A.S., the daughter of one of Michael Gothard’s close friends, visited the set of "Arthur of the Britons" around the beginning of November 1972. Soon after this first visit, she received a letter from Michael, which included the following:

“I am so pleased you enjoyed your visit to Scruffy Camelot! … I write this at the end of another very long day. I am somewhat saddle sore and bruised, but this is great fun to work on and restores my faith somewhat in this very shallow business I find myself in. I do enjoy working with “The Boys”! It is all very hectic and we are losing track of what we are doing and where we are, what with swapping between episodes.

This week I have been involved in several fights, which of course I won, I have been tied to a tree...and very cold it was too, then we went back and did some knife throwing that if I remember rightly we did right at the beginning ... .which seems a LONG time ago. Oh, I have also thrown a glass of fake wine over Oliver (again) which I enjoyed. We have also done a lot of riding, hence me needing a squashy cushion whenever I sit down. … It will be an early start on Friday morning, and you will get to spend a little time with the horses, as we are scheduled to be involved in plenty of riding during that day.”

The fights he mentions being involved in may have been the ones in the woods at the end of “The Prize”, which was the episode in which he was tied to a tree. They may also have included some of the sparring from “The Pupil”, and the final fight with Corin.

The Prize 65 The Prize 134

The knife-throwing and wine-throwing scenes which were re-shot were from the beginning and end of “Daughter of the King.” However, only the new version of the knife-throwing scene was used. Judging by the appearances of the actors - especially Michael Gothard's hair - the wine-throwing scene broadcast was clearly the original one, filmed during the same period as the bulk of the episode.

Longhouse scene (58) Friends (24)

There were not many whole episodes left to be filmed by this time: “The Prize”, “The Games”, “The Girl from Rome”, “The Swordsman”, and “The Treaty.” None of these involved substantial amounts of riding for Kai. However, the racing scenes in “Arthur is Dead”, which were also used in the credits, were definitely filmed in autumn – there are autumnal trees, hips on the bushes, dead thistles, and lots of fallen leaves on the ground – so these must be the scenes to which he was referring, when he says they are scheduled to be doing a lot of riding when A.S. visits next time.

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It is good to see that Michael found filming “Arthur of the Britons” such a positive experience.

1 More recollections from A.S. can be found here.

Advertising poster

Sunday, 13 August 1972 08:00 pm
This poster must have been made up after the filming of "The Penitent Invader", which took place during the second week in August.

HTV publicity 3 small

Featured scenes, left to right are from "Daughter of the King" (two scenes), "The Penitent Invader", "The Gift of Life", "Arthur is Dead", and "The Challenge."
Meic Stevens is an acclaimed Welsh folk singer. This is a photo from 1972.

Stevens, Meic

He appears in “Arthur is Dead”, playing a Celt named Cabot, who is also Arthur’s Minstrel; in "The Gift of Life" as Ulrich's minstrel; in "Enemies and Lovers", as the minstrel who accompanies Goda, and at the end of "The Penitent Invader", when he sings for Arthur once more.

Arthur is Dead (64) Victory (14)

He was kind enough to set down a few memories.

Thanks for the letter and pictures. I’d almost forgot all that stuff, long time ago.

HTV had built an ancient village in the Forest of Dean. It was brilliantly built and the hall (Arthur’s) was real, thatched roofs etc, stockade.

It was a beautiful spot, but very muddy! The production had started off trying to look authentic, of the period (Dark Ages), but the weather wasn’t kind, so we rejected the original shoes, which were not waterproof because they were made of hessian-like cloth. We finally got leather boots which were modern. We could have done with wellies!

My hair was long and dark brown then, and they wouldn’t let us shave.

Patrick Dromgoole was the producer, and they hired actors who were quite well known like Hillary Dwyer, Brian Blessed etc. We all stayed in the Unicorn Hotel, Bristol. 1

Anyway, Oliver Tobias was an up and coming actor; good-looking. Some of the others had been members of the Old Vic, Royal Shakespeare Company, RADA, etc.

It was a bit of a soap really – a historical soap!

The instrument I played was a mandolin, disguised as a Welsh crwth. I remember quite well, I did it myself. I also wrote the lyrics of the songs.

Aftermath (8)

In one of the pictures, I am playing a Saxon, and the instrument is a dud, just a board with ordinary ‘strings strings.’ I recorded the musical bits (songs) in a studio in Bristol, and mimed.

Celebration (11)

It was a wig I was wearing as Athel’s minstrel. 2

Magic (3)

Anyway, can’t remember much more, it’s pretty boring on a film set in the middle of nowhere! Sometimes we’d walk (me and some of the actors) down this earthen track about a mile or two to the road, where lay a country pub. We were in there one afternoon, playing darts, when some American tourists came in to find half a dozen Celtic warriors playing darts and a pile of swords and spears in the corner. They didn’t make any comment, but left rather hurriedly.

1 Call sheets 35 and 36 show Clive Revill being collected from the Unicorn.
2 This instrument seems to be the one Meic Stevens described as a dud. The one he plays as Ulrich’s Saxon minstrel looks like the same one he uses when working for Arthur, with a bit of added fur!
This article appeared on page 6 of Wednesday 19 July's Western Daily Press.

Is this the real court of King Arthur?
by Nicholas Walker


The wattle and daub village rising among the trees in Woodchester Park is very definitely NOT Camelot. And the Arthur who lives there is no king.

He is an ale-drinking, wench-chasing warrior who’s not on very good terms with the Church.

In fact, he lacks all the traditional Arthurian equipment: Shining armour, Guenevere and the Round Table.

Generations of children have listened with awe to the mysterious tales of Avalon, the Holy Grail, Excalibur and Sir Lancelot.

Now HTV is trying to shatter the myth with a new television series about the great Briton.

Clobbered

Called Arthur, it is being shot on location around Bristol.

The new-look Arthur is being played by Oliver Tobias, fresh from a leading role in the London production of Hair.

Gone are the castles, plumes and Medieval trapping of Tennyson and Swinburne. HTV’s Arthur lives in a hut and wears drab, Celtic clothing. This breakaway from the established Arthurian image is much nearer the historic truth.

But realism can go too far. In a battle scene shot in Compton Dando last week Arthur was clobbered in the back of the head by a spear. Celtic remedies for the wound were dismissed and Oliver Tobias spent two days in the Bristol Royal Infirmary recovering.

Arthur was soon back in charge of his warriors, and next time the battle scene was shot he won.1

“I think Arthur was a gutsy young man, a battle leader and a tactician. The legend is rubbish,” said producer Peter Miller. “We have tried to rationalise the legend. Take Excalibur – of course there was no magic in the sword. It’s just Arthur had a long sword and the Saxons had short axes so he always won his fights.”

“We’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to create a factual setting for the series,” he explained. “A hell of a lot of money has been spent providing the right farm animals for the village.”

Museum

“Some long-horn cows were sent to the highlands of Scotland to grow the shaggy coats typical of the cattle of the period.” A herd of near-extinct sheep are also getting star treatment. They share a special field with the cattle not far from Arthur’s camp. “You see, it has to be real. All the animals came from a cattle museum about 20 miles from Woodchester.2 So far they’ve cost us £600,” said Mr Miller.

Arthur’s camp is near Woodchester Park’s lake. A small sapling3 had to be cut down before work started on the camp – and HTV had to get special permission from the Forestry Commission before it was removed.

A Saxon settlement is being built on the gentle slopes of north Mendip. The Saxons were farmers, so wooded Woodchester would not suit them.

All the legend bashing has left Merlin intact4 – but not as a potion-brewing wizard. He is now Arthur’s political adviser.

Peter Miller: “A Saxon warship is being built in the Bristol studios. It’s based on a real Saxon ship discovered preserved in a swamp in Norway. A special crew of forty oarsmen have been trained to sail it on the lake and in the sea. We plan to stage some battle scenes on West Country beaches.5 But Arthur won the land battles because his men had horses and he understood cavalry techniques. The only thing the Saxons did with horses was eat them. We’re producing fiction based on fact. Educationally it’s as accurate as we can make it – but it’s still a drama.”

The theme of the £500,000 colour production is Arthur’s struggle to unite the warring Celtic chieftains against the invading Saxon hordes.

The 24 episodes will be screened early next year.6

Is this the real court of King Arthur sharp

The captions to the pictures read as follows:

HTV’s log cabin Camelot: Gone is the legendary splendour and the Round Table
Oliver Tobias: King Arthur from Hair
A ragged, rugged funeral procession from Arthur’s woodland camp

1 This is not very accurate. See this entry.

2 This may have been what is now known as, "Cattle Country Adventure Park", situated in Berkley, near Stroud.

3 According to the Director of the first two episodes, "a small sapling" is a considerable understatement. He remembers: "on arriving in Bristol and being taken to see this village set, all I’ve seen in the middle of the forest were a great number of trees with big chalk marks and numbers on them. "That’s where the village WILL BE BUILT!" I was informed."

4 It is interesting to see that at this late stage, when three episodes had already been filmed, Merlin was still meant to feature in the series.

5 It's a shame these ambitious plans never came to fruition; budgetary constraints may have got in the way.

6 The 24 episodes were eventually split into two blocks of 12 for UK airing.

Advertising poster

Sunday, 16 July 1972 08:00 pm
This poster was probably drawn up in July 1972, when filming had just got under way. It features an artist's impressions, possibly from photos, of scenes from "Arthur is Dead" and "The Challenge."

HTV publicity 2 small
Poster courtesy of Paul Lewis.

Romance, legend, myth and misunderstanding veil the true story of ARTHUR, the man who roused all England to repel a barbaric invader. Behind the legend lies a freedom fighter, a leader of genius.

In “ARTHUR of the Britons”, HTV West, within whose borders ARTHUR built his own Camelot, have created a 24-part series on the life and battles of the hero ‘king’.

It is the dramatic story of desperate men and desperate times, an age of bloodshed, but an age also of a warrior who held dear the vision of a free, united and Christian kingdom.

The £500,000 series was filmed on West Country locations that once rang to the clash of Celtic and Saxon sword. Two stockaded encampments, one Celtic and one Saxon, were recreated in painstaking detail.

The writers who contribute are of international repute. They include: Terence Feeley, Robert Banks Stewart, David Osborn, David Pursall and Jack Seddon.

ARTHUR and his story belong to the so-called Dark Ages of English history that must remain partly veiled. This television series is the first realistic attempt to look behind that veil.

The text reiterates the premise of the show: Arthur as a wily war leader, trying to unite his people against invaders.

It is interesting to note that Arthur is referred to as "a warrior who held dear the vision of a free, united and Christian kingdom." But nowhere in the series does Arthur refer to his own religious faith, and though a white banner with a red cross is on display in Arthur's village, he never fights anyone simply because they are not Christians; indeed, his foster-father, Llud, believes in different deities, though we are not told which ones.

In "Arthur is Dead", a large book - which might well be a Bible - is seen in Arthur's room; later in the series he consults a monk, but about an agricultural rather than a spiritual problem, and later still, he takes issue with Rolf, for preaching Christian peace and love, causing some of the Celts to lay down their arms.

Perhaps it was thought that a Christian leader might hold greater appeal, but religious fervour just didn't fit with the character of the practical hero they created in Arthur.
Plot

The episode – and the series – starts with a race, between five Celts: Arthur, Kai, and three others. Arthur is in the lead when he is knocked from his horse by a tree branch, and Kai is immediately at his side. When the other riders catch up, Kai tells them to: “… tell the World, Arthur is dead.”

It seems that “Arthur of the Britons” is over before it has really begun. Arthur lies on a bier, covered in flowers, and surrounded by his people.

Meanwhile, four rival chiefs, Mark of Cornwall, Herward the Holy, Dirk the Crafty, and Ambrose, all start making their own preparations to try to take over Arthur’s territory, before Arthur is even cold.

Each man makes his move. But they are expected; one by one, they are caught by Arthur’s people and imprisoned in the longhouse, with a sombre-looking Kai guarding the door. They all think Kai has taken over from Arthur, and is going to kill them.

Then Arthur appears. The reason he has trapped them is not to kill them, but to try to form an alliance. He challenges them all to get a sword out from under a big boulder; whoever succeeds will be their leader. But it’s only when Arthur gets them all to push together, that the sword can be got out – and Arthur snatches it.

He wants them to join forces against the main threat to the Celts – the Saxon leader, Cerdig, who is taking over their lands, and cutting down the forests where they hunt. Arthur asks for half of each leader’s army to join him, and help push Cerdig out.

While they are arguing about it, a Celt sneaks out of Arthur’s camp, and goes to Cerdig, to tell the Saxons what Arthur is planning; Cerdig sets out to take on the new alliance before it can get started.

While Mark is fighting Arthur over the leadership, Cerdig’s forces show up, and – against Arthur’s advice – Mark and the others go to fight him. They are routed, and forced to fall back to Arthur’s village.

Only then does Arthur manage to get them to go along with his plan. He leads a small group of his men to confront Cerdig, but – after a short skirmish – he pretends he has been forced to retreat. Cerdig gives chase, and Arthur leads the Saxons into a swamp. Cerdig’s men don’t know the way through, and when they get bogged down, the Celts work together, and manage to kill most of them with spears. But Cerdig gets away, assuring Arthur that he will be back.

Having seen the wisdom of working with Arthur, both Ambrose and Herward agree to send him a quarter of their armies; Dirk refuses, and Mark just rides away with a look of disgust.

Then Arthur shows himself a bit of a spoilsport, by breaking up the victory feast early, in spite of Kai urging him to let the men enjoy themselves.

Finally, Arthur and Kai race again, for real this time, and once again Arthur gets what he wants by trickery.


Timeline

This episode – at least, the main part of it – was the first to be filmed, at the end of June, 1972. However, the horse-racing scenes at the beginning and end of the episode were clearly filmed in autumn, judging by the colour of the leaves on the trees. A reference to filming a lot of riding, in a letter written in November by Michael Gothard, to the daughter of one of his friends, shows that filming of these scenes was due to take place on or around Friday the 24th of November 1972.


Viewing figures

On 11 January 1973, in a letter published in The Stage, from R.J. Simmons, Press Officer for HTV West, Simmons reveals that “Arthur is Dead” and “A Gift of Life”, achieved no. 4 place in HTV’s top ten programmes.


Locations

The version of Arthur’s village seen in this episode had recently been built at Woodchester Park, near Stroud, in Gloucestershire, which belongs to the National Trust. More details of this location can be found here.

The ‘swamp’ where the Saxons were drowned was on land owned by the Neville family in the village of Frampton Mansell. According to Martin Neville, they dammed two streams, and then had to wait three days for the field to be sufficiently wet. Diggers were brought in to make the holes in which the Saxons drowned.

field at Frampton Mansell

Picture courtesy of Sophie Neville

Cerdig’s camp is thought to have been in the Mendips.


Inside information

Of the filming, Director, Peter Sasdy says:

I was engaged to direct the opening episode of the series, with the understanding that, waiting for me there, was Arthur’s ‘village set’ already built. However, on arriving in Bristol and being taken to see this village set, all I’ve seen in the middle of the forest were a great number of trees with big chalk marks and numbers on them. "That’s where the village WILL BE BUILT!" I was informed. Not a good start...

After some panic, and bringing in outside crews – as always in the film industry, under pressure, working day and night for 7 days a week – more or less everything was ready to start the production on schedule.

I know I had very little time during pre-production, but I was happy with the casting of the main characters, and with the costumes; also I had a very good local Director of Photography Brian Morgan, and from London I brought my camera operator Anthony Richmond (that was very unusual for HTV to have freelance operator) – who is now a well established DOP in Hollywood.


Perhaps the fact that Arthur’s village wasn’t ready explains why filming did not begin until July, though this article in TV Today, 15 June 1972 stated that filming was to begin in June.

The scene where Arthur was shown being hit by a tree branch was one of very few where a stuntman was used. The stunt, known as a ‘flick-back’ was a particularly dangerous one. Oliver Tobias took pride in doing his own stunts; he even sports a “Worldwide British Equity Registered Stuntman” sticker on his motorbike windshield. But by the time they filmed that scene, he had already suffered a serious head injury; presumably, the production team felt they couldn’t afford to take any more risks with the star.

According to cameraman Roger Pearce, the rock with which all the chiefs had such difficulty was made of painted cloth over a wooden frame.


Cast notes

Michael Gothard had worked with Brian Blessed on two occasions before “Arthur of the Britons”: on “The Further Adventures of the Musketeers” and “The Last Valley.”

Cabot the Crafty, who hits Herward on the head, is played by folk singer Meic Stevens; near the end of the episode, he doubles as Arthur’s minstrel.


Reworking the legend

The sword under the stone is a clear reference to the sword in the stone in Arthurian tradition. Arthur’s return from the ‘dead’ could also be seen as a reference to his expected return from Avalon.

Kai is modelled on the Sir Kay of Arthurian myth, “King Arthur's foster brother and later seneschal, as well as one of the first Knights of the Round Table.” According to Val Joyce, in Welsh poetry, Kai is known as "Kai Gwyn", meaning Kai the Fair, or White, so making him a blond Saxon was a stroke of genius. The legendary Sir Kay was exceptionally tall, and older than Arthur, so the casting of Michael Gothard, who was 6 foot three inches, and Oliver Tobias' senior by eight years, fits in well.

Llud is loosely based on Lludd Llaw Eraint, a legendary hero from Welsh mythology, though he doesn't seem to have had any Arthurian connections.


"By the Gods!"

To help him move the stone, Herward invokes the Celtic gods, Maponos, a god of youth, Nodens, a deity associated with healing, the sea, hunting and dogs, and Barli – possibly a god of crops. Ambrose ridicules him, believing that Mithras, a Roman deity, and god of the legions, is the true god.

Herward claims the gods were against them when they failed to defeat Cerdig at their first try, and agrees to join together against Cerdig because “It is counselled by the gods.” Arthur ironically replies, “The gods are wiser than I thought.”

Arthur doesn’t speak of his own religious beliefs, but he has a large book in his room – probably a Bible – and his banner, near the entrance to the village, is a red cross on a white background, so it seems safe to assume that he has Christian tendencies.


Dark Age Men

There are no female characters of interest at all in the first episode, and most of the men in this series are – not surprisingly – quite sexist; many of their insults involve unfavourable comparisons with women. In this episode alone, we see the following:

Ambrose: [to his men] … We don’t want to slouch in like a lot of old half-women. March like the legions of Rome!

Mark: [to Kai] What are you waiting for? Kill us! We’re not women, that we have to prepare.

Mark: [to Dirk] … Let’s see how you get on! The muscles of a girl-child!

Mark: [to Arthur] Where were you when the battle was at its hottest? Skulking in the camp like a handmaiden!

Even Arthur resorts to this kind of name-calling, to aggravate Cerdig, asking him: “Have you come to fight, or talk all day like an old woman?”

For Arthur, brute force is a last resort. “I am trying to build an alliance based on sense and reason. If I fight now to prove myself, reason will have flown. I won’t be a leader, just a fighting stag.”

But both his friend, Kai, and his mentor, Llud are in agreement that – when challenged by Mark of Cornwall – he will have to fight, because, as Llud says, “there’s a time to fight with the mind, and a time to fight with the belly. And these men understand only the belly.”


The best laid plans …

Arthur’s plan to lead Cerdig’s men into a swamp works well – but he’s disappointed to have made an enemy of Mark, who is a powerful chief.

The other chiefs’ plans all fail spectacularly. Even Dirk, who has the brains to use a lever, can’t shift the rock – but it was a good idea!


Great moments

The chiefs’ squabble.
Arthur’s miraculous recovery.
Arthur and Kai’s face-off over tactics.
Kai’s smile at the end of the episode, when he sees that Arthur has tricked him.


Quote/unquote

Cerdig talks Arthur up, setting the tone for the series: “Dangerous man, Arthur of the West. He thinks before he fights!”


Arthur’s wisdom

Arthur is a trickster. He doesn’t lie, but he’s not above stretching the truth or letting people believe what they want to, to manipulate them. When the chiefs complain, he tells them: “You tricked yourselves”, and when Mark protests that Arthur got the sword with their help,” Arthur uses this as a lesson: “And that’s how I’ll beat Cerdig. With your help. None of us can do it alone."


The burden and loneliness of command

They have a feast, to celebrate their victory over Cerdig, but Arthur feels he has to break it up early, saying: “Great victories are as dangerous as great defeats. Men get soft and sleepy. Our danger remains as great as ever it was.” These are violent times, and any respite is brief.

In the penultimate scene, Arthur goes to sit alone in his room, looking sombre. A lonely man, he relies on his lieutenants, Llud and Kai for advice, but the burden lies heavy on his shoulders.


The hot-headed side-kick

In this, the first episode, Kai is depicted as hot-headed, and perhaps too ready to do violence, which fits in with how Sir Kay is shown in later interpretation of the Arthurian legend, as a bullying boor.

Kai resembles the Saxon enemy more than he does his fellow Celts, but no explanation is given for this.


“A man on a horse is worth ten on foot.”

An advantage the Celts have over the Saxons is that most of the Saxons can’t ride. Cavalry fighting is one of the Romans’ warfare tactics: a legacy of which Arthur makes full use, and right from the beginning it is clear that both Oliver Tobias and Michael Gothard can really ride.

Arthur mainly rides two white horses during the series, whose real names were "Bernie", and "Skyline." In this episode, he is seen riding Bernie.

For most of the episode, Kai mostly rides a black or dark brown horse with a star which is often hidden by the bridle, "Blackstar." However, before the races start, he is riding a black horse with a star, short strip and snip, which we will refer to as “Moonlight.”

Moonlight300 high

He must have swapped horses with the stunt rider who was mounted on Blackstar, for the actual race. Perhaps Moonlight wasn’t fast enough.

AID1 AID2

There are also two other very white horses in the race, one of which has a very fancy bridle, and appears to have been especially trained for stunts; halfway through the race, the rider gets the horse to rear and throw him off, and a bit later, the same horse falls, unseating him, presumably on cue.

Acrobat300 high

These horses are not seen again in the series. The race scenes were filmed much later than the rest of the scenes from this episode, possibly in the Blackdown Hills. Perhaps these particular horses were stabled nearby.

Mark of Cornwall rides a big dapple grey, whose name was Jim, and Dirk rides the small brown horse with a blond mane, "Blondie."

See this post for further details of the horses of "Arthur of the Britons."


“That is bloody dangerous!”1

In addition to the stunts mentioned above, there is a lot of very fast riding in this episode. It also features the one stunt Oliver Tobias didn’t do himself – possibly because he’d already suffered an injury. The stunt, known as a flick-back, occurs in the opening scene, where Arthur hits his head on a tree, comes off the horse backwards, and lands on the ground flat, on his back. This difficult stunt was deemed too dangerous, so they got in a professional stuntman. When someone has to fall from a horse, a pit is dug where they are supposed to fall, and re-filled, so that the ground is softer to land on.

There are a lot of weapons used in the episode. When the Celt leaders refuse to discuss an alliance without their weapons, Kai is all for killing them, but Arthur says “If you need swords to feel like men …” and insists that Kai return them.

The “sword under the boulder” is the weapon Arthur uses throughout the series. In this episode, he also fights Mark with a club.

Llud uses what we later learn is his metal hand to block Mark, but no mention is made of this ‘handicap.’

We see Kai holding his trademark axe, though he doesn’t fight with it; he and the other Celts kill the Saxons with spears.

Cerdig and the other Saxons usually fight with axes – but theirs are smaller than Kai’s. Some of them also have swords.


Dressed to kill?

Arthur wears something known as ‘ring armour’, but the design seems to have been a too-literal interpretation of medieval artwork; such armour would not have provided much protection.



Kai is wearing the same tunic as when he played Hansen in “The Last Valley” in 1971.

The Last Valley 40

You can tell the Saxons from everyone else, because they wear sheepskins. Ambrose dresses as a Roman.


On the table

Mark of Cornwall tears a strip off a roasting pig, while his followers bring him a dead stag for later.

A single spring onion graces the table, while Arthur wrangles the chiefs. No wonder they're not very co-operative, if that's all they've been offered to eat!

Spring onion

Cerdig shares what appears to be meat with a female companion. He also has some loaves, and a bowl of apples and strawberries.

The Celts’ feast after the battle doesn’t look very impressive – bread and meat. Mead is the drink of choice.


Extra! Extra!

Students from Bristol University feature strongly in this episode.


Honourable mention ...

For the goat who chews impassively throughout Arthur and Mark of Cornwall's posturing.

Goat


What’s going on here?

While lying in state, Arthur is wears a facial mask like the one found at Sutton Hoo: a Saxon artefact!

Arthur is seen on a funeral pyre, but no one sets light to it. Was the whole village in on the scheme?

What was that big heavy rock doing in the middle of Arthur’s village in the first place? Also, the hilt of the sword initially seems to be pointing away from Arthur, yet he manages to reach it quite easily.

Arthur tells the chiefs, “Cerdig was at Ilchester last night, not a day’s march from here.” It seems he is quite a bit less than a day’s march away, because the spy manages to make the journey there, and Cerdig then makes the return trip to Arthur’s territory, in the time it takes for the Celtic chiefs to compare the size of their weapons.

For someone who lives by the sword, Arthur doesn't treat his weapon with much respect, often holding it by the blade, and even putting it back in its sheath while it is still covered in blood.

vlcsnap-2015-02-01-13h16m47s14

Kai starts both races on the black horse with a thin white blaze, and finishes them on a black horse, with a white spot on its forehead.

For most of the first race, Arthur is wearing a tan tunic over his ring armour jacket, but there is a short period when he is seen only wearing the ring armour, which he wears throughout the second race.

Arthur and Kai agree to run their second race on the same route as the first - but we don't see them going up the muddy bank on the second run.


Music

As Arthur’s minstrel, folk artist Meic Stevens sings:

Then strode bold Arthur up to Cerdig …
... The Saxons fell upon us, like the rain upon the ground;
But the great Lord of the Forest bade the quagmire suck them down.
When Arthur fought the foe.


He is playing a mandolin, made to look like a crwth.

Victory (14)

The 34 tracks of incidental music, beautifully written and orchestrated for the series by Paul Lewis, were used judiciously throughout the series; the soundtrack was never obtrusive, but always a subtle enhancement to any scene where it was used. The whole suite of music is now available on CD.

Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:
Track 3, Celtic Horns: after Kai has said “tell the world – Arthur is dead."
Elmer Bernstein’s theme
Track 5, To Battle: when Ambrose is marching on Arthur’s village.
Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: when Arthur’s man goes off to instigate Cerdig’s attack.
Track 12, Duel: used during battle scenes.
Track 14, Chase! and track 8, Skirmish and Rout: when Arthur and Kai race at the end.


Cast

Arthur ……………... Oliver Tobias
Kai .….….….….…... Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Cerdig ……………... Rupert Davies
Mark of Cornwall ….. Brian Blessed
Dirk the Crafty …….. Donald Burton
Herward the Holy….. Michael Graham Cox
Ambrose …………... Norman Bird
Cabot, Minstrel ……. Meic Stevens
Spy ………………... Tom Chadbon
Sentry ….….….….… Roger Forbes


Crew

Director ……………. Peter Sasdy
Writer ……………… Terence Feely
Executive Producer .... Patrick Dromgoole
Producer ………….… Peter Miller
Associate Producer … John Peverall
Production Manager ... Keith Evans
Post-production ……. Barry Peters
Incidental music ……. Paul Lewis
Theme music ………. Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography ….... Bob Edwards
Camera Operator …... Roger Pearce
Film Editing ………... Don Llewellyn
Sound recordist ……. Mike Davey
Dubbing Mixer …….. John Cross
Art Direction ….…… Doug James
Assistant Director ….. Simon Hinkley
Production Assistant .. Ann Rees
Costume Design …… Audrey MacLeod
Make-up ….….…….. Christine Penwarden
Fight Arranger ……... Peter Brayham

1 One of Director, Sid Hayers’ catch-phrases.
Saison 1, episode 1: Arthur est mort

Auteur: Terence Feely


Scène d'ouverture


Dans la campagne, Arthur, Kai et trois autres Celtes à cheval, en ligne se préparant à débuter une course.

Kai: A travers la corniche jusqu'à l'arrière du village.

Arthur: Puis à travers la forêt. Maintenant. Voyons qui sera le premier.

Kai: Prêts? Partez!

Les cavaliers s'élancent. Un à un, les trois autres cavaliers tombent ou restent en arrière. Arthur est en tête, Kai le suit de près. Arthur regarde derrière lui, et une branche basse le désarçonne. Il reste immobile à terre. Kai descend de cheval, s'agenouille près de lui et saisit sa tête. Deux des autres cavaliers s'approchent. Kai lève la tête vers eux.

Kai: Allez annoncer au village, annoncez au monde entier, qu'Arthur est mort.

Les cavaliers s'éloignent au galop.

[Générique de début]


Première partie

Read more... )
Season 1, Episode 1: Arthur is Dead

Writer: Terence Feely


OPENING SCENE


Arthur, Kai, and three other Celts, all mounted, line up for a race.

Kai: Across the ledge at the back of the village.

Arthur: Then through the forest. Now. Let’s see who’ll be first man.

Kai: Everybody ready? [shakes reins] Har!

They thunder across the landscape. One by one, the other three horsemen fall – or are thrown – from their horses, leaving Arthur in the lead, with Kai close behind. Arthur looks behind him, and a low branch knocks him from his horse. He lands flat on his back, and lies motionless. Kai dismounts, kneels beside Arthur, and carefully moves his head. Two of the other Celts arrive. Kai looks up.

Kai: Go and tell the village. Tell the world. Arthur is dead.

The others gallop away.

[OPENING CREDITS]
Read more... )
"Arthur is Dead" – at least, the main part of it – was the first episode to be filmed, in late June and early July 1972. However, the horse-racing scenes at the beginning and end of the episode were clearly filmed in autumn, judging by the colour of the leaves on the trees.

The version of Arthur’s village seen in this episode had recently been built at Woodchester National Park, near Stroud, in Gloucestershire.

According to Sophie Neville, whose family owned some of the other filming locations, the ‘swamp’ where the Saxons were drowned was at the family farm in the village of Compton Dando.

Cerdig’s camp is thought to have been in the Mendips.

Of the filming, Director, Peter Sasdy says:

I was engaged to direct the opening episode of the series, with the understanding that, waiting for me there, was Arthur’s ‘village set’ already built. However, on arriving in Bristol and being taken to see this village set, all I’ve seen in the middle of the forest were a great number of trees with big chalk marks and numbers on them. "That’s where the village WILL BE BUILT!" I was informed. Not a good start...

After some panic, and bringing in outside crews – as always in the film industry, under pressure, working day and night for 7 days a week – more or less everything was ready to start the production on schedule.

I know I had very little time during pre-production, but I was happy with the casting of the main characters, and with the costumes ...
For the first few episodes of "Arthur of the Britons", Arthur's village was situated at Woodchester Park, near Stroud, which now belongs to the National Trust.

According to Peter Sasdy, who was engaged to direct the opening episode of the series, Arthur’s ‘village set’ was supposed to be already built when he arrived.

"However, on arriving in Bristol and being taken to see this village set, all I’ve seen in the middle of the forest were a great number of trees with big chalk marks and numbers on them. "That’s where the village WILL BE BUILT!" I was informed. Not a good start ...

After some panic, and bringing in outside crews - as always in the film industry, under pressure, working day and night for 7 days a week – more or less everything was ready to start the production on schedule."


Arthur is Dead (38)

This is the dam across the third lake, which forms a causeway into Arthur's village: scene from "Arthur is Dead."

Woodchester (24)

This is what it looked like in 2010/2011.
Read more... )
The field where the drowning of the Saxons in "Arthur is Dead" was filmed, is in the village of Frampton Mansell, and is owned by Daphne and Martin Neville. Daphne worked as a newsreader and television presenter for HTV.

Martin recalled that “Arthur of the Britons” was HTV's big production for 1972. When the Nevilles' field was chosen as a location, they had to dam two streams to create the effect of a marsh, and also brought in diggers to make the holes for the Saxons to drown in; it took three days for the field to get sufficiently waterlogged for filming.

This is how it looked in the series:

FM1 Fighting Cerdig (40)

And this is how the field, now set aside for conservation, appears in 2014:

Frampton Mansell 3

Frampton Mansell 1

Location shot taken at the time:

field at Frampton Mansell

When Daphne heard that HTV were auditioning children for parts in the series, her daughters auditioned; Tamzin was cast as Elka in “The Gift of Life”, Sophie was cast as another Saxon child, tilling the fields with Heather Wright as Hildred, when Elka and her brother return to the village. Perry was given a small speaking role as one of the Wood People’s children in “The Wood People”, and Sophie also appeared as a Woodchild.

Tamzin was 8 years old when she appeared in “The Gift of Life”, and could ride – they all had ponies. According to Sophie, Oliver Tobias later introduced Tamzin as his co-star. Daphne recalls that Michael Gothard was very good with the children.

daphne-neville-in-arthur-of-the-britons

This is Daphne, as a Saxon woman, with Tamzin, as Elka, Geoffrey Adams as Hald, and Sean Fleming as Krist.

Thanks to Sophie Neville, Daphne Neville and Martin Neville.

Further details and photos from the filming of "The Gift of Life" can be found on Sophie's blog, here.

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