Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Historicals at the Holidays

I can’t believe that the holidays are here and Winter, officially around the corner. Where did the autumn go? Renaissance Fairs and Harvest time festivities have faded into Fall memory and now the malls and high street shops are choked with mad shoppers attempting to spread holiday cheer in an orgy of buying and selling. The sales are on!

It feels good to get home after a rush hour packed with bag-wielding commuters who squeezed in a few errands on their all-too-fleeting lunch breaks. At home, the tree is lit and twinkling softly in the middle of the room, a little winter oasis. One of my favourite things to do if I have the chance at this pre-Christmas anticipatory time is to sit down with a good historical movie to wrap presents, write cards and enjoy a good glog of boozed up egg nog. It’s great with a splash of Metaxa!
I tend to gravitate toward the middle ages at Yuletide, though we shouldn’t forget Saturnalia. This past weekend whilst putting up some cedar garland (indoors, of course!) I enjoyed watching the old Ivanhoe version with Robert Taylor and then sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. I had forgotten how great that movie is, especially the battle at the end between Ivanhoe and Bois Guilbert. Or how about Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood? Sure, he wears weird green tights but, having watched it as a kid, I still chuckle when he swings in with his “Welcome to Sherwhood Forest!” line.

If you like Robert Taylor classics, don’t forget The Knights of the Round Table which also features Ava Gardner; another great flick that overcomes the cheesiness with some great chivalric ideals. Anything Arthurian is fine by me! If the 12th century is your thing, you won’t want to miss out on the film version of The Lion in Winter with Peter O’Toole as Henry II and Catherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine. There is phenomenal acting to be seen! Also, for a tale about a young Henry II, do see Becket, with Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton in the title role.

Now, if the middle ages are not quite your thing, then the classical period has loads of silver screen tributes to choose from such as Quo Vadis (Robert Taylor and Peter Ustinov), The Robe (Richard Burton), Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and of course Spartacus (Kirk Douglas); classics all and very atmospheric for some holiday quiet time. For the very patient among us, The Fall of the Roman Empire with Alec Guinness, Christopher Plummer and Sofia Loren is a fantastic look at the reign of Commodus and forerunner to Gladiator, which is always great.

I could go on and on and on with all my historical movie recommendations so, I’ll stop myself here. There are so many to choose from! I certainly don’t have enough time to view them all at the moment so I must be very selective. For those of you receiving Christmas cards from me, please excuse any lapses in thought, for, if I write ‘I am Spartacus!’ or ‘Long life to the Table Round!’, you will know where that is coming from.
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