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  Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight I Have The Power!
Year: 1984
Director: Stephen Weeks
Stars: Miles O'Keeffe, Cyrielle Clair, Leigh Lawson, Sean Connery, Trevor Howard, Peter Cushing, Ronald Lacey, Lila Kedrova, John Rhys-Davies, Wilfrid Brambell, Bruce Lidington, Douglas Wilmer, Brian Coburn, David Rappaport, Emma Sutton, Thomas Heathcoate
Genre: Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: The King (Trevor Howard) is not in the best of moods as he surveys the scene in the banqueting hall of his castle, for they may now be at peace but it does mean his knights have grown timid and complacent. As he berates them before they get a chance to indulge in the feast set out in front of their noses, the guards on the battlements notice an odd light approaching through the trees, and soon after the doors to the hall burst open with a whoosh. Riding in, a Green Knight (Sean Connery) leaves everyone open-mouthed, even more so when he informs the assembled he has a wager for them: he bets no knight here has the ability, never mind the courage, to take his highly sharpened axe and chop his head from his shoulders. He's correct, none of them do...

That is until a squire named He-Man pipes up and - no, wait, he's actually Gawain and is promptly knighted, but with that huge, blond, pageboy wig, leather outfit and barrel chest he didn't half resemble a version of the popular action figure as seen on TV cartoons. When it finally came to translating that popularity to the big screen, funnily enough it was the same production company Cannon which offered that to the world, though they cast Dolph Lundgren in the role and our Gawain here, Miles O'Keeffe, was relegated once more to propping up straight to video action flicks. This somehow received a cinema release, probably because Cannon were not averse to buying cinemas too.

All the better to ensure their material was given a proper showcase, even if there was nobody wanting to watch them at the time, not for a night out at any rate, the late Friday night beer and pizza at home experience being more ideal for such things. But Sword of the Valiant wasn't even that; although it had its fans, mostly those who couldn't get enough of Excalibur and this was acceptable as an unofficial sequel, it was actually more Hawk the Slayer than it was a John Boorman prestige project. That was to say, if you wanted unintentional giggles, it would do, yet if it was a serious version of the famed text dating from centuries ago then you may find yourself either extremely bored or worse, enraged at director Stephen Weeks' inablity to get the presentation right.

The blame didn't rest entirely on his shoulders, as ex-Tarzan in the movie where nobody cared about Tarzan, O'Keeffe, was foisted on Weeks against his wishes and it was plain to see the budget he really needed to pull this off with any professionalism was simply not forthcoming. The sad thing was he had already made a version of the legend about ten years before, and that had been struck by the curse of Monty Python who even made Robert Bresson's Lancelot du Lac look ridiculous in impossible to resist comparisons, so you can imagine how Gawain and the Green Knight fared in the general opinion. By this stage, Conan the Barbarian had made the sword and sorcery a low budget enterprise much adopted by trend followers, and Sword was lumped in with those.

Although there were assuredly sword fights and sorcery here, with its particularly British take on tales of yore it didn't really fit the template adhered to by many a filmmaker with a desert to spare, though the leading man soon had a minor run in Italian movies as Ator suited him better: in this he suffered the indignity of a dubbing by Peter Firth whose higher voice doesn't apply to O'Keeffe's strapping frame. Weeks did assemble a notable cast in support, however, with Trevor Howard as a King Arthur in all but name, Peter Cushing in one of his final roles as a conniving advisor to a different King, John Rhys-Davies, barnstorming to mild effect, and Ronald Lacey as rival knight in fancy armour (lots of that here). But the real draw was Sean Connery, and in truth his first scene illustrates why he became a star for even decked out in glittery green trappings he shone charisma that was much missed when he pissed off for most of the rest of the movie. Gawain has to work out his riddle lest he lose his own bonce in a year, but even with a supposedly delicious unicorn this was lacking. Music by Ron Geesin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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