Excalibur is exquisite, a near-perfect blend of action, romance, fantasy and philosophy, finely acted and beautifully filmed by director John Boorman and cinematographer Alex Thomson.
Not surprisingly, Excalibur is essentially the legend of King Arthur, embellished a bit by Boorman and coscripter Rospo Pallenberg, working from the Malory classic, Morte d’Arthur.
Filmed in timeless Irish locales, the film rests solidly on a feeling that this, indeed, must have been what life was like in the feudal ages, even as it resists bing pinned to any historical point and accepts magic and sorcery on faith.
Nicol Williamson stands out early as the wizard Merlin, at times a magician, flim-flam artist and philosopher, always interesting. The tangle of lust and betrayal that leads to Arthur’s conception, the planting of Excalibur in the stone and Arthur’s rise to Camelot after extracting it, is followed by restlessness and more dark deeds.
If Excalibur has a major fault, it’s a somewhat extended sequence of the Knights of the Round Table in search of the Grail, seemingly ill-established and overdrawn.
1981: Nomination: Best Cinematography