Wednesday, April 20, 2011


King Arthur is really the stuff of legends.  There probably was a real King Arthur somewhere in Britain, some time ago, but the story wasn't written until long after he was dead.  By that time, writers were not particularly interested in keeping to the facts, if their story was to become popular.  I guess not much has changed in a millennium and a half.

Excalibur (1981) is one of the better Sword and Sorcerer films.  John Boorman (b. 1933) produced and directed it.  Boorman was already famous for Deliverance (1972) and Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977).

The movie starred Nigel Terry (b. 1945) as Arthur.  This was his second big film, after making The Lion in Winter in 1968.  Terry was mostly unknown in the USA, as were most of the cast.  Boorman was more interested in telling the story, rather than showcasing big stars.  This leads us to an interesting start as Bit Actors for some new stars who would become famous.

Helen Mirren (b. 1945) was in Caligula (1979) and The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu (1980), but was still relatively unknown here.  She plays Morgana (or Morgaine) the sorceress and it is interesting to see her in an early role.  She is incredibly talented, and back then she was very pretty.

Nicol Williamson (b. 1936) was a bit better known after appearing in Robin and Marian and The Seven-Percent-Solution in 1976, and The Goodbye Girl the next year.  Williamson was marvelous as Merlin who could walk on the mist.

Gabriel Byrne (b. 1950) played Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father, early in his career.  Byrne went on to have over 80 titles on IMDb, and shared the lead with Kevin Spacey (b. 1959) in The Usual Suspects (1995). 

Liam Neeson (b. 1952) shows up in his first big film.  Neeson plays Gewain, a knight of the Round Table.  No need to tell you what became of Neeson.  (Oscar for Best Actor in 1994 for Schindler's List.)

Patrick Stewart (b. 1940) was well into his acting career, but not well known here.  He plays Leondegrance, who would be Arthur's father-in-law, I believe.  Stewart would appear in Dune in 1984, but not gain real notice in the states until he left for space in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in 1987. 

In some other roles we see Corin Redgrave (1939 - 2010) who was the brother of Lynn and Venessa.  And director John Boorman's three children all appear in small roles, including his daughter Katrine Boorman (b. 1958) who played Igrayne (or Igraine), Arthur's mother.

Excalibur is a movie to see.  It is dark and violent, but beautifully lush in the way it is filmed.  It rained almost every day, so the greenery is particularly green.  Maybe not one of my favorite films (and I have a long list) but it certainly belongs in my collection.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stallone - Cobra

I must admit, I made a big mistake when I tuned in the 1986 slasher movie, Cobra, over the weekend.  I thought, it's a Stallone movie, he made Rocky in Philly, how bad could it be?  The answer is, pretty bad.

Sylvester Stallone (b. 1946) made Cobra the year after Rambo II and Rocky IV.  I guess the sequel thing should have told me to stay away.  Everybody knows that sequels are never as good as the first story.  Of course, Cobra wasn't a sequel, but maybe somehow he got stuck in sequel mode.

Cobra is about a cop who's duty is to clean up when no one else can handle the job.  There is a night slasher loose, with a gang of creeps who carry axes.  When they aren't slashing people at random, they stand on a sound stage and clink their axes together in time with the music.

Let's look for something good in the Bit Part cast.  One intended victim is Brigitte Nielsen (b. 1963).  Nielsen is a model and actress, having 32 titles listed on IMDb.  She is a good place to start because she is very pretty.  She's also a pretty good screamer, which is necessary for a slasher movie.

Her first movie was Red Sonja (1985) where she gets to fight Arnold Schwarzenegger.  It was a draw.  Her next film was, you guessed it, Rocky IV.  She was the Russian boxer's (Dolph Lundgren) wife.  She loses.  Next came Cobra and in 1987, Beverly Hills Cop II.  Oh no, another sequel.  It was all downhill from there for Brigitte. 

The lone bright spot was Stallone's sidekick, Reni Santoni (b. 1939).  A typical cop actor, Reni has 96 titles on TV and in movies.  He fit the part well, but he couldn't overcome Stallone's overacting.

Santoni was in an early TV series with George C. Scott (1927 - 1999) called "East Side, West Side" in the 1960s.  He also appeared in Dirty Harry (1971) as a police inspector.  Look for him in any number of great TV dramas and some comedies.

Let's not forget the slasher.  Brian Thompson (b. 1959) has that honor.  (Did I say, honor?)  Thompson started out in The Terminator (1984) where he played a punk in a bar.  Arnold S. took his clothes. 

In 1989 he got to play a Klingon in "Star Trek: The Next Generation."  His huge size, huge jawline and huge voice made him perfect for the part.  He would also play a Klingon in Star Trek: Generations (1994) and again in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Star Trek: Enterprise."

Thompson is not a bad actor in reality.  He has over 80 titles listed, and his range is better than you would expect for a guy who started out as a slasher and a punk.

Cobra is a movie with a message, and the message is...Beware.  I didn't want to lead you to this movie, so I put a link to Amazon for a better movie.  There will almost always be something better on TV, so please change the channel, unless it is Red Sonja which was almost as bad.  I can't believe I watched the whole thing!