The Black Knight (1954)
“Alan Ladd’s greatest! Bigger than ever! Better than ever! Bolder than ever!”
Director: Tay Garnett
Cast: Alan Ladd, Patricia Medina, AndrÃ© Morell
Synopsis: Spurred by love for the beautiful Lady Linet, humble sword-maker John (Alan Ladd) begins training to become a knight.
Alan Ladd had a pretty tough life before making it as a Hollywood star, and fame didn’t do much for him in later life, when depression over his failed love affair with June Allyson and a string of so-so film roles began him on a downward path of alcohol addiction and, ultimately, death at the age of 51. He looks a little bloated in The Black Knight, a British medieval action movie, and more than a little uncomfortable in a role that he is so clearly unsuited for. He doesn’t even attempt to disguise his American accent, making him the only known American in Arthurian England.
Ladd plays John the blacksmith, working in the court of the beneficent Earl of Yeovil (Harry Andrews). John’s got a bit of a thing going on with the Earl’s daughter Linet (Patricia Medina), and when the Earl finds out he’s banished. Unfortunately, John’s departure coincides with an attack by Saracen’s led by the dastardly Sir Palamides (future Dr. Who Peter Cushing) in league with the equally dastardly King Mark (future Dr. Who Patrick Troughton), and when Linet spots Mark riding away she mistakenly believes him to be a coward. John makes the rash decision to burst in on King Arthur’s court and start scrapping with Palamides, a move that results in his receiving a death sentence which is suspended for three months to give him the opportunity to prove his accusation that Palamides is a traitor.
The Black Knight is typical low-budget twaddle whose chief plus point is an interesting cast which, in addition to those mentioned in the above summary, includes Andre Morell, Laurence Naismith, John Laurie and Ronald Adam. It’s heavy going at times though with a supremely daft plot aimed squarely at easily-entertained kids who learned their history from comics. Ladd is pretty dreadful, going through the motions as if he really doesn’t want to be there, and he isn’t helped by the lacklustre performance of a bland Patricia Medina. The best performance comes from a young Peter Cushing as the movie’s main bad guy, a Saracen intent on helping King Mark to return Britain to it’s pagan ways (in one hilarious scene we learn how Stonehenge came to be the way it is today). He sports blue eyes, a deep tan and shoulder-length black hair, and looks every part the evil Machiavelli-type.
(Reviewed 27th July 2012)