Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “First Knight (Special Edition)”

(Columbia Pictures. 1995/2008. Color. 1 Disc. Widescreen. Rated PG-13. Directed by Jerry Zucker.) Sean Connery (King Arthur), Richard Gere (Lancelot), Julia Ormond (Guinevere), Ben Cross (Prince Malagant). Music by Jerry Goldsmith.

The year 1995 saw a number of sword-wielding epics, Rob Roy and Braveheart among them. Even with its flaws, First Knight is worth a second look. It’s a different take on the Arthurian legend; yes, there’s still the triangle of Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot, but many will miss the feats of magic and the familiar supporting characters such as Merlin, Morgan le Fey, and Mordred. Instead, the king must battle Malagant, his former “first knight” of the legendary Round Table, who wishes to seize Camelot and surrounding lands for himself. It’s a well-told story, directed with assurance by Zucker, and nicely scored by the late Goldsmith, even in a contemporary style. As for the actors, I thought Gere was all right, but too old for Lancelot (he was 46), and it’s a bit hard to believe Connery (65 here), as Arthur, talking about finally settling down and marrying for the first time, but one twinkle in his eye and one Scots-tinged line reading, and he’s got you. Ormond is beautiful (“She has no bad angles,” says Zucker in the commentary), but I’ve always found her somewhat bland. Cross verges on the cartoonish as the evil Malagant. Beautiful production design by John Box. This “special edition” includes two commentary tracks: one with Zucker and producer Hunt Lowry, and the other focusing on Arthurian legend. There are also deleted scenes (in fragments and some missing audio), and making-of featurettes.

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