Prince Valiant review (Blu-ray)

Henry Hathaway was never really much of a director, let's be honest. He focused mainly on action films that were average at best, sans a few exceptions like the flame-throwing Richard Burton vehicle Raid on Rommel, which I still enjoy to this day as a fun little desert rats movie, but still, he wasn't overly impressive in his career, and with efforts like Prince Valiant, you can see why. Though he is not entirely at fault as he had to work with a terrible script somehow penned by an Oscar winner, and direct a couple of actors who give the worst performances of their lives: namely Sterling Hayden.

Based on Hal Foster's comic strip, Prince Valiant is about a young Viking prince who seeks to become one of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, after traveling to Camelot from his native Scandia when his father is removed from the throne by a pagen who has no business taking his place. Meanwhile, the illegitimate Viking king is plotting with a mysterious Black Knight to overthrow King Arthur.

Although it has the eye candy of Janet Leigh and Debra Paget, the film is a bit of bore. It's slow and nothing particularly exciting happens until after the first hour clocks in. It's book-ended by a pretty impressive battle at a castle and a duel between Valiant and the Black Knight, who is revealed to be someone all too close to Arthur, but other than that it's a flat movie. There isn't enough action for it to simply be a fun film and it's all too serious—at least it tries to be, following a monstrosity of a script.

You'd expect more from the cast given that Academy Award winner (and annoying-voiced) James Mason has a pivotal role. He's fine, but his performance isn't anything impressive or to standard. As for Robert Wagner as Valiant in a silly jet black wig, he's bearable, but not much more than a pretty face here in his youth. I already touched upon Sterling Hayden's role as Sir Gawaine, and that's all I'm willing to do as it is such a brutally atrocious performance. The characters are mostly British but are portrayed by a mix of Brits and Americans, and those from across the pond do not even bother to put on an accent, so you end up laughing at the ineptitude of the realism intended in the dialogue. There's nothing worse than an American uttering "Aye".

I can't recommend enough that you get the DVD over the Blu-ray. The hi-def transfer is horrendous. The print used for the remaster must have been in extremely bad condition as only the exterior daytime scenes look fairly decent, but other than that there is absolutely no reason why you should fork out the extra when there are zero pros to getting this release.

EXTRAS None.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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