There was a far from perfect film interpretation of the King Arthur legend in theatres in 1995. Titled “First Knight” it featured Sean Connery as an aging King Arthur, Richard Gere as a Lancelot with hockey hair and Julia Ormond as a handwringing queen Guinevere.
The acting in the film is not good, the battle scenes are kind of mundane yet I own this movie on DVD and have watched it more than a few times. Why? Because it’s a King Arthur movie.
I have many other film interpretations of the Arthur story as well including personal favourites “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975), which plays it for great laughs, and “Excalibur” (1981), to me the best epic film telling of the legend.
Tales of the great English leader with the mystical sword have been an obsession of mine for closing in on 35 years. It all started when the Grade 4 teacher in my Taber elementary school read to my class the book “King Arthur and his Knights” by Roger Lancelyn Green.
I quickly became enraptured by the story of the boy who becomes king by drawing a sword from a stone. I enjoyed hearing how he united a kingdom through a circle of knights where no member was of higher importance than the other.
I took in the individual stories of many of the knights including Sir Gawain and Sir Percivale. I remember, even as a boy, being fascinated by the notion such a great king and larger than life hero could be brought down by a human failing. In Arthur’s case it was Lancelot’s forbidden love for Queen Guinevere.
For the record I have always been first and foremost an Arthur fan. The adulterous Lancelot is not my guy. In fact, I get annoyed by versions of the legend, including the aforementioned “First Knight”, that strive to make Lancelot the focal point of the story.
I can’t say for certain whether my first taste of “King Arthur and his Knights” inspired me to become a writer. I do know, however, when I started to pen short stories for the amusement of my buddies in junior high at least one of them had a medieval/Arthurian theme.
The story has had such a lasting and profound effect on me my now 10-year-old son nearly ended up with a middle name of Arthur. Due to a tragedy in my wife’s extended family, she and I decided prior to his birth to change the middle name to honour a real life fallen cousin instead of a literary hero.
Still, my boy knows the Arthur story and he seems down with it. He watched First Knight with me a year or so back and even cried at the end when (spoiler alert) the king checked out.
No need to be embarrassed son. It’s Arthur. I always get sad when he dies in a book or movie too.
Long live the king!