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Like the previous correspondent here - 'Arthur of the Britons' was a regular slot in my childhood TV viewing. I recall coming home from school in about 1972/1973 excited for the Wednesday tea-time slot (see - it left that much of an impression on me!!). This was the real Dark Ages of Britain. Not colourful pageantry of men in shining armour or ladies in Saxon-blue gowns with gold braid trim. This was a brilliant snapshot of how people would have lived; no modern infrastructure, just the gritty realism of an era when it was tribe against tribe and nothing was written for the history books. The series left a lasting impression on me and I wrote to ITV in the late 1980s to ask if it would be repeated. Sadly, they had no plans to, which I feel is a great loss when you see all the other dross which is repeated over the years. Although this series helped propel Arthur - Oliver Tobias to fame (prior to The Stud) and also Kai - Michael Gothard (who had parts in The Three Musketeers and a James Bond film) - I likewise feel it never had its true recognition. I came across a book in later years called 'The Bear of Britain' by Edward Frankland (printed during World War II with a forward by D. Lloyd George) and often wondered if the TV series was based on this. Does anyone know?
i am this young girl's mother and i am 46. i have just found out that Michael Gothard is no longer among us. he was my dream-hero for so many many years and he influenced my already-existing love of history in such a way that i now teach both history, English and English history to Romanian teenage pupils. at that time, i even tried my hand at writing and i imagined together with my best friend a story in which Arthur and Kai met a man and a woman from Dacia. i wish i could watch the TV series again! i am listening to the theme of this movie right now and how do i feel? 18 again... by the way, the English name that i use in school is Kay.
I was a graduate student in upstate New York, and one of the local TV
stations carried this show. I loved the grittiness, and how it
accurately portrayed people who lived close to the earth.
It also tried to portray how some of the Arthurian legends got started. One episode showed Arthur trying to teach a lesson in cooperation to the other chieftains. He had a large stone rolled over a sword, and dared the others each to get it out. No one man could. But, when they all helped by rolling the boulder off the sword, Arthur triumphantly snatched the sword. However, instead of appreciating the lesson, the other chieftains came to the conclusion that Arthur would take credit for their efforts.
Well, nobody's perfect, even legendary kings, but this might just be the way the "Sword in the Stone" tale began.
It was an excellent show.
Although i could have only been 6 or 7 at the time, i remember Arthur of the Britons quite clearly (I can even still hum the theme tune). The programme left quite an impression on me with its realistic depiction of Dark age Briton. I think it was a major reason why i became so interested in history as a kid and still am to this day. I only wish this series was avaliable on Video/DVD.
For the fans of this series...I found at Amazom.com a double feature
VHS called Medieval. It contains 2 videos: 1 King Arthur , the Young
Warlord 2 The Magic Sword (the 2nd one is just a silly movie).
The Arthur video has only 3 episodes (96 mins on total) of the whole series. It is just enough to transport us back to our (at least mine) teen years.
I also would love to watch all the episodes.
I specially liked the fact that his best friend was a saxon, that really added a special feeling to the series.
I thought about this series after seeing "King Arthur".
This actually made it across the pond in limited/commercial (not PBS) syndication in 1977 to 78. When the episodes ran their course here in DC, some local youths did a petition drive for the ABC affiliate to keep running it. No success.
There was an Excalibur reference, and in at least one episode Arthur was shown removing the sword from the stone at a multi tribal council, but it was presented as something to be expected. "Ach, there he goes again."
The sidekick who was born a Saxon reminds me of the narrator of Bernard Cornwell's Arthurian trilogy of novels.
There was a lot of outdoor filming in this series and they made the most of modest budgets. Episodes like these are good examples of actions series that can be presented in a half hour format.
I taped a late night broadcast of the film compilation of this series,
purported to be the "true" story of the "real" King Arthur. Not having
been too keen on the cleaned up and sometimes stuffy stories from
Tennyson on, I was very, VERY skeptical - "Right, I'll bet" was my
response to this claim. But after viewing the movie, I went on a quest
that took me to local British bookshops, Rice University, and a hunger
to learn more. I was totally fascinated by this telling of the tales -
especially the basis of what might have happened to create the "Sword
in the Stone" myth. This one was so much better! Here was a crafty,
insightful, strategy churning Arthur who used logic, psychology, and
military might when necessary to preserve his people and build
alliances with an amusing assortment of petty kings in what was left of
Roman Britain after their departure. Okay - enough overview.
Back to my quest for this and that. Every occurrence that comes up - historical figures, battles, even down to how people lived in the 800's was right. This gritty portrayal of Arthur was so fascinating that I just had to know more. I wrote to the production company. They sent me what they had and referred me to Terence Feeley, writer of most of the episodes. I wrote to him and still have the lovely letter he sent back.
This series is available in its entirety on DVD from the UK - formatted for that region only, unfortunately. But I suggest you get a region free player and have a ball watching these episodes all over again!
How much more compelling it is to view Arthur as a leader who used every human capability to achieve what few others could even imagine, to live such a "purpose-driven" life (to borrow a phrase). I could imagine him as a boy observing nature, observing people, sharpening his wit as well as his sword arm. What an amazing ideal for youngsters - develop your wit, your heart, your strength to achieve the most magnificent results. Dream the dream! Be all that you can possibly be!
Part of that curious British tradition of half-hour adventure series
made largely for children's television, 1972's Arthur of the Britons
offers an interesting revisionist spin on the King Arthur myth, with
it's young Celtic warlord trying to unite the divided tribes against
the Saxon invaders, and is better funded than you might expect (it even
boasts an Elmer Bernstein theme tune) but stumbles with some dodgy
casting. Oliver Tobias' Arthur doesn't project much presence beyond
sulking and tends to stumble over the better lines in the script, while
the various tribal leaders are an odd bunch Norman Bird's nostalgic
wannabe Roman and Shouty Shouty Brian Blessed's loud and untrustworthy
bullheaded rival leaving much of the heavy lifting to Michael
Gothard's moody and competitive Saxon sidekick, Kai. Indeed, so much so
that they might have been better off calling the series Kai of the
Saxons. Gothard had a limited range that generally typed him into
intense and threatening roles, but he's perfectly cast here and for the
most part a lot more interesting than the nominal hero in the first
series. By comparison, Jack Watson's father-figure and mentor to both
tends to get the short straw at times as the writers take several
episodes to work out quite what to do with him.
The first six episodes of series one are generally pretty poor, self-contained simple morality tales that are more a throwback to 50s adventure shows like The Buccaneers or Robin Hood than the kind of adventure series Richard Carpenter would revitalise in the 70s and 80s. The initial uninspired choice and use of visually boring locations doesn't help, nor do the seriously underpopulated battles, but the show does improve as it reaches the halfway point thanks to better stories and more complex characterisation and storytelling as not every situation can be easily solved in time for a warm wrapup, and the film-making and use of locations improves dramatically too as the show finds its feet. Decent guest stars like Clive Revill, Esmond Knight, Peter Firth, Bernard Bresslaw and Mike Pratt help, though others, like Rupert Davies as a bloodthirsty Saxon warlord, aren't exactly well cast.
But it's in the second series that the show really finds its tone. It's not so much that more money has been spent, more that more thought has been put into the stories, while the easy moralising of the first half of the first run gives way to lessons that are left unlearnt and chances that are missed. Arthur takes centre stage and Tobias' performance improves with it as, along with the practicalities of holding together and widening a fragile alliance, cultural differences between the Celts and the Saxon invaders are more pronounced, turning them from stereotypical villains into a people who may be making more of the land than the people they are usurping. Rupert Davies comes into his own too, no longer an unlikely warlord and now a more rounded figure capable of being cunning and deceitful but also of being more pragmatic and even forgiving when circumstances allow, while the female roles generally improve with the introduction of Louis Malle's muse Gila von Weitershausen as a far from submissive romantic interest. While the first season started out as something of a chore, by the time the penultimate episode, The Treaty (the best directed of the series and the only one where no director is credited), comes along, the quality of both the writing and the execution had improved so much that it's a pity there never was a third season. It's by no means a great show (and the image quality of the various episodes on the Network UK DVD set varies wildly), but it does end up a pretty good one.
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