Archive for January 7, 2023

The Death of the Arthur: Merlin Alexanderplatz

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on January 7, 2023 by dcairns

Sick as a dog today, so the only thing you’re getting out of me is episode two of THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GALAHAD: Galahad’s Daring. I guess I’ll keep going until it stops being fun or I run out of bad puns for titles. Desperation, you may note, has already set in.

The amusing detail that convinced me this was worth persisting with actually happens in part one, but it’s repeated in the episode 2 recap, so it’s fair game.

Venturing into the Enchanted Forest in pursuit of the stolen Excalibur, following a tip-off from Morgan le Fay, Sir G is attacked by a tree. It’s a full-on Tabanga manifestation, but FROM HELL IT CAME is still eight years in the future, which caused me to wonder if the dendritic menace might be a WIZARD OF OZ leftover. But it’s too crappy for that — I think they actually went to the trouble of building it, or had it lying around from another serial (it does seem kind of shoehorned, or shoetreed, in).

Rubbery arms like sawn-off tentacles.

I’m forced to keep watching because the serial seems to be casting Merlin as a villain, Morgan le Fay as an elfin, ironic heroine. This is probably a trick, but it’s something that requires explanation at some point. So I’m invested.

The serial, like so many before it, violates one of Ronald Knox’s ten rules of mystery writing — not more than one secret passageway. The ninja knight who purloined the sacred sword escaped the imaginatively named “sword room” through a secret panel. Another trick entrance allows him, or someone, to smuggle it out of Camelot into the waiting hands of a couple of the warlike King Ulric’s men, who have been riding through the countryside of a hostile power, right up to Camelot, in full national dress. Great spies, these fellows.

Sir G. has acquired a comedy sidekick, the portly Sir Bors (one of the killer rabbit’s victims in MONTY PYTHON’s revisionist history). Fat-shamed by Guinevere in episode one, he’s meant to be comedy relief, but is played by Charles King, a specialist in serials (they had their own casting pool, it seems) who did a lot of westerns. So he’s here for equestrian rather than dramatic skill. His sits on every laugh line like it was a big horse, stifling it beneath the fat arse of his non-talent. IMDb pics show him as a black-whispered desperado, which I think he’d be better at.

The Lady of the Lake, a dimpled blonde, has a speaking part, which seems wrong, but is at least new (maybe that’s why it seems wrong).

King Ulric wears a hilarious false beard, as if he’s ashamed of appearing here. He’s played by one John Merton, another serial specialist, whose main roles outside the chapter-play form are in are for Cecil B. DeMille, which may tells us something about CB’s priorities. His main henchman is called Bartog, but the chap doesn’t look remotely like he has a concerto for orchestra anywhere in him. They’re both hearty, cheery fellows, not outstandingly villainous.

All the sneaking around and detection (Sir G spots a sword-shaped case and deduces, with Holmesian insight, that it could contain a sword) has been making this feel like a spy serial, but now Ulric comes very close to saying “We’ll cut them off at the pass,” hinting at the genre terrain all concerned are more comfortable with.

The episode runs out of time before actually reaching a real cliffhanger, so it does something I haven’t seen before, it cuts ahead to predicaments our endearingly schlubby heroes will face in part 3, Prisoners of Ulric. Makes me wonder what a Nic Roeg movie serial would be like…