Friday, 24 May 2013

Friday 24 May 1963

King Dickie's still in Austria, trying to evade the minions of his sworn enemy Duke Leopold.  It's getting harder though, word having got out that he's travelling as lowly Dickon, squire to Lord Hugo and Lady Marta.  The slow-witted Hugo (who is, in reality, the King's squire) makes things worse with his complete inability to wrap his head round the idea that the King is travelling incognito.  The three pitch up at an inn, where Marta is startled by the entrance of a strange man (Peter Reynolds) into her bedchamber, having apparently mistaken her for a thieving chambermaid.

The stranger turns out to be Sergeant Michael, right-hand man of grumpy local bigwig Count Rolf (Elwyn Brook-Jones).  Having been told to "look out for a man with a sword twice the size of other men's", he reports back to his master that the King of England's in their midst.  Rolf relishes the opportunity to capture Richard and curry favour with the duke, as well as his requisite big villainous close-up.

Count Rolf decides to set a trap for Richard, sending Michael and his men to kidnap Marta, which they achieve very simply by just carrying her off.

Richard dashes to Marta's rescue ("Chivalry will be his downfall," proclaims Rolf) only to find himself captured by the Count's waiting men.  The scene featuring the capture of the title is excellent stuff, superbly directed by Ernest Morris, with Richard venturing out into the streets to find soldiers lurking in every corner.

Count Rolf hastens to Duke Leopold to report that the Lionheart is in his clutches.  The dastardly Duke's played by Francis De Wolff, no stranger to the role of a black-hearted villain.  What is incredibly strange is seeing De Wolff without the enormous bushy black beard he normally sports.  It's just not right, I tell you.

Leopold wants Richard executed without delay, and without any fanfare.  He's worried about the consequences from the English King's powerful friends if it were known he'd been put to death, and insists it be announced he's just a lowly thief.  But salvation is on its way in the form of minstrel, Blondel De Nesle (Iain Gregory - a warbler for Joe Meek and star of kitsch classic The Yellow Teddybears) - a faithful servant of Richard's (and more than a close friend in some retellings of Richard's story).  When we first meet Blondel, he's playing "Greensleeves" to some shepherds.  This is, of course, the moment where anyone optimistically expecting any degree of historical accuracy from the show will completely give up the ghost, "Greensleeves" having been written (not by Henry VIII) roughly 400 years after Richard the Lionheart is nominally set.  It's the equivalent of a musician at the court of Elizabeth I performing a Cliff Richard number.

Disgusted sheep turn their backs on the gross historical inaccuracy of it all
"You have a fine, manly voice," says one of the shepherds (Harold Lang).  Admittedly it's not much of a chat-up line, but then he does spend most of his time with sheep.

Blondel chances upon Hugo and Marta at the inn and they tell him about Richard being captured.  Quick as a flash the young minstrel pops over to Count Rolf's castle and starts singing under the window of the King's cell.  It turns out "Greensleeves" is a favourite of Richard's (clearly his musical taste is far ahead of its time), and the two of them have a little sing-song together.

The king's imprisonment confirmed, Blondel gallops off to broadcast the news to the world.  Duke Leopold's plan is in ruins, and Richard's life is safe.  But what will happen to him next? Find out in a couple of weeks, liontarts!

1 comment:

  1. The thought of Iain Gregory trying to hit the high notes of "Greensleeves" is enough to put me off my breakfast. Possibly one of the worst singers to ever have a UK hit.