Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor in Knights of the Round Table (1953)


(director: Richard Thorpe; screenwriters: based on the novel “Le Morte d’Arthur” by Thomas Malory/Talbot Jennings/Jan Lustig/Noel Langley; cinematographers: Stephen Dade/F.A. Young; editor: Frank Clarke; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: Robert Taylor (Lancelot), Ava Gardner (Guinevere), Mel Ferrer (Arthur), Anne Crawford (Morgan Le Fay), Stanley Baker (Modred), Felix Aylmer (Merlin), Maureen Swanson (Elaine), Gabriel Woolf (Percival), Niall McGinnis (Green Knight); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pandro S. Berman; Warner Home Video; 1953-UK/USA)

“An uninspiring reworking of the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz ,

MGM’s first CinemaScope production, in letterbox, is a lavish pageant-like adaptation of Thomas Malory’ classic “Le Morte d’Arthur.” It’s an uninspiring reworking of the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Richard Thorpe (“Ivanhoe”) directs and it’s written by Talbot Jennings, Jan Lustig and Noel Langley. The film loses all lyrical plusses from the book and instead becomes merely an eye-fulfilling spectacle of graphic action and horse opera romantics. Robert Taylor makes for a bearable courageous Lancelot, a radiant Ava Gardner doesn’t portray enough warmth to be his love interest Queen Guinevere, but Mel Ferrer makes for a fine majestic King Arthur.

The film opens during the decline of the Roman Empire, during the medieval age of chaos in England (filmed in England). Arthur Pendragon (Mel Ferrer), son of Uther, and his wicked rival Mordred (Stanley Baker) are at the ‘sword in the stone’ after the death of the king, where Merlin (Felix Aylmer) proclaims whoever can pull the mysterious Excalibur sword from the anvil will be proclaimed the rightful next king. Mordred can’t, but Arthur can. Soon Arthur is joined by the gallant Lancelot of the Lake, from France, who is willing to serve his master Arthur faithfully and even die for him. The two combine together to defeat the army of Mordred, who challenged the new idealistic king’s rule. Upon his defeat Mordred feigns allegiance to Arthur, but Merlin (Felix Aylmer), Arthur’s loyal wise man adviser, doesn’t trust the villain and keeps tabs of him. Meanwhile Lancelot rescues Guinevere from the roguish Green Knight (Niall McGinnis) and the two fall in love, but she’s betrothed to the king and nothing happens physically. Lancelot immediately marries the guileless Elaine (Maureen Swanson), sister of Sir Percival of the Round Table, to avoid any possibility of a scandal and goes north to battle the fierce Picts. Lancelot wants to stay as far away from Guinevere as possible, knowing he can’t resist her. But Modred is egged on by his beautiful but sinister lady, Arthur’s stepsister, Morgan Le Fay (Anne Crawford), to become king and successfully accuses Lancelot of a romantic indiscretion with Guinevere. Lancelot is exiled from England and Guinevere is sent to a convent. But When Mordred attacks the king, the still loyal Sir Lancelot comes to the rescue.


REVIEWED ON 12/29/2006 GRADE: C+