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It is a dark age and the land is without a true king. Two great lords, Uther Pendragon and the Duke of Cornwall, fight for dominance. Uther is aided by the shadowy enchanter Merlin, who gives him Excalibur, the "sword of power", which he takes from a female hand rising from a lake. Merlin arranges a truce between the two rivals, where Cornwall yields to Uther, who is proclaimed king. The peace lasts only a short time, as Uther develops a mad lust for Igrayne, Cornwall's wife. Uther is soon besieging Cornwall's castle to get at Igrayne. Merlin uses his magic to aid Uther's desires - after Uther swears that "what issues" from his lust would be Merlin's. Uther, magically given Cornwall's appearance, enters the castle and beds Igrayne. Meanwhile, Cornwall attacks Uther's camp and is killed in battle. After Cornwall's death, Uther takes Igrayne and Cornwall's other possessions. Igrayne bears him a son, Arthur. Merlin arrives to press his claim to the boy, however. Uther, regretting his oath, pursues Merlin into the forest, but is ambushed. He is mortally wounded, but before he dies he thrusts Excalibur into a rock. "He who draws the sword from the stone, he shall be king" Merlin exclaims.

Some years later, Sir Ector and his sons Kay and Arthur go to a tournament in that forest, where the winner gets a shot at pulling Excalibur out of the rock. Arthur, much to the amazement of the various Knights present, pulls Excalibur out of the rock accidentally (and can put it back in). Sir Ector reveals that he adopted him at Merlin's bidding. Merlin suddenly appears and tells Arthur of his true parentage, and that he is King. Arthur is acclaimed by some as their true King; however, many jealous nobles such as Lot and Uryens reject him. Arthur comes to the aid of Leondegrance, whose castle is under siege by the rebels. He wins the respect and fealty of all of them in combat. At the victory celebration, he meets Guenevere, Leondegrance's daughter, whom he marries. Some years later, Arthur meets and fights a duel with Lancelot, "the best knight in Christendom." Angry at being unable to win against the knight, Arthur uses Excaliber's power to defeat Lancelot, but breaks the magic sword as a result. He flings the broken sword into a nearby pool, and it is magically restored and returned to him when he repents of his actions against Lancelot. Lancelot, in turn, becomes Arthur's closest friend and supporter.

Eventually, Arthur finally unifies the land under his rule. He institutes the fellowship of the Round Table and builds Camelot, his castle. Morgana, Arthur's half-sister, shows herself to be a budding sorceress. Perceval, a peasant boy, manages to impress Lancelot with his sincerity and is taken to Camelot to be Lancelot's squire. Things are not going well in Camelot, however. Morgana is sowing the seeds of discontent, while Lancelot and Guenevere secretly develop feelings for each other. Sir Gawain eventually accuses Lancelot of having an attraction to the Queen. Lancelot must defend her honor, but has injured himself in a nightmare and does not arrive. Percival is willing to risk his life instead, and Arthur immediately knights him. Just before Percival and Gawain square off, Lancelot shows up. He manages to defeat Gawain, who recants his accusation. But Lancelot is still troubled in his heart. Ultimately, Lancelot and Guenevere consummate their lust, and Arthur catches them in the forest, in each other's arms asleep. He almost kills the two lovers, but instead drives Excalibur into the ground between them and leaves. As this is happening, Morgana is able to trick Merlin into revealing the words of power which will allow her to exact her revenge. She then uses her new powers to encase Merlin in crystal and trick Arthur into making love to her. The offspring of this union is the evil Mordred. Lancelot flees, and Guenevere enters a convent. After these horrific events, a broken Arthur sends his knights on a quest for the Grail, which will make him and the land whole again. Meanwhile England suffers failed harvests and despair is everywhere. Years pass. Many knights die on the quest; others Morgana bewitches, to serve her and her son.

After many adventures, and a run-in with Mordred and Morgana, it is Sir Percival to finally wins the Grail. A dis-spirited Arthur drinks from the cup and is revitalized. "I never knew how empty was my soul, until it was filled" he exclaims. He and his remaining knights ride to war against Mordred and Morgana. As they ride, the long-barren land bursts into life; it is reborn with its King. Arthur goes to Guenevere's convent, where they are reconciled. Guenevere then gives Arthur Excalibur, which she has kept safe all these years. Reunited with his sword of power, Arthur and his army ride towards the battlefield and the day of reckoning. They find out that almost all of the nobles of the land have rallied to Mordred and Morgana. Though enclosed in Morgana's crystal, Merlin is able to assist Arthur. He comes to the King in a dream and gives words of encouragement. Merlin also is able to trick the sleeping Morgana into uttering the 'Charm of Making' which she had stolen from him. In doing so, she creates a thick fog and also loses her illusion of youth and beauty. Mordred kills her in disgust as the now-haggard sorceress tries to embrace him. The day of destiny comes. Arthur uses the fog to hide his much smaller army and is able to spread confusion among his foes. They also lack the support and magic of Morgana. Only Mordred is left, and he plunges a spear into Arthur's chest. Arthur then fatally wounds Mordred with Excalibur. As Arthur lays dying, he asks Perceval to throw Excalibur in a pool of calm water. Arthur tells him that someday, another king will come, and Excalibur will rise again. As Perceval finally discards the sword, the hand clad in samite catches it and takes it under. When Perceval returns, Arthur is gone. Gazing from a distance, he sees Arthur lying in a boat attended by ladies clad in white, which soon sails out of sight.

Starring ... Nigel Terry, Nicol Williamson, Helen Mirren, Gabriel Byrne,
Cherie Lunghi

Director: John Boorman

Producer: John Boorman


Year Released - April 1981

Length - 140 minutes

Music Composer: Trevor Jones

Movie Distributed by Orion Pictures



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