Time has been an ally to Joshua Logan’s 1967 film adaptation of the classic Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical. Considered by many to be old-fashioned and even anachronistic when it was first released, it now plays as relevant and often inventive.
What many people fail to consider is that "Camelot" combines a political drama with the psychological dissection of a disastrous love triangle. The idealist King Arthur seeks to create a new democratic order via his Round Table and mantra of "might for right" (as opposed to the "might makes right" notion that was - and still is - more prevalent). But Arthur, not unlike many starry-eyed political scientists, fails to secure the bridge between concept and reality, and his plan is sabotaged from without and within.
Running parallel to this, and ultimately overlapping and submerging the political aspects, is the marriage between Arthur and Guenevere. It is never quite a union of equal emotions - his love for her is constantly stronger than her emotion for him - and the marriage is strained by Arthur’s advocacy for the French knight Lancelot, who becomes the king’s most trusted ally. Guenevere’s initial hostility to Lancelot changes gradually and then radically, to the point that the queen and the knight engage in an affair that becomes the worst kept secret in the kingdom. Aware of the betrayal, Arthur vainly hopes for a natural resolution that never arrives. Guenevere and Lancelot are also anguished - though never quite enough to abstain from their affair.
Logan wisely sought to fuel the film by casting leads that were primarily known for their aggressive dramatic performances. Richard Harris’ Arthur and Vanessa Redgrave’s Guenevere brilliantly capture the royal couple’s rage of emotions, and the slow destruction of their union becomes more powerful by their ability to plumb the emotional depths of the situation. And, as luck would have it, they manage to carry off their melodic duties without creating any embarrassment.
Not quite at the same level as Harris and Redgrave is Franco Nero as Lancelot. He has the right look for role, even if his Italian accent did not quite mesh with the character’s French roots, but Logan’s direction leaves him adrift as appealing eye candy rather than a flesh-and-blood creation. (Gene Merlino dubbed Nero’s songs.)
But don’t think of "Camelot" as a dark and heavy work. The production imagines the Arthurian court with splendor and style, and one scene in particular - Arthur and Guenevere’s wedding march through a hall of candles - is among the most visually enchanting visions put on screen. This Blu-ray presentation presents the film at its most lustrous.
$39.95, 179 minutes