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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Caught on Tape: Richard I, The Lionheart

I noticed recently that the majority of my Caught on Tape posts have featured women; so I

decided that this installment would have to be a man. I really liked looking at Richard I of England, the Lionheart, because I can divide his film life into three distinct categories: those focusing on the family battle with his father, Henry II; those focusing on the Crusade; and those that include Richard in the Robin Hood story. Instead of organizing this post around the chronology of film production, I’m actually going to arrange it more with an eye toward these themes.

The Battle for the Heir

This is an element of Richard’s history that I am less familiar with than his Crusading history. This is where we really see conflict between Henry II and his wife Eleanor.

The Lion in Winter (1968)
Based on the Broadway play: 1183 AD: King Henry II's three sons all want to inherit the throne, but he won't commit to a choice. They and his wife variously plot to force him.
This film features the great Anthony Hopkins as Richard in his first film role. So there is reason to watch this film for that reason alone. It also stars Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor and Peter O’Toole as Henry II – two other film greats as part of this cast. This is one of those films that I have had many people recommend or ask me about and I haven’t seen it! It is in my movie queue though. This film was remade in the 1980’s I believe in a television format, but I have heard that this is the version to watch. In the film clip below, Richard is having a conversation with Phillip II of France. I have always found Hopkins to have stilted performances and he is not a personal favorite of mine.

Richard the Lionheart (2013), and sequel, Richard the Lionheart: Rebellion (2015)

Richard the Lionheart:
King Henry II tests the loyalty and honor of his son Richard sending him to a hellish prison. In prison Richard must fight against adversaries representing the virtues of a knight.

The year is 1173. England and France are at war. The destiny of the two great powers has never been so intertwined. As King Henry's wife, Queen Eleanor, is captured and imprisoned by the king himself, Richard and his brothers lead the fight against their father in a heartless war. Allegiances shift with each victory or defeat as the destinies of England and France keep swaying in a delicate balance.

I’m lumping these two films together because I can’t get a really good read on them. The first film description doesn’t feel at all based on history (please someone correct me if I’m wrong), but instead feels like a fantasy adaptation that is just loosely based on history. The second film sounds much more historically based. But I did find it interesting that they released a sequel. I had never heard of either of these and they are very recently released. In both films, Richard is portrayed by Greg Chandler Maness – another unknown to me. I’m including both clips below – let me know what kind of read you get on these – I’m truly curious!

The Crusading Years

These are the times that I always find most interesting. It can occasionally overlap with the Robin Hood stories, entirely dependent on which direction they drive Robin Hood. The Crusades took up a significant portion of Richard’s kingship and lead to his death, so there are some great potential cinematic moments.

The Crusades (1935)
Mostly taking elements from the Third Crusade, King Richard the Lionheart is enlisted in a crusade to bring Jerusalem back into Christian hands in order to get out of a betrothal with Princess Alice of France. En route, Richard meets Berengaria, Princess of Navarre and marries her in exchange for food for his men. During the Crusaders' attempts to get past the walls of Acre, Berengaria is captured by the Muslim Sultan Saladin and he brings her back to Jerusalem and attempts to woo her. Eventually, the Crusaders make their way to Jerusalem and after many battles Saladin declares a truce and Richard agrees. Berengaria and Richard fall in love and all the gates of Jerusalem are opened.
The films of the 1930s and 1940s are well known for their expansive battle and war stories and their focus more on the story being told than necessarily on the historical accuracy. This film is directed by the great Cecile B deMille and stars Henry Wilcoxson as Richard. This appears to be one of those epic war and love stories, but everything I have ever read doesn’t suggest that Richard and Berengaria’s marriage was a love match. This is certainly one of those I am planning on watching. The scene I chose below is from one of the great climatic moments, it doesn’t include Berengaria, but is instead the siege of Acre. I felt that would have been more important to Richard’s character.

Robin Hood

Robin Hood is an interesting tale that tends to be centered historically during the rule of Richard I and Prince John. Some films focus on this element more than others.

Robin Hood (2010)
In 12th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power.
Now this is a film that I have seen! Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and King Richard as Danny Huston, this film received a wide release in 2010. This is one of those Robin Hood films that doesn’t fall into the typical story of stealing from the rich to give to the poor; it focuses on Robin Hood before he became that hero. It follows his years as a part of Richard’s army on Crusade. I felt that Crowes portrayal here was strong.

My full review can be found here.

Robin Hood (2006) – BBC TV Series (particularly Season 2 - 2007)
The BBC series based on the traditional retellings of the Robin Hood tale.
This one is a little difficult to get into here, as it is more of a specific episode that features King Richard rather than him being a regularly recurring character throughout the series – although he is much discussed throughout. During the majority of the show Richard is on Crusade and we do finally see him in the finale episode of Season 2 titled, We Are Robin Hood!. During this episode the majority of the cast somehow ends up in Acre and treachery ensues. Richard is played by Steven Waddington and I didn’t find his portrayal especially compelling.

Overall I really enjoyed the show and some of the liberties they took. While I haven’t seen Season 3, the final season, I have reviewed both Season 1 and Season 2.

Now I’m going to give a spoiler warning before you watch this clip. The only clip I could find of this episode is the entire second half of the episode AND it is the season finale episode – so if you are watching the series or hope to watch it, maybe don’t watch the whole episode. You can watch the 11 minute to 13 minute mark which doesn’t give much away.

So what films have you seen and which part of Richard’s life do you like to see on the screen? I’m particularly partial to the Robin Hood films.

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