Excalibur [DVD] [1981]

One thing that can be said about Warner Bros.' DVD library is that it's consistent; their discs rarely contain more than filmographies and a theatrical trailer or two. Fortunately, there are exceptions to that rule, and apparently someone within the studio saw fit to make John Boorman's epic retelling of the Arthurian legend one of those exceptions. The major addition here comes in the form of a commentary track by director Boorman, whose monologue is refreshingly insightful at a time when many commentaries are used up with friendly yet ultimately meaningless banter. Also featured are, as usual, the theatrical trailer, scene selections, and a cast and crew section that curiously contains only information on Boorman himself. Fans of the film who have until now only seen it on VHS will be amazed at the clarity of the audio mix. The soundtrack has been remixed into a digital 5.1 presentation that makes the best of its limited source material and manages to separate nicely. There is a prominent bass track which was certainly not present in previous incarnations of the film and which adds a great deal of weight and authenticity to the many elaborate battle scenes. The film has never looked so good; almost every instance of film grain has been removed and the colors, particularly the flesh tones, are well balanced. The picture is presented in a non-anamorphic letterboxed format at 1.85:1. Overall, Boorman's insightful commentary alone, not to mention the outstanding audio and video quality, makes this disc well worth owning.
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Ratings & Reviews

Overall Customer Rating:
Rating 4.45 out of 5 stars.
91% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (92 out of 102)

Special Features

  • Feature-length audio commentary by director John Boorman
  • Interactive menus
  • Production notes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Scene access
  • Languages and subtitles: English and Français


John Boorman directed this gloriously savage interpretation of Arthurian legend loosely based on Thomas Malory's novel Le Morte d'Arthur. By turns gleaming and filthy, tender and bloody, the film is a visually stunning epic which is never less than compelling. Nigel Terry is perfectly cast as Arthur, whose unwavering trust and faith are shown to be both quietly heroic and achingly naïve. Interestingly, the quest for the Grail is the least effective part of the film, despite bold cinematography by Alex Thomson (who was nominated for an Oscar) and a fine performance by Paul Geoffrey as Perceval, whose greatest desire is attained in his dying sight. It is the scenes of Camelot in which Boorman is at his most effective, as Arthur is betrayed by the burning passions of Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi) and Lancelot (Nicholas Clay), whose boiling internal forces cannot be denied, whatever the cost. The wicked Mordred (Robert Addie) and Morgana (Helen Mirren) are commanding when onscreen, and Nicol Williamson's performance as the grandiosely self-sacrificing Merlin is outstanding. Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart also appear in this dense, passionate, and stirring triumph featuring a marvelous Trevor Jones score. The gruesome effects by Peter Hutchinson and Alan Whibley, however, and sights such as a knight having sex in full body armor make this a fairy tale strictly for adults. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Nigel Terry
    Nigel Terry - King Arthur
  • Nicol Williamson
    Nicol Williamson - Merlin
  • Nicholas Clay
    Nicholas Clay - Lancelot
  • Helen Mirren
    Helen Mirren - Morgana
  • Cherie Lunghi
    Cherie Lunghi - Guenevere

Overall Customer Rating

91%of customers recommend this product.

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