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Adventures of Sir Lancelot, The (1956-57)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Adventures of Sir Lancelot, The (1956-57)
ITP for ITV, tx. 15/9/1956-14/10/1957
30 x 30 min episodes, black and white (14 filmed in colour)
Production CompanySapphire Films
Directors includeTerry Bishop, Arthur Crabtree, Desmond Davis, Lawrence Huntington, Bernard Knowles, Ralph Smart
ProducersDallas Bower, Sidney Cole, Bernard Knowles

Regular Cast: William Russell (Sir Lancelot), Ronald Leigh-Hunt (King Arthur), Jane Hylton (Queen Guinevere), David Morrell (Sir Kay), Cyril Smith (Merlin), Robert Scroggins (Brian), Paul Williamson (Sir Lionel)

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The brave exploits of Sir Lancelot, the boldest knight in King Arthur's court.

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Aimed purely at a conventional juvenile audience, with its chivalric knights in gleaming armour, though missing the sweep, grandeur and self-belief of a really good small screen spectacle, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot followed the old formulary pattern of one action scene to every one interior in regular alternation.

Arriving at just the right time for the new TV cycle of filmed costume adventures, the series proved, initially at least, to be a welcome addition. Arthurian mythology was an overdue subject for action-adventure television, and in Sapphire's attempt at plotting Sir Thomas Malory's 15th century fables of chivalry, quest and challenge, the series met the required textbook elements.

William Russell played the steely Sir Lancelot du Lac with dashing endeavour, but with absolutely no fidelity to period look or sense. Jane Hylton was a most charming and sensible Queen Guinevere, and Ronald Leigh-Hunt performed the noble King Arthur with the presence of a tactful corporate magnate. Veteran actor Cyril Smith's Merlin, an endearing but fleeting figure, came closer to the Disney notion (Sword in the Stone via T.H. White) than the enigmatic medieval 'time lord' character of popular mythology.

As an episodic adventure yarn with no particular story arc to project it (such as a specific quest or challenge), the series heaved its way through various duels with warrior knights and opportune rescues of distressed damsels, with the occasional ingredient of wizardry thrown in for good measure.

More a sedate cliffhanger serial escapade than a full-blooded, uninhibited Arthurian romance, the production was, however, graced with 14 splendid-looking episodes filmed in sumptuously rich colour (by cinematographers Ernest Palmer and Brendan J. Stafford), which went some way to enhancing the lukewarm accounts of the Viking raiders of 'The Lesser Breed', the mystical theme of 'Witches Brew', and the distaff desperadoes of 'The Missing Princess'.

Statutory, but nevertheless good-humoured and moderately exciting tales in the dastardly days of King Arthur, the series rarely made the most of its mythical storytelling opportunities in a television period when both the interest and the purpose was for something extraordinary.

Tise Vahimagi

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Video Clips
1. King Arthur and Merlin (2:32)
2. Voyage (01:56)
3. Sella belongs to the victor (2:45)
4. Combat (01:44)
Complete episode: 'The Lesser Breed' (24:43)
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