Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Way It Is in Camelot -- Not So Hot

Cleveland Press November 8, 1967

Odd the kind of notes you take in a darkened theater. Even when decipherable they can remain a trifle strange. My unsteady hand scribbled these during a viewing of "Camelot."

Songs less musical, more dramatic."

How come Arthur has more eye makeup than Guinevere?"

Lancelot revives dead knight -- first heart massage? Movie downhill from here."

LERNER AND LOEWE'S "Camelot" was a great big musical that missed the mark but through sheer opulence and some good tunes left you with something to like. The movie version manages to be different in many respects but the results are the same -- it misses the mark.

"Camelot," with its knights in shining armor, its ladies in beautiful gowns, its massive castles, is the sort of musical that cries out for movie treatment. For maybe a quarter of the way, it works. Everything is bigger and more magical than life and the meeting of Guinevere and Arthur in an icy, snow covered forest is full of tinsel and charm and the sort o£ thing you can set a tune to.

And the knights jousting -- naturally, nothing better than on film. But then Lancelot revives the dead knight, his eyes and those of Guinevere meet, Arthur looks pained and the magic is turned off.

DIRECTOR JOSHUA LOGAN and writer Alan Jay Lerner have sent "Camelot" skidding in two directions. While keeping it a musical, they have invested it with properties of realism -- opulent costumes give way to grimy, realistic ones; Guinevere's hair needs a good combing, her nose needs wiping and she looks as though she could use a bath; the castles are drafty and smoky.

There's nothing wrong with any of this if they had also decided to throw out the music and the magic. But they didn't and the mixture is incompatible.

And then they took another tack. They made it a full blooded romance between Lancelot and Guinevere. On stage they admired each other but kept their distance out of loyalty to Arthur.

IN THE MOVIE the song, "If Ever I Should Leave You," with its mention of the seasons, becomes an excuse for flashbacks of month-by-month adultery -- in fields, forests, lakes and assorted bedrooms.

Richard Harris plays Arthur broadly, talk-sings his songs in the style set by Richard Burton in the original but invests them with a little more humor. He tends to dominate his scenes but an abundance of effeminate mannerisms spoils the characterization. After all, wasn't Arthur a man among men?

VANESSA REDGRAVE ranges from radiant queenliness to looking just plain slatternly. She sings well but not expertly in a small voice of limited range. Her song about the month of May comes across as a sultry number.

Franco Nero as Lancelot is handsome and vain which is what the part calls for. David Hemmings is a properly nasty Mordred. Lionel Jefferies stumbles around as the aging King Pellinore looking more tired than funny.

Several songs have been eliminated from the score. Merlin has practically been written out of the show and with him some of "Camelot's" comic relief.

Gone too are the bewitching females, Nimue and Morgan le Fey.

Even all this cutting "Camelot" comes to the screen as long and unwieldy; a few pretty scenes, several enchanting songs and an awful lot that is tiresome in between.