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Friday, November 16, 2012

CAMELOT (1967)

Jack Warner’s final film at his home studio was this immense, lumbering musical that didn’t please anyone. He’d bet big (and won big) on Lerner & Loewe’s MY FAIR LADY/’64, but this show had been nothing but trouble. (See Alan Jay Lerner’s ON THE STREET WHERE I LIVE.) Hiring film-phobic Joshua Logan to direct only made things worse and, while the film has some lovely things in it, none of the pieces go together. It’s a stylistic nightmare right from the start when Richard Harris’s pasty-faced Arthur sings his intro song between finicky jump-cuts while Vanessa Redgrave’s Guinevere grooms a fur coat right out of Carnaby Street. At least, the ridiculously handsome Franco Nero gets a dashing number as Lancelot, riding in stages from France to Camelot to the verses of C’EST MOI. It’s the film’s one happy moment, a lively glance from Lerner-the-lyricist toward his favorite film musical, LOVE ME TONIGHT/’32 from Rodgers & Hart and helmer Rouben Mamoulian. That’s the director who might have pulled this off, instead we get the inert film staging of Josh Logan. You don’t expect Logan to find shots for a jousting tournament or a ride to the rescue, but even a musical roll-in-the-hay like ‘The Lusty Month of May’ leaves his poor editor helplessly repeating shots of forced merriment.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The legend of King Arthur has been filmed often, if not particularly well. Those with a tolerance for Wagner, Flower Power, magic & communes should try John Boorman’s EXCALIBUR/’81.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: As mentioned above, Lerner’s B’way book is a treat.

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