Warner Brothers lavished no less than $15 million on this overblown, overstuffed version of the successful Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical.
Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero form the Round Table ménage a trois as King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. They are supported by David Hemmings as Mordred, Lawrence Naismith as Merlin and Lionel Jeffries as King Pellinore.
Developing a sudden passion for justice, Arthur sets up a Round Table and advertises for knights with thousands of written manuscripts scattered out of towers and from horseback all across the land. Since the printing press did not arrive in Britain for another millennium, Arthur’s monks must have been slaving around the clock to illuminate all of those.
As the manuscripts are strewn across the land, the illiterate and uneducated sixth-century peasants toiling in the fields pick them up . . . and give them a good read!
Lancelot is one of the knights who responds, and although she hates him initially, Guinevere eventually falls in love with him. The lovers are caught mid-tryst thanks to the conniving of Arthur’s illegitimate son Mordred (David Hemmings clad in head-to-toe burgundy motorcycle leathers).
Lancelot gallantly escapes, leaving Guinevere to be burned at the stake for adultery.
Camelot ditches most of the goblin and wizard stuff from the Arthurian legend but keeps the character of Merlin (Laurence Naismith). In the absence of any magical element in the film, he functions as a – possibly imaginary – confidant that no one else can see.
The acting is fine, but no one really does justice to the memorable songs. Franco Nero had his singing voice dubbed by Gene Merlino, but contractual restrictions prohibited the dubbing of Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave. The soundtrack singing is theirs, although it had to be assembled by vocal arranger Ken Darby from hundreds of spliced pieces of tape.
The sets and costumes look decidedly tacky and are not enhanced by director Joshua Logan’s vulgar use of colour filters.
There’s also some very sloppy continuity work. King Pellinore (Lionel Jeffries) meets King Arthur for the first time about an hour into the picture, yet about 20 minutes earlier, he can be clearly spotted at Arthur’s wedding!
At nearly three hours, this bloated and relentlessly awful Arthurian musical is approximately three hours longer than it needs to be.
Lancelot Du Lac