Ivanhoe [1952]

This grand six-part adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's rousing adventure of the Middle Ages makes the most of its generous running time. In the course of five hours, director Stuart Orme tells the epic tale of the idealistic young knight Ivanhoe (Steven Waddington) and his battle against the evil Templar Bois-Guilbert (CiarĂ¡n Hinds, whose thoughtful performance gives his dark character a compelling dimension). Caught between the rivalries and religious struggles are Ivanhoe's betrothed Rowena (Victoria Smurfit) and the brave, beautiful Jewess healer Rebecca (Susan Lynch), who wins Ivanhoe's heart with her courage. Set against the historical backdrop of a Britain straining under the corrupt rule of Prince John while Richard the Lionhearted fights in the Crusades, director Stuart Orme makes up for a small budget (the crowd scenes are somewhat skimpy) with sweep, scale, and the lush green British countryside of verdant forests and rolling hills, where ancient castles still stand. While this production can't compete with the majesty of the gorgeous 1952 Hollywood production, Orme creates his own vision in which Merrye Olde England is grounded in earthy colors, creating a country of both sunny fields and dark, dangerous timberlands, open sunlit courts, and cramped candlelit inns. The uniformly superb cast etches vivid characters and the length allows the novel's rich array of subplots to play out (including appearances by Robin Hood and his men and the Black Knight) and slowly wind together for the exciting conclusion. --Sean Axmaker

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