28 September 2009 | bkoganbing
The Warriors Of Christendom, The Warriors Of Islam
Somehow King Richard And The Crusaders made the Medved list of the 50 Worst films of all time. I'm not saying it's Citizen Kane, but I've seen far worse. And until The Lion In Winter and Robin and Marian, we have never been given a true picture of King Richard I of England.
George Sanders who also in his career played King Charles II, a monarch of a far different temperament than Richard is in the title role. The film is based on the Sir Walter Scott novel, The Talisman and takes place in the Middle East during the Crusades.
As in the DeMille epic The Crusades which this bear a faint resemblance, The Lion Hearted King is beset with lots of problems, not all of them caused by the Syrian warrior King Saladin whom he faces in the field. Duke Leopold of Austria and Philip Augustus of France question his leadership of all the Christian nations, his brother Prince John is looking to seize his throne back home and right in camp, he's got a couple of fifth columnists in Robert Douglas and Michael Pate.
Pate and Douglas put in action an assassination attempt in which Richard is only wounded by a captured Saracen arrow. Richard's loyal retainer a Scot knight played by Laurence Harvey starts hunting up the assassins. But in the mean time, a truce of sorts is called as Saladin, hearing of Richard's attempt sends his personal physician played by Rex Harrison.
There is a romantic subplot going here with Harvey and a cousin of Richard's played by Virginia Mayo. Richard likes Harvey enough, but not to marry into the royal family, especially when as a royal princess, Mayo can be married off for alliance purposes.
Sir Walter Scott was one of those authors in the 19th century who cleaned up the Middle Ages quite a bit and invested those bloody times with a romantic aura. He was never more effective in doing this than in his more well known work Ivanhoe. In fact Ivanhoe is almost a sequel of this film as it deals with the capture of Richard by Duke Leopold on the way back to England after the action in this film is concluded and the ransom for Richard demanded and paid.
George Sanders and Robert Douglas were both in the screen version of Ivanhoe that MGM did two years before Warner Brothers did this film. Ivanhoe is a much better film, yet King Richard And The Crusaders does hold its own.
When the Medveds wrote that 50 worst film book they cited a line that Virginia Mayo says which is "war, war that's all you ever think about Dick Plantagenet". In point of fact that was the thing uppermost in that very bloodthirsty man's mind. More truth than humor there.
And you won't get much truth from King Richard And The Crusaders. Still it's not as bad a film as the Medveds would have you believe.