Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks - Legend/Mythology

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join the gang by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing about them. It's fun!

I've always been obsessed with the legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood. These twin obsessions come from different places - the first from the Broadway Cast Recording of Camelot, which I had a strange love for even at an early age (I would put on my parents' record of it, get up on a chair, and sing King Arthur's opening song to a non-existent audience... A LOT), and the second I think from a movie I saw when I was young... although that last bit could apply to the first, as well. Which is perfect, because this week on Thursday Movie Picks, we're talking about Legends and Mythology!

The Sword in the Stone (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1963) For my money, one of the most underrated of Disney Animated Classics, although I can understand why. The episodic nature of this telling of King Arthur's young adventures under the tutelage of Merlin the Wizard (based on T.H. White's The Once and Future King, EXTREMELY loosely) means that it's mostly plotless and meandering, and there isn't a true antagonist until three-quarters of the way through, when Mad Madam Mim shows up out of nowhere. But Merlin and his owl Archimedes are such delightful comic creations (as is Mim, honestly) that I can't help but love it, and the songs by the Sherman Brothers are similarly delightful. I've always loved it.

Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973) I've heard that this one doesn't hold up very well as an adult, but nostalgia goes a long way, and the idea of telling this story using land animals of all sorts is kind of brilliant in and of itself. And then the animals chosen for each specific character are just perfect - OF COURSE Robin would be a fox, and Little John a bear, and the Sheriff of Nottingham a wolf, and of course the king's guard would be crocodiles... and of course Prince John would be a somewhat cowardly lion with a snake for an advisor. The voice casting is similarly inspired, although none are better than Peter Ustinov as the crybaby Prince John and Terry-Thomas as the simpering serpent Sir Hiss, as great a villainous comic duo as there ever was in a Disney film.

Both of these stories have also been adapted as live action films too, numerous times over. The following are my favorite of those.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, 1975) Inspired, divine silliness. This comic telling of the quest for the Holy Grail by King Arthur and his legendary Knights of the Round Table skewers no less than... well, pretty much everything about British history. It is an historical epic as only the Pythons could do it, and I love it something fierce, despite the fact that it's been quoted so much over the years that it should have stopped being funny decades ago.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, 1939) Errol Flynn's signature role, and with good reason. His swashbuckler charisma was built for this, one of the most endlessly entertaining films Hollywood has ever produced, and for my money the crown jewel of 1938 (You Can't Take It With You, Academy? REALLY?!?). The casting is flawless (Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone as Prince John and Sir Guy of Gisbourne, Olivia de Havilland and Una O'Connor as Maid Marian and her trusted lady-in-waiting Bess, Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck...), the Technicolor cinematography is gorgeous, the costumes are to die for, the score is alternately thrilling and romantic... This is Old Hollywood at the absolute peak of its powers. This story has never been told better.


  1. Love that you juxtaposed the animated and live action versions! The animated Robin doesn't hold up that well but as you say the animal to character matching is spot on. Even though I'm usually indifferent to hostile to animated movies I have a soft spot for The Sword in the Stone, maybe because I love the story so.

    Holy Grail isn't something I love as deeply as you but there is brilliance in it. Now The Adventures of Robin Hood is another matter! It is everything that movies should be about and I am likewise aghast that it didn't win the Oscar that year for Best Film. It's a tie between this and Dodge City for my favorite Flynn film.

    I did a sort of roundabout theme within the theme in that all three relate in some way to Troy, my first a little less clearly than the other two. I actually watched the first specifically for this week and glad because it was so good.

    Iphigenia (1977)-Michael Cacoyannis’s (Zorba the Greek) intense rendering of the Greek tale of child sacrifice. King Agamemnon kills a deer in the sacred grove of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt which keeps the Greek fleet from sailing off to Troy. Turning to the oracle for a solution the message is handed down that the only way Agamemnon can restore the wind is to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to the goddess of the hunt. Summoning her under the guise of a betrothal and marriage contract to Achilles he is then faced with the bitter pleas and recriminations of his queen Clytemnestra (Irene Papas) and the defiance of Achilles, who discovers the plot and tries to intervene. Potent film with Papas a FORCE as the embattled queen.

    Troy (2004)-While on an official visit Trojan prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) falls for Sparta’s King Menelaus's (Brendan Gleeson) wife, Helen (Diane Kruger) and she flees with him to Troy. Menelaus’s brother King Agamemnon (Brian Cox) sees his opportunity to declare war in his attempt to extend his control over the Aegean Sea. While stopgaps lead by Achilles (Brad Pitt) and Paris’s brother Hector (Eric Bana) are attempted at the behest of Trojan King Priam (Peter O’Toole) it all escalates into epic tragedy. Monumentally BIG production with an extremely starry cast is involving and compelling if overlong with good performances across the board save Bloom but Eric Bana stand out as Hector.

    The Trojan Women (1971)-After the sacking of Troy Queen Hecuba (Katharine Hepburn) reflects on her ruined kingdom. Her son’s widow, Andromache (Vanessa Redgrave) is raising their son, Astyanax (Alberto Sanz) alone and Hecuba's daughter, Cassandra (Geneviève Bujold) dreads enslavement by their Greek masters. Meanwhile Helen of Troy (Irene Papas) risks being executed. All the women fear for Astyanax as he is now the focus of the Greeks' attention as the last male heir of the Trojan royal family. With that powerhouse cast and a dramatic story this should have been a riveting watch but its muddy photography, inert staging and despairing tone make it a slog.

  2. i have not seen the animated films but I always liked it that a fox was Robin Hood and nothing compares to Terry Thomas. I am saving the Holy Grail...not sure why but I am and it is brilliant..I love it! We match with Robin Hood which is such a good film and I love the fact that Basil Rathbone loved Sword fighting and taught Errol some things

  3. I rewatched Robin Hood recently and it was nice. I haven't seen The Sword in the Stone in years but I liked it when I was a kid. Never saw the other two but I've been meaning to watch the Monty Python one.

  4. I love your first two picks! Monty Python is actually my Blind Slot this month. I'll be watching it next week.