STUDIO: Sony Pictures
MSRP: $14.94
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes

The Pitch

Sir Walter Scott wrote a book about Knights. Let’s see if the British can make something of it. 

The Humans

James Mason, Anthony Andrews, Sam Neill, Michael Hordern and Olivia Hussey

The Nutshell

King Richard has left England to wage Holy War in Jerusalem. Prince John is busy pissing off Kevin Costner and cancelling Christmas. The brave hero Ivanhoe steps up and says that something is foul. Needless to say, Ivanhoe grabs his sword and starts stabbing the English. Sam Neill stars as Ivanhoe in this 1982 CBS tele-film. Neill was coming off his portrayal of U.S. President Damian Thorn in The Omen III: The Final Conflict. Can playing an anal sex loving demonic president prepare you to play one of the greatest English heroes? Oh wait, Anthony Andrews is playing the titular hero. It’s kind of hard to tell whose who. Take a look at the screencap below and times it by three. Everyone in this flick rocks that Bay City Rollers hairstyle and the Dollar Store costumes.

Good production value for a High School project. Shitty value for a mini-series.

The Lowdown

The Norman Knights are taking England down a peg. Prince John is too busy raping the countryside, while the Saxons feel like they have no champion. Ivanhoe returns from troubles overseas without the assistance of Azeem the Moor. He meets friends in the countryside and takes part in a tournament to prove his worth. Does it sound familiar? Does it sound similar to someone else who stalked the forests of England for a just cause?

Ivanhoe has been depicted many times onscreen. Most people remember the 1952 film starring Rod Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor. Most Americans will mistake for Robin Hood. Sure, the original tales are different, but that would require reading. Reading is the suck, as it lacks explosions and true full frontal.

I didn’t really pick up on the Heebish nature of these characters originally.

When Ivanhoe first rescues Isaac of York, there’s no attempt to expand upon Isaac’s character. The shortened run-time turns Isaac into a sugar daddy magic Jew. Ivanhoe needs new weapons for the tournament, Isaac buys them. Isaac has a hot daughter, Ivanhoe entertains her for a bit. Isaac doesn’t want to pay the asking price for Cod, Ivanhoe stops the fisherman in the chest until he comes down in price or dies. It’s a little insulting at times, but there’s so many characters thrown into the mix, that you don’t dwell that long upon Isaac.

It’s like Sting and Eric Roberts fucked.

John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover and Olivia Hussey also offer up memorable bit roles. Rhys-Davies channels his best Brian Blessed, as he offers up quips as a Norman Knight at the tournament. Julian Glover gets extended cameos at towards the end of the film, as he returns as King Richard. Then, there’s Olivia Hussey who remains one of the most underrated actresses of the last half-century. She upstages Lysette Anthony so much that you wonder who really should’ve played Lady Rowena.

It’s not like I knew where The Beast’s castle was going to appear. I was stuck inside that little porcelain prison thing.

The film isn’t a perfect adaptation. Hell, I’ve seen better stage productions from Community Theater. What makes the film work is seeing so many wonderful British actors of the time come together and try their hardest to make it work. But, the low-key production values matched by the shaky hand of a British TV Director doesn’t allow for any vision to appear onscreen. It’s just a jumbled mess of jumping from Point A to Point B while hoping nobody sees a Friar wearing a wristwatch.

Ren Faire is the suckage.

The film feels epic without really ever getting to that point. It’s a false-front packed with the highlights of the Scott tale without the smaller moments connecting the highlights. James Mason is laughable in his supporting role, while too many actors don’t get enough to build a character. Could the film have been saved? Sure, but I’m not here to judge the What Ifs. I’m here to say that you should avoid this telling.

The Package

DVD release is barebones. No special features are matched by A/V Quality that has aged poorly. There’s no big noise or edge enhancement issues. The film just looks like a cheapie shot in the early 1980s. If you can, I recommend hunting down a better version of this classic story. 

4 out of 10