(Review originally written at 8 November 2007)

Director Richard Thorpe made some good and entertaining movies in his days but never anything too remarkable or great. In that regard "Ivanhoe" is a typical Richard Thorpe movie. It's a good and well made one but by no means among the greatest or most entertaining one's, out of the genre.

It's a rather enjoyable movie, that features all of the usual swashbuckler elements from the good old days! So, expected stereotypical villains, a charming hero, a love-story and lots of sword fights and other action.

It's a well made movie, that is good looking, although it all of course by todays standards look terribly outdated. The movie shows some definite parallels to the movie "The Adventures of Robin Hood" from 1938, starring Errol Flynn. It has the same style, colors and settings. Even some of the characters are the same. Prince John, King Richard the Lionhearted and Robin Hood himself all appear in this movie again. And John has taken over the thrown again, while King Richard is being held captive. Needless to say that both stories show similarities as well.

Hard to imaging these days that this movie was even being nominated for the Best Motion Picture of the year Oscar, back in '53. It's just a bit too much credit for this movie. The movie was even being nominated for 2 more Oscar's; Freddie Young's color cinematography and Miklós Rózsa's musical score.

The dialog was absolutely great at parts, although I have the feeling that the best lines were directly copied from the Sir Walter Scott novel. Nothing wrong with that of course! It's some typical old fashioned writing, that suits the movie its time period.

The story is good and solid, although perhaps also confusing since it features many different characters, that look a like and all have different motivations. When watching this movie it's just all to clear that the story was based on a novel, rather than that it was an original script, specifically made for the screen. It also shows in its complicated triangular love-story.

Because of its story the movie isn't really non-stop paced action and fun but it has some great remarkable sequences in it. Some of the action is really grand, such as the assault on the English castle by Robin Hood and at least an hundred of his merry men. It's a surprisingly big battle sequences (at least for '50's standards of course) that almost is in contrast with the rest of the movie, in terms of its size. The movie further more also features some great jousting competition sequences and of course the usual good versus evil sword-fights, that aren't that special really and are perhaps a even a bit clumsy looking.

The cast of the movie was surprisingly big and great, though perhaps not all actors were rightly cast in their roles. Robert Taylor just never has been the greatest swashbuckler hero. At the time of this movie he was already too old looking for his role, even though he was only just barely 40 at the time. He just wasn't the sort of person that aged very well and on top of that he doesn't look to professional in his fight sequences. No denying that he's a good actor though. I wouldn't had cast him but he still is sort of OK in this movie. Joan Fontaine plays the sort of role in this movie, her sister (Olivia de Havilland) became legendary with. She is not as good or charming as her older sister but at least she still has got the right good looks for it, so she suits the role fine. A still very young Elizabeth Taylor also plays a fine and big role in the movie. Other great actors in this are George Sanders and Guy Rolfe, among others.

A good, enjoyable movie that is very well worth watching, as long as you don't expect the Errol Flynn kind of classic swashbuckling action/adventure.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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