Taglines: Forged by a god. Foretold by a wizard. Found by a king.
The myth of King Arthur brought once again to the screen. Uthur Pendragon is given the mystical sword Excalibur by the wizard Merlin. At his death Uthur buries the sword into a stone, and the next man that can pull it out will be King of England. Years later Arthur, Uthur’s bastard son draws Excalibur and becomes king. Guided by Merlin, Arthur marries Guenivere and gathers the Knights of the Round Table. Arthur’s evil half-sister Morgana sires a son with him, who may prove his downfall.
Excalibur is a 1981 British dramatic fantasy film directed, produced, and co-written by John Boorman that retells the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. Based solely on the 15th century Arthurian romance, Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory, Excalibur stars Nigel Terry as Arthur, Nicol Williamson as Merlin, Nicholas Clay as Lancelot, Cherie Lunghi as Guenevere, Helen Mirren as Morgana, Liam Neeson as Gawain, Corin Redgrave as Cornwall, and Patrick Stewart as Leodegrance. The film is named after the legendary sword of King Arthur that features prominently in Arthurian literature. The film’s soundtrack features the music of Richard Wagner and Carl Orff, along with an original score by Trevor Jones.
Shot entirely on location in Ireland and employing Irish actors and crew, the film has been acknowledged for its importance to the Irish filmmaking industry and for helping launch the film and acting careers of a number of Irish and English actors, including Mirren, Neeson, Stewart, Gabriel Byrne, Neil Jordan and Ciarán Hinds.
About the Story
The sorcerer Merlin retrieves Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake for Uther Pendragon, who secures a brief alliance with Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. Uther’s lust for Cornwall’s wife Igrayne soon ruins the truce, and Merlin agrees to help Uther to seduce Igrayne on the condition that he gives Merlin whatever results from his lust. Merlin transforms Uther into Cornwall’s likeness with the Charm of Making.
Cornwall’s daughter Morgana senses her father’s mortal injury during his assault on Uther’s camp; and, while Igrayne is fooled by the disguise and Uther impregnates her, Morgana sees through it, watching Uther as Cornwall dies in battle. Nine months later, Merlin takes Uther’s son Arthur. Uther pursues but is mortally wounded by Gorlois’ knights. Uther thrusts Excalibur into a stone, crying that “None shall wield Excalibur, but me!”, and Merlin proclaims, “He who draws the sword from the stone, he shall be king.”
Years later Sir Ector and his sons, Kay and Arthur (Nigel Terry) attend a jousting tournament. Sir Leondegrance wins the chance to try pulling Excalibur from the stone, but he fails. Kay’s sword is later stolen, and Arthur pulls Excalibur from the stone while trying to replace the stolen sword. Word spreads, and Merlin announces to the crowd that Arthur is Uther’s son and, hence, the rightful ruler. Leondegrance immediately proclaims his support for the new king, but not all are willing to accept. While the others argue, Merlin and Arthur enter the forest, where Merlin tells Arthur that he is the rightful king and that the king and the land are one.
Overwhelmed, Arthur falls into a long sleep. When he wakes, Arthur goes to aid Leondegrance, whose castle is under siege by Arthur’s enemies, led by Sir Uryens. During the battle, Arthur defeats Uryens and then demands Uryens knight him, handing him Excalibur to do so. Uryens is tempted to kill him but is deeply moved by Arthur’s display of faith and decides to knight him (Merlin is stunned by something he did not foresee). Uryens falls to his knees to declare his loyalty, which leads the others to follow suit. Arthur meets Leondegrance’s daughter Guinevere soon afterwards and is smitten but Merlin foresees trouble.
Years later, the undefeated knight Lancelot blocks a bridge and will not move until he is defeated in single combat, seeking a king worthy of his sword. Lancelot defeats Arthur and his knights, so Arthur summons Excalibur’s magic and defeats Lancelot but breaks Excalibur. Arthur is ashamed of abusing the sword’s power to serve his own vanity and throws the sword’s remains into the lake, while admitting his mistake.
The Lady of the Lake offers a restored Excalibur to the king, Lancelot is revived and Arthur and his knights unify the land. Arthur creates the Round Table, builds Camelot and marries Guinevere; Lancelot confesses that he has fallen in love with her too. Arthur’s half-sister Morgana, a budding sorceress and still bitter towards Arthur, becomes apprenticed to Merlin in hopes of learning the Charm of Making from him.
Directed by: John Boorman
Starring: Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi, Paul Geoffrey, Gabriel Byrne, Keith Buckley, Katrine Boorman, Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart
Screenplay by: Rospo Pallenberg
Production Design by: Anthony Pratt
Cinematography by: Alex Thomson
Film Editing by: John Merritt, Donn Cambern
Costume Design by: Bob Ringwood
Set Decoration by: Bryan Graves
Art Direction by: Tim Hutchinson
Music by: Trevor Jones
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: April 10, 1981