Warner Bros. shows the 1967 musical Camelot a lot of love with the Blu-ray Digibook release of the film. The new version is well-worth the purchase price thanks to a beautiful picture, crystal sound and a wealth of bonus features.
In addition to the 30+ page book on the film, the Blu-ray’s bonus material includes five theatrical trailers, behind the scenes looks at the film, commentary from Stephen Farber, and the film’s world premiere – which features interviews with the film’s cast (check out Richard Harris’ snazzy outfit) and crew.
The Blu-ray also includes an excellent four-song soundtrack sampler CD which will leave you wishing they included the entire soundtrack. The Digibook features production notes, pictures, trivia and spotlights on the film’s music.
Based on the 1960 musical Camelot by Alan Jay Lerner (who also wrote the screenplay) and T.H. White's The Once and Future King, the film adaptation was directed by Joshua Logan (South Pacific and Paint Your Wagon) and featured Harris as the King Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guenevere, Franco Nero as Lancelot Du Lac, David Hemmings as Mordred, Lionel Jeffries (in old age make-up) as King Pellinore, and Laurence Naismith as Merlyn.
The film (which won three Academy Awards) features an excellent musical score; great songs that capture the magic of the King Arthur story; and brilliant performances from Harris, Redgrave, and Nero. It also has a fun performance from Hemmings who makes the most of his screen time as the easy to hate Mordred.
The film opens on the night before a battle as Arthur, betrayed by Lancelot and Guenevere, thinks back on his life with help from a grumpy Merlyn. At first Arthur goes too far back, but then focuses on the day he first met Guenevere – which also sets up two of the best songs from the film. From there, the couple marries, and Arthur comes up with the idea for the Round Table and a new way for knights to behave – which would usher in a new age of chivalry with the knights.
Arthur’s Round Table idea attracts the noble and somewhat narcissistic Lancelot Du Lac (giving Nero the chance to give the audience one of the film’s funniest songs). Lancelot’s arrival doesn’t go entirely smoothly thanks to his knocking Arthur from his horse, and clashing with Guenevere – who finds him a tad pompous. Arthur also finds a new advisor in King Pellinore (although he can't remember what land he is king of) - who mistrusts Lancelot mostly due to his being French.
The queen dislikes Lancelot so much she even tries to set him up at a tournament by teasing the other knights with promises if they will destroy him in the joust. Her plan backfires when Lancelot rises to the challenge and even seems magical bringing a fallen knight back from death. The joust also stirs a new kind of feeling in Guenevere and Lancelot and they quickly strike up a secret romance. Arthur suspects, but loves them both too much to bring the romance into the light of day.
Unfortunately for Arthur, Mordred has no qualms about exposing the romance and destroying all Camelot and Arthur stand for. This conflict sets up the film’s final act, and the end to the magical realm of Camelot.
On Blu-ray, Camelot is simply beautiful. There is a slight grain occasionally, but I was extremely impressed with how great the film looked and sounded on the format. Watching it with my wife (who had never seen it before), I was also reminded just how funny the film was. This is a movie that entertains on a variety of levels thanks to its music and the wonderful performances of its entire cast.
As Arthur, Harris gives a complex performance showing a variety of aspects to the character. At the start of the film, he seems tired and carrying the weight of his kingdom on his shoulders. When the film jumps back to his first meeting with Guenevere, Harris is almost childlike as he sings and leaps about the screen. As the story rolls on, it is hard to imagine anyone else playing the role or doing a better job with the character.
Redgrave brings a playful tease to Guenevere. Our first introduction to her shows a character who was a tad sheltered and is now out in the world for the first time. She is aware of her beauty, and even longs to use it to manipulate knights into doing her bidding. Her first meeting with Arthur leaves the king completely in love with her by the first time he sees her, and he stays that way until the film ends – despite her betrayal. Redgrave makes the most of the character, and even manages to charm the audience into looking past her faults and betrayals.
Although he is hampered by his accent (which at times makes the character even funnier than he is meaning to be), Nero provides the perfect picture of a knight. The fact that he is so vain and arrogant of his abilities, makes the character hilarious (you will laugh the entire time Lancelot is journeying from France to Camelot), but also human. He is clearly torn by his love and loyalty to Arthur, and the romance that develops with Guenevere.
Although it arrived on the big screen in 1967, Camelot doesn’t seemed to have aged a day, and is just as entertaining now as it was on the screen. The Blu-ray’s picture, sound and bonus material make it worth the purchase price - even if you already on it on another format.
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