Ivanhoe [DVD] [1952]

Richard Thorpe's Ivanhoe (1952) is the most beloved of Hollywood's '50s medieval swashbucklers, easily outstripping Knights of the Round Table (also made by MGM) and Universal's The Black Shield of Falworth, among other tales of knights in armor. With a cast that embodied the phrase "all star," including Robert Taylor (convincingly grim but never dull), Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Finlay Currie, and Emlyn Williams, superb supporting players including Robert Douglas, Felix Aylmer, Norman Wooland, and Guy Rolfe, and the biggest budget for any costume epic (apart from Gone With the Wind) in a quarter century, the movie represented perhaps the peak of the postwar Hollywood studio system's ability to generate spectacle; it's helped by a great story and a better script, into which this cast fit perfectly. The DVD doesn't give the movie as grand a treatment as one would have hoped or expected -- this film begs for a commentary track, and there is none. At the least, Ivanhoe invites a documentary about its making, and that's also absent. What there is, however, is one of the most beautiful Technicolor transfers seen on DVD up to this date. The laserdisc of Ivanhoe, released in the late '80s, looked very good, but this DVD runs circles around it for detail -- the skin textures are visible even in the medium shots, and the first time we see George Sanders in close-up in chain-mail, every tiny link can be seen in high-relief. In contrast to pre-World War II Technicolor, the images look realistic, which is as it should be in this movie, which has more of a veneer of realism in its script than almost any other movie of its kind; a couple of shots of Elizabeth Taylor fall slightly short, but those few seconds don't mar the overall experience of watching this disc. The audio levels, including Miklos Rozsa's score, have been set at a healthy level, and the 107-minute feature has been given a generous 27 chapters. There are original trailers for this and two other movies, Scaramouche and Knights of the Round Table -- the Ivanhoe trailer looks as good as the old laserdisc and better than old TV prints of this picture did; the Knights of the Round Table trailer is, like the movie itself, in CinemaScope and is rather peculiar in that it has no scenes from the movie for its first minute but rather an extended crawl over medieval emblems. As an added bonus feature, the producers have included the 1952 Oscar-winning Tom & Jerry cartoon "The Two Mouseketeers" (which is in even better shape than the main feature). English and French dialogue tracks are also available, as are subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. The disc opens to an easy-to-use multi-layer menu, offering simple access to all of these features.
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Special Features

  • Oscar-winning Tom and Jerry cartoon Two Mouseketeers
  • Swashbuckler movie trailer gallery
  • Languages: English and Français
  • Subtitles: English, Français, and Español
  • Closed Captioned


Produced by MGM's British facilities, the Technicolor Ivanhoe starred Robert Taylor in the title role. Returning to England from the Third Crusades, Ivanhoe is given a cool but cordial reception by his estranged father Cedric (Finlay Currie), a Saxon who despises the Norman king Richard the Lionhearted. Cedric introduces Ivanhoe's fellow knights De Bois-Guilbert (George Sanders) and Sir Hugh de Bracy (Robert Douglas) to Cedric's lovely ward Rowena (Joan Fontaine), who was in love with Ivanhoe until he cast his lot with Richard. Leaving his father's castle, Ivanhoe rescues Isaac (Felix Aylmer), a wealthy Jew, from a band of anti-Semitic Normans. In gratitude, Isaac's beautiful daughter Rebecca (Elizabeth Taylor) finances Ivanhoe's entry into an upcoming tournament; he'd been denied backing by his father because he'd planned to use the prize money to ransom the captured King Richard. At the tournament, the disguised Ivanhoe vanquishes all comers, dedicating his victory to Rebecca, which causes a gust of bigoted gossip from the crowd. Behind the scenes, Richard's wicked brother Prince John (Guy Rolfe) plots to discredit Ivanhoe so that the ransom can never be paid. Joining John in this conspiracy is De Bois-Guilbert, who covets Rebecca, and Sir Hugh, who wants to make Rowena his own. After several thrilling adventures and villainous double-crosses, Rebecca is kidnapped and tried as a witch, the better to bring Ivanhoe out in the open and dispose of him once and for all. But the deux-ex-machina appearance by King Richard (Norman Wooland) and the assistance of loyal "outlaw" Robin Hood (Harold Warrender) brings the bad guys to heel and clears the path for a happy ending. Lensed on an epic scale, this adaptation of the Sir Walter Scott classic remains one of MGM's most solid swashbucklers. The property was remade for television in 1982, with Anthony Andrews in the title role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Robert Taylor
    Robert Taylor - Ivanhoe
  • Elizabeth Taylor
    Elizabeth Taylor - Rebecca
  • Joan Fontaine
    Joan Fontaine - Lady Rowena
  • George Sanders
    George Sanders - Sir Brian Bois-de-Guilbert
  • Emlyn Williams
    Emlyn Williams - Wamba (Ivanhoe's squire)
Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.