Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1982) / Adventure-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG for violence
Running Time: 102 min.
Cast: Miles O'Keeffe, Sean Connery, Cyrielle Claire, Leigh Lawson, Ronald Lacey, Trevor Howard, Lila Kedrova, Wilfred Brambell, Emma Sutton, John Rhys-Davies, David Rappaport, Peter Cushing
Director: Stephen Weeks
Screenplay: Philip M. Breen, Howard C. Penn, Stephen Weeks
Review published November 25, 2004
The Golan-Globus production team tries to capitalize on the market for sword and sorcery films created by Conan the Barbarian and the "Dungeons and Dragons" games with a remake of 1973's Gawain and the Green Knight, but fumble badly by bringing in the same writers and director. If at first you don't succeed, perhaps you should put it in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing! Of course, the original was a low-budget endeavor, and in trying to adapt the epic poem to the big screen, the thinking must have been that a bigger budget would be what takes it to the next level. Quite wrong, as it turns out, as Sword of the Valiant is a laughably bad adaptation, with only Sean Connery's (Time Bandits, Highlander) supporting appearance lending any credibility or appeal.
Miles O'Keeffe, the stud actor who debuted in the critically lambasted Tarzan the Ape Man, stars as Sir Gawain, a lowly squire in King Arthur's court who just so happens to be the only brave soul who dares stand up to the task of a curious challenge, made by a mysterious but powerful stranger, The Green Knight (Connery). After a bit of trickery, The Green Knight gives Gawain one year to solve a riddle, or he'll chop off his head. Looking for answers to the enigmatic puzzle, Gawain traverses the land and encounters many dangerous situations, including jousts, swordfights, and the occasional saving of a damsel in distress.
The first thing you might notice should you be unfortunate enough to sit through Sword of the Valiant is the one thing that usually makes sword and sorcery flicks somewhat worthwhile: the horrible look and sound of the film. I'm not sure if this badly needs remastering, or if it just always looked this bad, but all of the outdoor shots look like they were filmed in murky swamplands on heavily overcast days. The indoors shots fare even worse, looking like they were shot in caves with a lack of adequate lighting. The costumes are spotty -- Connery makes for an imposing Green Knight, but Miles O'Keeffe looks laughable in his goofy blonde wig, and some of the supporting players have outfits not fit for a high school production. As bad as it looks, the worst aspect of the entire film happens to be the horrible music, scored by Ron Geeson, which is not only uninspiring, it doesn't even seem to change depending on the mood or scene.
Sword of the Valiant is a bad film, but there is a cheesy charm to it, so if you like bloated, pompous adventure tales that are quaint in their awfulness, you might want to give this quirky film a look. Outside of this, I can't think of a solitary reason why someone should subject themselves to seeing the classic poem this ineptly handled. Read the original work instead, as whatever you envision in your mind's eye has to look better than this dreck. With cinematography this bad, and fight choreography this incompetent, MGM would have done the viewing public a great service by removing the abominable score and replacing it with a laugh track.
©2000 Vince Leo