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SIEGE OF THE SAXONS (director: Nathan Juran; screenwriters: John Kohn/Jud Kinberg; cinematographers: Wilkie Cooper/Jack Mills; editor: Maurice Rootes; music: Laurie Johnson; cast: Janette Scott (Katherine), Ronald Lewis (Robert Marshall), Ronald Howard (Edmund of Cornwall), John Laurie (Merlin), Mark Dignam (King Arthur), Jerome Willis (The Limping Man), Francis De Wolff (The Blacksmith), Charles Lloyd Pack (The Doctor), Peter Mason (Young Monk); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating:NR; producers: Charles H. Schneer/Jud Kinberg; Columbia Pictures; 1963-UK/USA)
Watchable and fast-moving.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Austrian-born filmmaker Nathan Juran (“The Black Castle”/”Drums Across the River”/”Twenty Million Miles to Earth”)started out as an art director and graduated from MIT as an architect before getting his chance to direct. Juran keeps this escapist comic strip swashbuckler King Arthur tale exciting and colorful. Writers Jud Kinberg and John Kohn have their weak dialogue give way to familiar action scenes, which keep things watchable and fast-moving. The listless acting, especially by the hero and heroine, consists of grunts and sneers as they begin a tepid romance while on-the-run. If the serious film shot for camp instead, this might have been a riot.

King Arthur of England (Mark Dignam) becomes ill and decides to recuperate discreetly in the faraway castle of Edmund of Cornwall (Ronald Howard), so the enemy Saxons won’t take advantage of the situation. But he’s unaware that the treacherous Edmund is in cahoots with the Saxons, who plan to seize the kingdom and put Arthur to death. To the rescue of his King comes the outlaw Robert Marshall (Ronald Lewis). After the failed assassination attempt on Arthur by the limping Saxon (Jerome Willis), Robert warns the King that Edmund can’t be trusted. But he can’t save the old chap when Edmund’s troops dressed as Saxons slay the King in Edmund’s castle. Edmund mistakenly thinks his men also have slain Arthur’s daughter Katherine (Janette Scott), next in line for the throne, and thereby arrogantly declares himself ruler of England. Meanwhile the friendly warrior outlaw and Katherine scurry through the woods, with her disguised as a boy, trying to avoid Edmund’s soldiers and find the wise man magician Merlin (John Laurie) to save their kingdom. In the woods the fugitives locate a burly blacksmith (Francis De Wolff) and his rebel followers, who despise Edmund for his greed, misuse of power and unfairly taxing them in excess. When convinced the girl dressed as the boy is the rightful heir to the throne, the commoners help Robert rescue Merlin from Edmund’s soldiers. During Edmund’s coronation–Merlin, Katherine and Robert bust into the ceremony and Merlin challenges Edmund to draw Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, from its scabbard.When he can’t, Katherine has no trouble removing the sword and is declared the rightful heir to the throne. Edmund flees to the Saxons, but is now rendered useless to them and is slain by the limping man. The Saxons then attack the castle at Camelot, but are crushed by the united English army. Katherine in the last scene proposes to Robert, and gives him a title so she won’t marry a commoner.

Producer Charles H. Schneergave this low-budget adventure film a medieval “epic” look by reusing props, costumes and footage from an earlier Columbia film that starred Alan Ladd, The Black Knight (1954).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”