Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Sword in the Stone


The Sword in the Stone is Walt Disney's 18th animated feature, and was the last one to be released before the death of the great man himself in 1966. The film is based on T.H. White's novel of the same title, released in 1938.

The brief prologue shows the King of England who has no heir dying, and to choose a new King a sword is stabbed into a stone in a small courtyard in London. It is written on the sword that whoever can remove it from the stone will be crowned King. Many try and none succeed, so England is left Kingless and the stone stays forgotten.
The main strand of the film is set some years later and follows 12-year-old Arthur (Rickie Sorenson, Richard Reitherman and Robert Reitherman), a.k.a. Wart, who lives in a castle with his foster father Sir Ector (Sebastian Cabot), and Ector's brutish son Kay (Norman Alden). Venturing into the forest one day he meets magician Merlin (Karl Swenson) and his sharp-beaked pet owl Archimedes (Junius Matthews). Merlin is horrified to learn Arthur is illiterate and promises to educate him. He goes to stay at the castle and he takes Arthur on a number of memorable adventures - including turning them into squirrels so they can go through the trees, fish so they can explore the moat, and turning Arthur into a sparrow so he can explore from the skies with Archimedes - all of which lead Arthur to the sword in the stone where he discovers his destiny.

First, let's go over the highlights/good points of the film...
There is some excellent comedy in the film, just like a good Disney film should feature. Merlin's eccentricities and use of magic to sort out anything and everything will really make you laugh, due to the quirkiness and fast pace of it. Archimedes is just as funny, as you never think of an owl with a short temper and a bit of an attitude and the way he berates the humans and considers himself superior to Merlin in every way is excellent comic writing Bill Peet's (who adapted the source material) part. There is also some great comedy from the moronic Kay's failing attempts to master jousting and swordfighting. This is a great example of humour coming from irony as Ector is constantly maintaining that Kay will get there, despite the fact that Ector is a knight himself, and Kay (his adult son) should know how to fight and joust by now. The most memorable moment, arguably, is a showdown between Merlin and witch Madame Mim (Martha Wentworth), where they battle each other by turning into animals. The pace and timing of their transformations makes great comedy, and it is a well designed sequence. However, it builds up to an anti-climax when Merlin transforms into a virus and gives Mim measles, and after such an enjoyable battle you are hoping for a massive, hilarious ending to the fight, whereas this one really makes your face fall.

Now for the downsides of the film...
Arthur - the film is about Arthur, who became a legendary King of England, yet he is the only character with an American accent. Although almost the entire cast was American they all used a British accent, except for the main character - bad decision. To top that his voice changes thanks to the three different youths they hired to voice Arthur, and it's noticeable. The other problem with the film is that every event moves too quickly, which could make it hard to keep up with, particularly for younger viewers. The film lasts just under 80 minutes and it is clear that the writers were intending to make it that short and just cram the action, where as a lot of sequences would (probably/hopefully) have been a lot more memorable had they paced them out and made the overall film at least 20 minutes longer.

However, the film is, all in all, an enjoyable and entertaining adventure that will satisfy both adults and children.

Rickie Sorenson, Richard Reitherman, Robert Reitherman, Karl Swenson, Junius Matthews, Sebastian Cabot, Norman Alden, Martha Wentworth, Alan Napier, Thurl Ravenscroft, James MacDonald, Ginny Tyler.

Oscar nomination: Best Original Score (George Bruns).

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