Camelot

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CAMELOT—-critics clobbered this castle with crossbows and catapults in 1967, seeking to demolish it for sloppy direction, bloated cost, over-length, cheesy sets and as a musical with a cast that couldn’t sing. All true, yet if you want to be splashed by a cathartic waterfall, hit up a revival showing: by the time the final refrains of the title tune have begun to swell, three quarters of the predominately feminine audience will be sniffling and mewling. As they did with The Sound Of Music, reviewers hurled buckets of boiling oil at this opus but that didn’t stop it from garnering hordes of loyal subjects among the paying serfs.

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It did make a lot of money–$31,103,000, 11th in the booty haul for the year, enough to cover the $15,000,000 Jack L. Warner poured into it, seeking to pull off another My Fair Lady. The Art Direction, Costume Design and Scoring all secured Oscars,while cooperating crafts Cinematography and Sound were nominated.

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Fully, it’s a daunting 179 minutes; a half hour was trimmed for most showings, but that still makes for a siege, with 14 musical numbers to absorb. Alfred Newman & Ken Darby did a superior job adapting and orchestrating Frederick Loewe’s famous Broadway score. A few location shots of Spanish castles vie with glaringly obvious studio-bound sets. Costumes are aces.

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Director Joshua Logan overindulges in zoom shots and close-ups, and his staging in general is clunky. Some welcome sarcasm get tossed around in the script. Richard Harris is on the fey side as Arthur–and that blue eye shadow?–what the hell?  Franco Nero makes a fine Lancelot: handsome, pure and gallant and a bit ridiculous, as such, just right. David Hemmings is a perfect bastard as Mordred (Hemmings was the only trained vocalist in the group,yet he doesn’t sing here).  Strongest by far is the captivating Vanessa Redgrave, she’s magically beautiful as Guenevere. Intelligent, sexy, charming–she makes the movie.

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With Lionel Jeffries, Estelle Winwood, Laurence Naismith, Pierre Olaf and Anthony Rogers. Credit director Logan with stamina–his next film, his 11th and last, was Paint Your Wagon, even more expensive, again with three actors who could not sing (like, at all), and again drubbed by critics and enjoyed by fans.

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