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Prince Valiant (1954) Dir. Henry Hathaway
Twentieth Century Fox
100 min. / Technicolor / 2.55:1

A young Viking prince, whose family has been deposed by tyrants for being Christian, travels to Camelot to become a knight in order to restore his father to the throne. As squire in training to Sir Gawain, Prince Valiant falls in love with the beautiful Princess Aleta and she him, although she's pledged to Gawain, who doesn't know where her heart lies. Speaking of lying, Sir Brack is a traitor to the Round Table, in mysterious league with the Black Knight, and seeks to unite with the evil Vikings and depose Arthur. It's complicated, but my GOSH, it's exciting.

Seriously, folks, I never knew an adventure film could be as rousing and fun as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), but this one comes darn close. Robert Wagner as Valiant is... is... let's just say "not good," and frankly, that haircut is stupid. That said, the rest of the cast is marvelous, particularly James Mason as the villain, Sterling Hayden(!) as Sir Gawain, and Janet Leigh and Debra Paget as the lovely ladies in court. But even BEYOND them, virtually every role is filled with a wonderful character actor, including Brian Aherne, Donald Crisp, Victor McLaglen(!), Tom Conway, Primo Carnera (well, okay, maybe he's not a "wonderful character actor"), and you can't miss Michael Rennie's voice narrating the intro, either. The stunts are great, the CinemaScope and Technicolor are beautiful, and frankly the mix on the sound on the Blu-ray (Eureka! Video in the UK but all-region) is one of the best I've ever heard, I actually felt as though I were in the middle of all the action, including a crackling fire at the climax. And a GREAT Franz Waxman score!

Million-dollar Dialog:
Val's mea culpa: "I was a fool!'
Angry Gawain: "Stop taking words out of my mouth!"

Evil Sir Brack, after being called one: "TRAITOR is a word that WINNERS give to LOSERS!"

This movie (based of course on Hal Foster's legendary comic strip) is so entertaining it's nearly impossible to believe; I simply didn't know that something this good existed without me having seen it before. Huge, colorful, thrilling, the best joust scenes in the business, the climactic sword fight matching or beating anything else I've ever seen, including the aforementioned Robin Hood... right now one of my top action, comic book, and adventure films of all time. A gem. Find the Blu-ray!
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