Tuesday, May 5, 2009

An odd Highlight Reel™

I rented Excalibur on Netflix to see what I would think of it 28 years after the fact. The symbolism is laid on with a trowel, and musically it uses that part of Carmina Burana (from the O Fortuna section) that is now a ridiculous cliche. According to WikiAnswers, Excalibur was the second movie to use that piece of music, The Omen being the first. Still, when I hear the chorus come in, I roll my eyes and groan quietly.

In general, it suffers in comparison to the more historically accurate Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Okay, I'm kidding with the last part, but only a little bit.

It is interesting to see what happened to people's careers in the three decades that followed. Being near the top of the cast list wasn't much of a guarantee of success, but the middle of the cast list has a whole bunch of folks who go on to bigger and better things. Almost no one falls off the face of the earth, but a lot of the cast spends the rest of their careers on British TV, so American audiences might only have seen a few things they did.

Here's my opinion of the Highlight Reel™ status for the cast of Excalibur.

Nigel Terry (Arthur): The other role Americans will remember him in is John in The Lion In Winter. Obviously, casting directors think "Middle Ages" when they see this guy.
Cherie Lunghi (Guenevere): Lots of work on British TV, but across the pond this qualifies for her Highlight Reel™.
Nicholas Clay (Lancelot): Died in 2000. Another British TV regular. His role in the Agatha Christie movie Evil Under The Sun is just as well known as Excalibur.
Paul Geoffrey (Percival): Milk Carton™. The roles got a lot smaller after this.
Robert Addie (Mordred): Another regular on British TV.
Nicol Williamson (Merlin): Best known work on film might be Hamlet in 1969 and Macbeth in 1983. He works a lot on stage.
Helen Mirren (Morgana): The great success story from the top of the cast list.

The remarkable successes from the middle of the cast list.
Gabriel Byrne (Uther Pendragon)
Liam Neeson (Gawain)
Patrick Stewart (Leondegrance)
Ciarán Hinds (Lot)

Byrne, Neeson and Stewart all get some big scenes in the movie, but blink and you might miss Hinds.

I've had some people write to me and ask about how good a film a Highlight Reel™ has to be. To my mind, being a Highlight Reel™ has little to do with the quality of the film, just the arc of the careers of the actors in it. By this measure, Excalibur qualifies for several cast members, though certainly not all.


Lisa said...

Still, as a freshman in high school, I loved this movie and saw it three times. Then when it came to HBO? Jump back! I was in heaven.

And now I realize where I recognize people from - it's this movie!

Matty Boy said...

Dr. Monkey loves this movie, too.

Me, not so much.

There is no arguing that a lot of folks go on to bigger and better things.

dguzman said...

Oh honey, I saw this movie on DVD at the grocery store (only 7 bucks!) and of course I had to buy it. I watched it and just about threw up--still, I love it!


hee hee

I think of all the over-the-top performances in that movie, Nicol Williamson's is THE WORST.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I watched this movie again a few years back and it doesn't hold up too well. I still love it but I hate the wimpy guy who played Arthur and that whole 'the land is the king' bull jive stuff. I loved Helen Mirren in it and I remember seeing Liam Neeson and Byrne. And despite what our friend Delia says, I liked Nicol Williamson's cheesy performance.

namastenancy said...

Now, don't you be disin' my favorite pseudo-Arthurian cheesey bits. I LOVED that movie - costumes, over-the-top performances and just everything. I saws shocked when I saw Nigel Terry all cleaned up - who knew that he was handsome? I didn't know that Nicholas Clay had died - I remember him from a number of movies of the period. I particularly adored Nicol Williamson who topped even himself for overacting. The part where Uthur is fearful about sneaking into the castle to make it with Ygraine is a case in point. Merlin's (Williamson's) remark to him to "let your lust keep you up" sent the whole audience into cheers and hysterical laughter. Of course, I was at the Castro Theater when I saw it again. Castro Theater audiences know how to appreciate lines like that.

susan s. said...

Oh, I just found this entry(obviously, or else I would have made a comment earlier). I saw this at a large movie house in Piccadilly Square in London in 1981 at a 10pm showing. I still had jet lag. I loved it then, but the jet lag probably made it even more misty than the fog machine!