Anticipating the Kingdom …

Anticipating the Kingdom … March 29, 2005

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).

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