Sword in the Stone [1963]

Based upon T.H. White's beloved novel, this Disney-fied version chronicles the tutoring of the Once and Future King, Arthur, as handled by the magician Merlin. Sword was a portent of things to come, with slapstick upbraiding storytelling, and cultural in-jokes substituting for wonder. But there's much to enjoy here as Merlin shows Newt, the young Arthur, things that will help him become the ruler of the Britons. The transformation sequences, where the boy is turned into a fish, a bird, and a squirrel are vintage Disney. The oft-repeated scene of Merlin battling it out with the mean old Madame Mim still is worth a few chuckles, but it belies the problem with most of the film--the scenes are only there for the chuckles. References by Merlin to television and other items of modern life also mar the generally innocuous landscape. Children will like it, but they won't cherish it. --Keith Simanton

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