1 9 6 2 – 1 9 6 3 (UK)
39 x 25 minute episodes
Another middling period swashbuckler, from the time when it seemed TV executives thought of little else.
The ITV series presented the life of King Richard I (nicknamed ‘Coeur de Lion’) and his adventures during the Third Crusade (1189-1192), the war with Sultan Saladin in the Holy Land, and his capture by Duke Leopold of Austria on his return journey to England.
On learning of the death of his father, good Richard (Dermot Walsh) returned from the chain-mailed Crusades to prevent bad Prince John (Trader Faulkner) from usurping the throne of England.
The series had a romantic hero, a varied and colourful milieu, and one of the best adventure stories in English history, but offered neither grandeur of conception nor any depth of drama.
The scripts were conventional and slow, lacking in tension and acting opportunities. Dermot Walsh’s King Richard was suitably bold but seemed as if he were forced to portray some Machiavellian corporate executive facing much intrigue and plotting against him.
While the period chain mail, broadswords, lances, shields and sturdy steeds were all in evidence, the individual episode plots were mechanical and all too loquacious.
Only the presence of the faithful retainer Blondel (Iain Gregory) and the devious Leopold of Austria (Francis de Wolfe bringing a welcome touch of gloating greed to the righteous proceedings) saved the viewer from complete tedium.
The inspiration for the series appeared to be derived from Sir Walter Scott’s highly romanticised 1825 novel The Talisman rather than the real events and people of the late 12th century.
Richard the Lionheart
Prince John/King Philip/Henry
Francis De Wolff