Review: Knights of the Round Table / The King's Thief
3.5 / 5 Stars
As is common in Hollywood, after the stunning success of the film Ivanhoe in 1952, the studios rushed to emulate it with various costume epics, among them were MGM's Knights of the Round Table and The King's Thief. Though very different films, both are scored by Miklos Rosza, who evokes a broad epic feel with varying degrees of success.
The first film, Knights of the Round Table, borrows many from the talent pool of Ivanhoe. One of its strengths is that it makes some effort to draw upon the actual legends, though a choice was made to focus on Lancelot and to make Merlin a non-magical court presence. The result is a stirring, enjoyable rendition of the Arthurian legend, succeeding more as a spectacle than a stellar piece of cinema; audiences embraced this spectacle and it was a success.
Unlike the first film, The King's Thief pays little attention to history and legend surrounding historic figure Captain Thomas Blood, the film's protagonist. With various troubles during production, the end result is a fairly standard-issue swashbuckling tale. Audiences and critics alike showed little excitement for this piece.
Much like with the films themselves, Rosza showed much greater flair and depth with the first piece than the second. With Knights of the Round Table, Rosza clearly went to great lengths to add historic and cultural elements that really place the audience in the period. Though there is not much in the way of unique motifs or themes, the sense of pageantry and knightly chivalry is readily conveyed in this broad score. In The King's Thief, Rosza eschews the historic and cultural specificity and goes for a standard epic score indicative of the time in cinema.
The negatives of these scores are not surprising. Even during this era of cinema, composers were willing to put a distinct signature in the score. With Knights of the Round Table, Rosza does a good job of creating a mood and evoking the setting; however, he does not create a truly unique soundtrack specific to the film and though we have a sense of grandeur, the score does not give the audience a sense that this oft-told story is truly a unique take. Having said this, though not unique, this score has at least some personality, given its historic specificity. This is unlike the music of The King's Thief, which, like the film, proves to be soulless and without either theme or cultural specificity.
In conclusion, this 2-CD Set offers little for the buyer who is not very specifically interested in this genre or these specific films. The added bonus material from Knights of the Round Table is certainly interesting from an academic standpoint, but even with it, these CD's do not hold a great deal for those purely interested in just music enjoyment.
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