Anticipating the Kingdom …

Looks like I might get a chance to see Kingdom of Heaven, Ridley Scott’s upcoming film about the Crusades, next week. So I’ve been looking around for other Crusade-themed films, just to see how this subject has been handled in the past, and, uh, there don’t seem to be all that many of them.

George MacDonald Fraser’s The Hollywood History of the World mentions only two, both of which happen to be available on VHS — Cecil B. DeMille’s The Crusades (1935), which I saw years ago and consider one of the worst DeMille films I have ever seen; and King Richard and the Crusaders (1954), which I have never seen but would love to some day, if only to see George Sanders and Rex Harrison chew the scenery as King Richard and Saladin, respectively.

I have also come across a review of John Aberth’s A Knight at the Movies, which devotes a chapter to the Crusades, but the only films he discusses there, apparently, are the DeMille film; Youssef Chahine’s Saladin (1963), which I would love to see, it being an Egyptian film directed by a Christian at a point between the Arab-Israeli Wars, but I imagine it will be beyond difficult to find on this continent; and two films — Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Charlton Heston’s El Cid (1961) — which take place around the same time as the Crusades but don’t actually take place at any point along that path from Western Europe to the Holy Land. So, not much I can do with that list.

Most Robin Hood movies allude to the Crusades, but only because King Richard is away somewhere fighting in them while Prince John tries to usurp the throne. However, I seem to recall Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) starting with Robin imprisoned somewhere in the Holy Land and escaping with the help of a Moor played by Morgan Freeman, who comes back to England with him and thus keeps some sort of Christian-Muslim dialogue running throughout the film. And I have heard that the opening scenes of Robin and Marian (1976) might get into something along those lines too. So I might check those out.

If anybody has any other tips you could send my way, by all means, please do.

On a side note, I also can’t help noticing that Ridley Scott’s upcoming film marks a couple of reunions. The star of the film is Orlando Bloom, who was just an elf looking for mainstream cred when he had a bit part in Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001) (my review); and the film also co-stars Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson, who both played Jesuit monks in The Mission (1986).

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05198804427250453835 Denny Wayman

    Check on the film of the life of St. Francis – BROTHER SON, SISTER MOON. It shows his transformation coming about because of the crusades.

  • Matt Page

    Peter I have Robin and Marian at home – it’s terrible. Don’t remember a whole lot about the crusades though, do you want me t check the opening section to save you the effort of tracking it down.

    As for Prince of Theives, I believe that Hood rescues Freeman’s character at the start because Freeman’s character is then obliged by his tradition to serve Hood until he repays the favour.

    Matt

  • Anonymous

    El Cid is 2/3 of a great Heston epic–plus Sophia Loren never looked better. Interesting Christian/Muslim interaction, with a strong Christ-figure in El Cid’s character. Plus, one of the best jousts I’ve ever seen on screen. Get the widescreen if you can, the pan and scan was done terribly. The middle sags and jumps a bit, as if the director ran out of time and money and threw in a sorta montage to account for 10 years of war and marriage.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    Matt, I’ve already booked the public library’s copy of Robin and Marian, and I’m curious about it for other reasons too, so I’ll find out soon enough.

    As for Prince of Thieves — Freeman’s character sounds kinda like a Wookiee, dontchathink? Or maybe a Gungan, come to think of it. :)

    Denny and Anonymouse, thanks for the recommendations.

  • Trent

    Don’t forget Ivanhoe. It is the classic “Knight Returns from Crusades” tale…


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