LANCELOT AND GUINEVERE, shown in the US under the somewhat fiercer mantle SWORD OF LANCELOT was produced & directed in 1963 by its Lancelot, Cornel Wilde, co-starring his wife Jean Wallace in their sixth and biggest film together. He co-wrote as well, under the flashy pseudonym Jefferson Pascal.
Wilde’s take on the timeless Arthurian triangle drops backstory buildup for Arthur (Brian Aherne) as Camelot is in full flower, and there’s no sorcery & spell angle from Merlin (barely there), no sword in stone or Grail quest. As the original title indicates the focus is on the love story between the Top Knight and smitten Queen; the Stateside title lets you know there is a decent amount of action involved.
While not in the class of something like El Cid, it is a cut above the Euro-epics flooding the screens during the early 60s, and the vigorous, fairly bloody action scenes are not bad, including a big scale bonkfest with hundreds of extras and horses in a melee on location in Yugoslavia. The cameraman was Harry Waxman (Third Man On The Mountain,Swiss Family Robinson, The Wicker Man) and it has an exuberant score from Ron Goodwin.
As usual, Wilde looks good and moves well and his French accent employed for Lancelot is logical enough, though you may chuckle a little (or use it as base for practicing an impression of someone putting on a French accent). Jean Wallace at 39 is too old for the part of a new royal bride,(maybe that’s sexist, since Wilde is 51), and she’s not a skilled enough actress to generate much excitement. Better is Aherne, 60, who fits the kingly aura like someone used to such duty—maybe because he’d played Arthur nine years earlier in Prince Valiant.*
116 minutes, with George Baker, Adrienne Corri, Ian Gregory and Michael Meacham.
* Aherne copped an Oscar nomination back in ’38 as Emperor Maximilian in Juarez. With his courtly Capt.Smith in the 1953 Titanic and the two Arthur’s it seems as though when you needed a tall, good-looking authority figure, with a beautifully trimmed beard and a mellifluous English accent to play someone doomed–you said “get me Brian Aherne”.