14th Jul2020

‘Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot’ DVD Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Richard Short, Richard Brake, Kris Johnson, Joel Phillimore, Tom Fellingham, Stella Stocker, Emily Haigh, Joe Egan, Ronan Summers, Olivia Bernstone, Stefan Boehm, Jennifer Mater, Ian Sharp, James G. Nunn, Aaron May | Written by Jonny Grant, Simon Cotton | Directed by Giles Alderson

We Brits are a fickle bunch it has to be said. When it comes to our TV shows and movies there are certain genres, tales or legends that we can never get enough of. Robin Hood for one, How many iterations do we need before we say “Okay that is quite enough”. Numerous versions of The Krays but I guarantee right now there is a little Englander sat in his office writing the next Krays movie. The story of King Arthur and Merlin is no different, countless movies and a highly successful TV show on our screens over the years, all putting their own unique slant on the lore trying to show us a different side of the legend and here we sit with another Arthur & Merlin movie. Come on up Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot step up to the plate, lets see what you got.

England is a land divided, A country without its King and a dark tyrannical force looking to take control. After five years away while fighting a war abroad King Arthur (Richard Short) and his battle scarred Knights are back home. He soon discovers that while gone he had left his throne and his Queen at the mercy of Modred (Joel Phillimore), his illegitimate son. Its time to take back his throne, his queen and his lands however he is about to come up against dark and dangerous threats from every angle. He must fight to save and preserve Camelot and all that he holds dear, whilst learning more and more about himself. Luckily he has ancient Wizard mate Merlin (Richard Brake) to guide him through his quest, Arthur must be the man this nation deserves in order to become the king that his nation needs as he embarks on a quest of self discovery.

As you can see while we are treading a familiar tale, I mean familiar in the sense that it IS a King Arthur story and he HAS a bunch of bad ass knights, there IS a Wizard called Merlin, a lady of the lake and Excalibur. However in this flick we meet Arthur at a very interesting time of his life, questioning who he is and if he is even the person to be leading his country. War has not only ravaged his country and his men but also his mind and soul, leaving him to contemplate what it was all about. Richard Short brings a great weathered and complex sort of old head performance to the role, There is sense of real internal struggle as he makes his way back to his queen to face a foe all too close to home. At first this was a performance that I just wasn’t feeling and had me wondering why this guy in this role but as the story unfolds and you begin to see the scars of battle have taken their toll, it becomes apparent what Short is doing here and I became a fan.

Second billed Richard Brake, as the titular Merlin, is superb. Though he’s not in the movie enough for me because I am of the opinion if you have Richard Brake you bloody well use Richard Brake. Now I don’t know if this is a budget thing and they only had a short time with him but it did make me think “Why Arthur and Merlin then?” Having said that, Brake is superb in his limited time on screen, he delivers some grand dialogue as only he can and he absolutely makes an impression in the role. [Side Note: it was cool to see the man step out of his wheelhouse and give us something very very different to what we are used to]

No Arthur movie would be complete without his knights and here we have a cracking cast of guys who all seem to slot into their roles beautifully, all bringing something very different to their respective roles. Tom Fellingham as Lancelot close friend and advisor to Arthur plays off Short with some decent chemistry and witty banter. Big shout out to Kris Johnson who I have raved about before for other performances. Johnson is absolutely an actor we should all be keeping an eye on and he brings the muscle of the crew as a jacked up Bedevere just as menacing swinging his head at people as he is swinging a sword, but there were also moments of heart for the character willing to lay it all down for his King. I have seen a lot of behind the scenes photos off the knights out drinking and just playing around on set and this chemistry shows on screen big time.

Ah, Joel Phillimore… One thing we Brits love in our movies is a world class sh*t bag. One thing we Brits are great at playing in our movies is a world class sh*t bag. Joel Phillimore is one such sh*t bag as Modred, the son of Arthur and self proclaimed King. This role could so easily have been a big old joint of ham but Phillimore strikes the exact balance of creepy pervert and whiny brat. Often using a less is more approach to the scene that just oozed on screen. No spoilers here but watch out for the scene when he just sits down on the throne for the first time to see how it fits, this is an actor who can say everything without saying anything right here… Smashed it. Phillimore shares most of his screen time with Stella Stocker, as Guinevere, and together the two were dynamite. Cheeky little mention for Emily Haigh who turns up as the Lady in the Lake and why not? the lass is a cracking actress and rapidly making a name for herself.

Now… Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot is not a perfect movie by any stretch (if there is one out there, show me) but director Giles Alderson has done a great job of bringing us a fresh take on the Arthur and Merlin tale. I loved the use of natural lighting here because, yes, this movie was shot in Wales – where it most likely rained every day but that’s the country we live in and it lends itself to the gritty dark aspect of the movie… which is perfect. The script has one or two moments of “eh?” but any cracks are paved over with solid performances. Everyone involved should be proud of this flick and what they have accomplished on what I’m going to guess was a tight budget; making this a movie you should absolutely give your attention too. Will it be everyone’s cup of tea? No of course it won’t but hey what is?. I look forward to checking out Alderson’s future projects, there is a very talented director here, who has created a cracking fresh movie in a sea of Arthur and Merlin films and one, that for my money, stands out on its own. As a lover of Brit movies this ticked my boxes.

I totally recommend Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot. It’s a fun time, knights throwing swords around (or their heads, looking at you Kris Johnson), wizards delivering Wizardy monologues, classic Brit sh*t bag villain, fair maidens and Camelot… What more could you ask for??

Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot is out now on DVD and Digital HD from Signature Entertainment.

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