Movie review: Ivanhoe


Richard Thorpe (1952)

This is one of my childhood movies. It filled me with a sense of wonder, gave me a love for medieval adventures, that lasts to this day. So forget all objectivity here (even more than usual).

Returning from the Crusades, England king Richard the Lionheart is held captive in Austria, and his brother Prince John, wanting to seize the throne, is refusing to pay the ransom. Richard’s most loyal knight, the Saxon Ivanhoe, vows to free his king and fight John and his Norman knights.

The Bad: Nothing, I like everything! Really not objective I know…

The Good: Too many to chose from, see below.

My opinion: An epic tale of chivalry from the golden age of Hollywood. One of my favorites.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of what I love in the movie:

  • The soundtrack, there is a sense of grandeur about it, and how cool is the “villains” special theme
  • Ivanhoe is almost too heroic:
    • he’s slick enough to spy on the Normans
    • he challenges them all at Ashby and nearly wins
    • he surrenders himself at Torquilstone to free his father, but has a ace in his sleeve with Lockley’s men ready to attack
    • Richard’s ransom money is finally available, but he risks his life to save Rebecca from being executed, even though he does not love her, and he fights against Bois-Guilbert who’s already bested him before at the joust
    • He’s faithful to his lover Rowena and never falters
  • Charismatic characters all the way:
    • Robert Taylor is great as determined and fierce knight Ivanhoe
    • the amazing George Sanders as Bois-Guilbert, he’s definitely not a good guy, he’s intimidating and imposing, but I love the conflict in him with the trial of Rebecca
    • How not not mention the lovely Joan Fontaine and Elizabeth Taylor as Rowena and Rebecca, not just there for being pretty (well a bit, it’s still 1952…), each with their own character and they have a real influence on the story (especially Rebecca)
  • The scale of some scenes is just mind-blowing for 1952:
    • the joust at Ashby and the final duel, great stunts with horses
    • the siege of Torquilstone keep, so many people on screen, waves of arrows flying around, boulders, ladders falling in the water, it’s EPIC!
  • The attention to detail in costumes:
    • each Norman knight has his own colors and banner, personalized helmets
  • The gorgeous sets, interior and exteriors, like the great hall of Rotherwhood, the Torquilstone castle, the dark streets of Sheffield
  • Many other things!

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