Knights of the Round Table is a 1953 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film directed by Richard Thorpe - the studio's first production in Cinemascope. It was inspired by Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and starred Robert Taylor as Sir Lancelot, Ava Gardner as Queen Guinevere, Mel Ferrer as King Arthur Pendragon, Anne Crawford as Morgan Le Fay, Stanley Baker as Mordred and Felix Aylmer as Merlin.
The film is part of a Thematic Series with 1952's Ivanhoe and 1955's Quentin Durward (which were also produced by MGM and directed by Richard Thorpe, and also starred Robert Taylor), with a similar chivalric spirit and tone and similarly lavish production values. All three were filmed at MGM's British Studios at Elstree, near London.
Knights of the Round Table provides examples of:
- Anachronism Stew: Like most literary and movie depictions (until 2004's King Arthur that is), Arthurians myths are portrayed with Late Middle Ages clothes, armors, weapons, Jousting Lances, English language and stone castles. The real trouble starts when the story is said to take place right after the end of Roman Britannia (circa 410 AD), right at the beginning...
- BFS: Lancelot and Arthur use huge longswords in their duel the first time they meet.
- Bittersweet Ending: Even though he is avenged by Lancelot eventually, Arthur dies.
- Decapitation Presentation: Amidst the battle, Mordred lifts a head on a spike, proclaiming it as Arthur's and saying the day is his. Then Arthur lifts his visor and proclaims he still lives, and that the day is his instead.
- Duel to the Death: Lancelot challenges Mordred in a duel to the death to avenge the death of King Arthur in the climax.
- Excalibur: The sword is stuck in an anvil at the beginning of the film. Whosoever can pull it out of the anvil becomes the legitimate king. Mordred can't pull it, then Arthur does effortlessly. That part falls into Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane territory, as no magic is shown in the film otherwise.
- Honor Before Reason: Lancelot lives and breathes through this.
- Knight in Shining Armor: This film's Lancelot is a textbook example. He lives by Honor Before Reason, seeks to correct wrongs wherever he sees them and despises fighting dirty.
- Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Before they know each other's identity, Arthur and Lancelot have a honorable duel in which they salute before beginning, and when Arthur's sword gets stuck in a tree, Lancelot doesn't strike and helps him get it out of the tree instead. Likewise, when Arthur disarms Lancelot, he throws the sword back in Lancelot's hands.
- Literal Ass-Kicking: When finishing the fight against the knights who were about to ambush Arthur on Mordred's orders, Lancelot stings the butt of the last standing enemy with his sword.
- Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: When Arthur reveals he is still alive amidst the battle, one of Mordred's men shoots an arrow at him. Lancelot steps in and deflects it with his shield.
- Quicksand Sucks: Mordred has a pond of quicksand down the cliff his castle stands on. He has a turncoat soldier who told him where to find Arthur thrown in it at one point, and Lancelot falls in it as well at the end of the Duel to the Death against Mordred. Lancelot is then saved by his horse.
- Taking You with Me: Mordred attempts this when Lancelot fatally stabs him during their duel, throwing Lancelot down the cliff into the quicksand pond. Luckily for Lancelot, his horse obeys orders perfectly and drags him out of it.
- Thematic Series: The second medieval epic in glorious Technicolor directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Robert Taylor as The Hero, after Ivanhoe (1952) and before The Adventures of Quentin Durward (1955).
- Ye Goode Olde Days: No dirty peasants or smelly knights to be seen here. The film is full to the brim with bright colors, either on the knights' armors or on their horses.