UK / 1954
Director: Tay Garnett
Writer: Alec Coppel
Cast: Alan Ladd, Patricia Medina, Peter Cushing, Harry Andrews, Andre Morell, Laurence Naismith, Patrick Troughton, Anthony Bushell
A year after starring in his most memorable film, Shane, American actor Alan Ladd appeared in a number of British films. The most unlikely sounding – yet most entertaining – is this historical adventure, which manages to include both Camelot and Stonehenge in its recreation of ancient England. Ladd is lent admirable support by Peter Cushing and Patrick Troughton as villainous plotters, and Patricia Medina as the archetypal damsel in distress. The film was a second visit to Camelot for American helmer Tay Garnett, who’d previously directed Bing Crosby in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
The film opens with the Earl of Yeonil (Harry Andrews) having his castle plundered by alleged Viking invaders. The family sword-maker, John (Ladd), gives chase to the group’s leader, Sir Palamides (Peter Cushing), a pursuit that leads to Camelot, where King Arthur is entertaining King Mark of Cornwall (Troughton). John tells the king about Palamides’ treacherous act, but Arthur remains dubious about the claims and gives the sword-maker three months to prove his accusation.
Palamides and Mark are indeed planning Arthur’s demise, but John starts to receive tutelage from a royal knight in the art of armed combat. Adopting the moniker ‘The Black Knight’, he has to save the life of the Earl of Yeonil’s daughter, Linet (Patricia Medina) – who was to be sacrificed at a Pagan ceremony at Stonehenge – and then do battle with the two conspirators.
Using a riot of colours, costumes and scenery to depict Arthurian legend, the film is part western, part action movie and part irresistible history lesson.