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John Boorman directed this gloriously savage interpretation of Arthurian legend loosely based on Thomas Malory's novel Le Morte d'Arthur. By turns gleaming and filthy, tender and bloody, the film is a visually stunning epic which is never less than compelling. Nigel Terry is perfectly cast as Arthur, whose unwavering trust and faith are shown to be both quietly heroic and achingly na´ve. Interestingly, the quest for the Grail is the least effective part of the film, despite bold cinematography by Alex Thomson (who was nominated for an Oscar) and a fine performance by Paul Geoffrey as Perceval, whose greatest desire is attained in his dying sight.

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John Boorman's spin on the classic Arthurian legend is given new life with this widescreen DVD release. The shining armor, well-choreographed fight scenes and lush forests of Ireland again look crisp and vibrant compared to the almost yellowish look the movie has on video and TV. According to Boorman's commentary, although Excalibur was an effects-heavy script, he had little budget to work with. He proudly explains how easily and simply he achieved many of the film's visual illusions, calling his techniques old fashioned, even by 1981 standards. Although it sounds as if Boorman naps through parts of the commentary, when he does talk he is entertaining and informative. We learn how he bathed everything in green light to cast a magical hue on the sets and actors, how members of his family are in the movie (including a daughter who portrays King Arthur's mother in a rape scene), that Excalibur was the first feature film for costars Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart and Gabriel Byrne, and that the actors playing the dueling sorcerers Merlin and Morgana (Nicholas Clay and Helen Mirren) hated each other in real life due to a romantic falling out. The remaining special features include the theatrical trailer and production notes. More would have been enjoyable, but Boorman's professorial comments cover most aspects of the movie thoroughly and enjoyably. ~Chris Lawrence Features * Feature-length audio commentary by director John Boorman * Interactive menus * Production notes * Theatrical trailer * Scene access * Languages and subtitles: English and Franšais

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WA22018 Excalibur DVD (1981/Nicol Williamson) $5.99