Prince Valiant (1954)

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Released 5-Oct-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 100:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Henry Hathaway
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring James Mason
Janet Leigh
Robert Wagner
Debra Paget
Sterling Hayden
Victor McLaglen
Donald Crisp
Brian Aherne
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $14.95 Music Franz Waxman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.55:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†††† The throne of Viking Scandia has been usurped by the pagan Sligon and King Aguar (Donald Crisp), his queen and his son, Prince Valiant (Robert Wagner), have fled into exile in King Arthurís Christian Britain. To help restore his father to the throne, Valiant travels to Camelot hoping to become a Knight of the Round Table. On his journey he stumbles on a meeting between Sligonís Vikings and the mysterious Black Knight, hatching a plot to topple Arthur. Discovered, Valiant barely escapes with his life before meeting Sir Gawaine (Sterling Hayden), a friend of his fatherís. In Camelot, Valiant becomes Gawaineís squire and pupil.

†††† Valiant also meets Sir Brack (James Mason), one of Arthurís best knights. On an expedition with Brack, Val is attacked; he is wounded but escapes and is found by Princess Aleta (Janet Leigh) and her sister Princess Ilene (Debra Paget) and taken to their fatherís castle. As he recovers, love blossoms between Val and Aleta, and Aleta reveals that Ilene is in love with Gawaine. However, with Valís recovery and the arrival of Sir Brack, duty calls and they must all return to Camelot. There, through a series of misunderstandings more reminiscent of French farce, Gawaine is led to believe that Aleta is the sister who is madly in love with him.

†††† With the identity of the Black Knight still unknown, Valís father and mother are captured and taken as prisoners to Scandia. Val is also tricked, caught and taken to Sligonís castle. However, among the Vikings are some Christians still loyal to King Aguar. Led by Boltar (Victor McLaglen), they storm the castle and Val escapes to help them, free his parents and kill Sligon. Now all that is left for Valiant to do is to return to Camelot, expose the identity of the Black Knight and reclaim the Princess from Gawaine.

†††† Prince Valiant is pure escapist, Saturday afternoon matinee fare. One of the earliest Cinemascope productions, the English locations look spectacular and the storming of Sligonís castle amid fire and flame is an exciting, colourful sequence. Director Henry Hathaway (The Black Rose (1950), True Grit (1969)) knows a thing or two about action films and he is helped here by the wonderful cinematography of Lucien Ballard, who made his name later with Sam Peckinpah on The Wild Bunch (1969). The cast is less impressive. Robert Wagner is no action hero; his acting and dialogue delivery is as wooden as a jousting dummy, and he is no contest for rival MGMís epic star of this period, Robert Taylor. Sterling Hayden is not much better; he makes silly dialogue such as ĒIíve never been unhorsed by such a scurvy trickĒ sound even sillier. Better is Janet Leigh, who looks radiant, and James Mason who is by far the best actor in the film and shows how it should be done.

†††† Prince Valiant tries to reflect the biblical Cinemascope epics of the early 1950ís such as Quo Vadis (1951), The Robe (1953) or Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954) and its stress on the superiority of the Christians over the pagan Vikings is heavy handed. Yet, when it comes down to it, Prince Valiant is escapist entertainment, filmed in glorious Cinemascope and Technicolor, with gorgeous locations and the even more gorgeous Janet Leigh, old castles, knights jousting on horseback (done for real), swords clanging and a castle is stormed with battering rams amid flaming oil. It is spectacular and good fun as long as one ignores the less than stellar acting.

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Transfer Quality


†††† Prince Valiant is presented in 2.55:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. The original Cinemascope ratio was 2.55:1.

†††† This is a 55 year old Technicolor print that looks pretty good for its age, although it is by no means perfect. The colour in the wide shots is quite dull although in the medium and close up shots it is much better. Brightness can vary within scenes and a number of interior sequences have a greenish tinge that affects the colours and the skin tones. Sharpness and clarity are on the soft side as one might expect, blacks are generally fine although shadow detail can be indistinct, especially in some early scenes.

†††† There are constant small dirt marks, both positive and negative, and a couple of quite big ones, such as at 2:21. Early on there are a number of colour flashes at the bottom of the screen (such as 2:09, 2:19 and 2:27) but these later settle down. There is also evident grain. However, none of this is terribly distracting.

†††† There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


†††† Audio is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps with some sound redirected into the rear speakers. In some scenes dialogue did become slightly distorted but it was always clear and understandable and there was no hiss. The effects are acceptable with the swords clanging and the fire effects during the storming of the castle quite good.

†††† The orchestral score by Franz Waxman is lush and bombastic, typical of swashbuckling scores from the 1940s and 1950s.

†††† Lip synchronization is fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


†††† Absolutely nothing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† The Region 1 US is in a ratio of 2.35:1 and includes the theatrical trailer. There is a range of Region 2 versions from Germany and France that are reported to be in the correct aspect ratio, but I cannot confirm this.

†††† If you are Blu-ray capable there is a Region All UK release that is in the correct aspect ratio and includes the trailer. From screen dumps I have seem, that print is otherwise the same as our Region 4 DVD; it has the same large artefact as I noted above but is HD.


†††† Prince Valiant is escapist entertainment, with gorgeous locations and the even more gorgeous Janet Leigh, old castles, knights jousting on horseback (done for real), swords clanging and a castle is stormed with battering rams amid flaming oil. It is spectacular and good fun as long as one ignores the less than stellar acting.

†††† The audio and video are not bad for a 55 year old print. There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, November 29, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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