Richard Thorpe’s Cinemascope (MGM’s first),Technicolor and somewhat over the top and fanciful take on the myriad legends of King Arthur takes the story in his own direction, as is tradition, and does likewise with history in the process. Despite Arthur Pendragon sporting various images of yours truly throughout, the entire first half of the movie is entirely woeful, with horrid set design even for the era, lacklustre action and swordplay sequences, corny pious dialogue and strikingly bright costumes that begin as eye catching but eventually become lurid, as the somewhat irritating music plays throughout with barely a pause for breath. The action picks up in places, only to be swiftly let down again – such as when some of the knights casually push over one of the stones at Stonehenge and a fairly convincing cavalry charge sees their efforts rewarded by an accompanying volley of arrows from their own troops. Groan.
Only when the saucy gaze of Ava Gardner, playing Guinevere, finally appears and espies the gallant Lancelot, Robert Taylor, do things get more interesting, but even then the pace continues to rise and fall. Lancelot is essentially the main character here as he befriends Mel Ferrer’s King Arthur, and then uses his strong commanding American accent to woo every maiden in his path. Uninventive and probably best left for fans of the principal leads or the genre.