Follow TV Tropes


Film / Knights of the Round Table

Go To

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 version of the Arthurian Legend, 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 The Adventures of 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:

  • Adaptational Mundanity: Most of the magical elements are all removed. Merlin is just a royal advisor/spymaster who's poisoned instead of the powerful wizard imprisoned in a cave or tree. Morgan is an ambitious woman rather than a Witch-Queen. However the Sword in the Stone still plays an important role and the Holy Grail appears in a vision.
  • Adapted Out: Sir Tristan, although Mark of Cornwall shows up as one of the rebel kings. The Lady of the Lake is also cut.
  • Anachronism Stew: Like most literary and movie depictions (until King Arthur (2004) that is), Arthurian 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...
  • Arrows on Fire: In battle against the Picts, Lancelot has his men launch flaming arrows. They ignite the grass and make a wildfire that greatly disrupts the Picts.
  • 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.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The main thrust of Arthur and Morgan's claims to the throne of Britain. Arthur is Uther's only son but is illegitimate, Morgan is Uther's legitimate child but as a woman cannot inherit in her own right and her husband would take the throne. Neither contender has a strong enough advantage which is why they resort to other means of reinforcing their respective claims.
  • Composite Character:
    • Merlin takes Sir Ector's role as Arthur's foster-father.
    • Elaine here composites Elaine of Corbenic the mother of Galahad, the name of Elaine of Astolat, and Percival's sister Dindrane.
    • Mordred seems to be a mix between Morgan's husband King Urien and the original Mordred.
    • Niall Macginnis' character is referred to as the Green Knight, but has more in common with Sir Turquine as the guy hanging knight's shields in a tree or Sir Melligrance as the guy who kidnaps Guinevere.
    • Lancelot's takes over Arthur's role as the one who kills Mordred and Bedivere's as the knight who throws Excalibur into the water.
  • Death by Childbirth: Elaine dies off-screen giving birth to Lancelot's son, Galahad.
  • 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.
  • Demoted to Extra: Bedivere, Vivian, and Galahad.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Mordred and Arthur usually go out in a mutual kill at Camlann. Here Mordred survives only to be killed by Lancelot afterwards.
  • Duel to the Death: Lancelot challenges Mordred in a duel to the death to avenge the death of King Arthur in the climax.
  • Excalibur in the Stone: Excalibur 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.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Elaine of Corbenic is made Percival's sister, making Percival Galahad's uncle.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Here Gawain and Gareth escape death at Lancelot's hands.
  • 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).
  • Those Two Guys: Gawain and Gareth are always seen together.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: Due to the censors, Mordred is transformed from being Arthur's illegitimate son (via incest) to Morgan Le Fay's husband. Bizarrely, the earliest version of Mordred was not even related to Arthur in the original legends, making this some form of Revisiting the Roots.
    • Its unclear if Gawain, Gareth, and Agravaine are brothers or not here. It also unclear if they're related to Arthur at all.
    • Likewise if Sir Lionel and Sir Ector are related to Lancelot. Ector might be Ector De Maris, Lancelot's half-brother or the Ector who was Arthur's guardian.
  • William Telling: Gawain tries to shoot an apple off a man's head, but the man is forced to move or else the arrow would have hit him in the face. Lancelot takes his turn and hits the arrow.
  • Ye Goode Olde Days: No dirty peasants or smelly knights to be seen here. The film is closer to a Chivalric Romance and full to the brim with bright colors, either on the knights' armors or on their horses.