Camelot (1967)

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The Most Beautiful Love Story Ever!

 

When one says Camelot today, one usually is thinking of or referencing the days of the Kennedy Presidency, rather than the iconic Broadway play and subsequent film – both under the same name- simply called Camelot.

We’ve all heard of and are aware of the Arthurian legends and all the main players- Arthur Pendragon, his Queen Guenevere, the dashing Sir Lancelot, Mordred and all the rest. Although the Arthurian legends date from at least the end of the Middle Ages- and perhaps earlier, Camelot was based on T. H. White’s 1950s novel The Once and Future King, which draws on the original legends for some ot it’s source material.

On Broadway the play was the hit of all hits and featured a wonderful cast of Richard Burton, Julie Andrews , and the then newcomer Robert Goulet. Sadly, all three (depending on which story you read) declined to appear in the film version. This is where the problems start.

Richard Harris takes on Burton’s King Arthur and Vanessa Redgrave does the same for Ms. Andrew’s Guenevere. Franco Nero comes on for Goulet’s Lancelot. Except for the last, the drop-off in acting talent is slight depending on your tastes. However none of the three are singers and sadly it shows on screen. Dramatically Camelot is not overly bad, but the songs are for the most part unlistenable. The cast does rather well even with the songs considering that they had limited singing experience. (Harris was reportedly passed over several times specifically due to his singing ability.)

That being said the music underneath the singing is wondrous and fantastic and well deserving of the kudos it has gotten over the years, including an Academy Award for Best Music.

Camelot is really quite a mess directorially and one finds it hard to determine what exactly director Joshua Logan was thinking during the picture. With such an incredibly long run time of 179 minutes some of the rambling extended shots which start nowhere and go nowhere surely could have been eliminated. Logan’s penchant for what can only be termed quirky editing- seemingly random splices and cut away shots- and random irrelevant zoom shots not only bewilder but at times downright frustrate the viewer.

The only thing holding this beast together is the music score and the visuals. Camelot took strides to create a realistic visual presentation which included location filming in Spain and the use of several hundred sets of armor. To this extent much of the film is rather dark; and especially dark is the first third or so. And never are we presented with eye-popping color. Most of the film has a nice almost hazy palette to it which creates a great atmosphere.

For a 45th anniversary treat Warner Brothers has released this on blu-ray in their book format. Overall visually the film is quite well presented (as usual the best presentation since original theatrical release). Some of the shots are fuzzy and out of focus and we also have the above mentioned zooms which detract from the experience- this isn’t a film that blu-ray can really take advantage of simply because of how it was made.

The audio is quite well done as well as one would hope for a musical. It isn’t anything of a quality to stun you with wonder but it is a vibrant track considering the age of the source.

As much as I am not a fan of the picture, Warner Brothers has again put out a extremely deep and high quality package (and thank you to Warners for the review copy) crammed full of extras and goodies. It is hard to say I heartily recommend this disc, but if you like the film already then you will definitely enjoy the release. Otherwise, you may want to watch it first to gauge your opinion of it.

1 comment… add one

  • Jeff Mazza October 12, 2012, 11:35 pm

    This is truly one of my favorite films. I tend to be somewhat of a romantic and confess to enjoying a few “chick flicks” from time to time. I agree that the visuals are brilliant. One would think he was actually back in Camelot when watching this version. I especially feel the pain of the scene where Arthur is trying to come to terms with the range of emotions he feels upon realizing the truth about Guinevere and Lancelot. Richard Harris is wonderful in this role. His eyebrow arches speak volumes. I just purchased the Blu Ray but not the book version. For some reason there are great variances in the sound but it may be my television. I have also noticed the out of focus scenes. Despite the negatives I would recommend Camelot to all film lovers.

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