheek. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be the case.
Hayden was unintentionally hilarious in other films as well. But What a great character he'd have made in a comic swashbuckler like The Court Jester or A Connecticut Yankee. Every opportunity in this picture for comic asides is killed dead by flat direction. Where's Richard Lester when you need him? The other performances range from career worst (Wagner) to professionally competent (Mason). McLaglen, one of my favorite all-time character actors is given little screen time, and, being his character is under a heavy beard and horned helmet, is therefore easy to miss. Donald Crisp comes and goes in the blink of an eye, and Janet Leigh...well...she's no better or worse than she ever was in this type of film.
The action is actually not bad in the last act. Some nifty tricks from Valiant evading the vikings in the castle while it burns, and the final swordfight between Valiant and Sir Brack is actually quite involved save for the ridiculously over-sized broadswords and tin shields.
Worth seeing only if you must see every Hollywood sword movie. This one can be found on the same scrap heap with Richard Thorpe's Ivanhoe and Knights of the Round Table.
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