King Richard and the Crusaders (1954)



Director:     David Butler. 

Starring:     Abdullah Abbas (Arab),  John Alderson (Mob Leader),  Rudolph Anders (German Knight),  Nejla Ates (Moorish Dancing Girl),  Erik Blythe (Drill Master),  Leslie Bradley (Castelaine Captain),  Larry Chance (Castelaine Bowman),  Henry Corden (King Philip of France),  Harry Cording (Castelaine Spokesman),  Nick Cravat (Nectobanus),  Mark Dana (Castelaine),  Robert Douglas (Sir Giles Amaury),  John Epper (Wounded Castelaine),  Anthony Eustrel (Baron De Vaux),  Wilton Graff (Duke Leopold of Austria),  Mark Hanna (Courier),  Lumsden Hare (Physician),  Rex Harrison (Saladin),  Laurence Harvey (Sir Kenneth of the Leopard),  Robin Hughes (King's Guard),  Bruce Lester (Castelaine),  Paul Marion (Arab Falconer),  Lester Matthews (Archbishop of Tyre / Narrator),  Virginia Mayo (Lady Edith Plantagenet),  Leonard Mudie (Physician),  Peter Ortiz (Castelaine),  Michael Pate (Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat),  Leonard Penn (Physician),  Guy Prescott,  Paula Raymond (Queen Berengaria),  George Sanders (King Richard I),  Joseph Schildkraut (Abraham Rothstein). 

Christian Richard I of England faces off with Moslem Saladin in the Third Crusade


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Two savage crusades have been fought by Christians against Moslems.  Palestine became a Kingdom of the Cross, but the tide of battle turned and the crusaders lost their early gains.  Then in 1191 AD knights of the Third Crusade rode toward Jerusalem led by Richard I, King of England.  Richard of the Lion Heart, a man whose past was filled with deeds of valor and who now was pledged by religious vow to win back the Holy Land from Saladin, Sultan of the thousand tribes of Arabi; master of the arts of desert warfare; genius of the methods of swift entrapment. 

The Crusaders are ambushed by the Moslems.  Back at the Crusader camp, the yell of "Hail to King Richard!" goes up as Richard I arrives.  He says to his soldiers that ever since the Siege of Acre he has had the highest esteem for Sir Giles Arnaury.  If anything should happen to their King he wants Sir Giles to be in command of the military as his vice-regent. Sir Giles tells Richard that this is a great honor.  Richard is very fond of the "guard of my body" Sir Kenneth of the Leopard and of Huntington.  But Sir Kenneth is a Scot.  King Richard says he has a distaste for Scots.  He is fond of saying:  "Don't trust a Scot."  He says he will come after the Scots as soon as he has dealt with the Saracens.  Raswell, Kenneth's dog, comes up to lick Sir Kenneth.  This lightens the mood and Richard praises dogs for their loyalty to their masters. Poor Richard has loyalty problems himself amongst the crusaders. 

The group is a loose union because there is no agreement between the countries of who should lead.  There is Leopold, Duke of Austria, who drinks too much.  King Philip of France is a moody monarch and thinks that Frenchmen should only fight under French leaders.  And, of course, there is Sir Giles Arnaury, a Castelaine.  Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat, is Giles's right hand man.  Giles and Conrad pass by a guard.  When they get past him, Conrad stabs the guard in the back.  They meet up with a Castelaine bowman who starts to arm his bow.  He is supplied with a Saracen arrow.  The man shoots the arrow right through the side of a tent and hits King Richard. 

The scream goes up:  "An assassin"  Giles quickly steps forward and sends his men out in different directions:  the Teutonic Knights to the west, the Hospitallers to the east; and his Castillains to the north and south.  Kenneth picks up Richard and lays him on his bed.  Many think Richard dead, but he awakens and speaks to Kenneth, who he refers to as "my loyal Scot".  Kenneth says that the Saracen arrow proves nothing.  They need to find the bow.

Meanwhile Leopold and the King of France vie for the leadership position.  But Conrad steps forward to say that they should take Sir Giles.  After all, that was Richard's wish.  Just then Richard arrives on a chair carried by Kenneth and others.  Richard refers to those involved in the squabbling as traitors.  And the bow that shot the arrow at Richard was found to be a Frankish bow.

Richard asks Sir Giles to come forward.  He tells him to kneel.  Richard makes him the vice-commander.  Richard asks if there are any dissenters. There is only on:  Kenneth.  He says that he has no respect for Sir Giles because the man is not loyal to Richard.  And he persecutes defenseless Moslems.  Furthermore, his men thrive on ransom and plunder.  Richard has Giles swear to treat the defenseless in a chivalrous manner at all times.  Conrad tells Giles that when they get rid of Richard, Giles will make his own peace with Saladin.   

Queen Berengaria comes into the tent to see her husband.  She cries over his wounds.  Richard's cousin Edith is with Berengaria and she chases the fakirs out of the tent.  Richard is proud of her for chasing the charlatans away.  He points out that they both are Plantagenets and must stick together.  The Queen tells her husband that she and Edith are making a trip to a local convent.  Richard says it will be a dangerous trip.  Not because of the Moslems, because Saladin does not attack pilgrims.  But there are plenty of outlaws around that could cause a real problem for them.  Richard decides to send Kenneth with them as well as some extra men. 

Edith likes hearing this because she is extremely fond of Kenneth.  But her cousin Richard wants to arrange a marriage for her and it won't be with the Scot.  He says he will kill the Scot if he even approaches her.  Edith leaves the inner part of the tent and embraces Kenneth.  They kiss and then Edith leaves.

Out on the desert in front of the caravan he is guarding, Kenneth sees an oasis in the distance.  At the same time he sees a lone rider approaching him.  When he sees it is not a crusader, the fight is on.  Kenneth knocks the man off his horse, but the fellow gets back on his horse quickly.  They fight on and the fight continues until the Arab hits Kenneth with an arrow.  Kenneth falls off his horse and plays dead on the ground.  When the Arab gets close to him he pulls the feet from under the man.  The fight continues until the Arab calls for peace between them.  The Arab introduces himself as Emir Ildiron of Kurdistan.  He shakes hands with Kenneth. 

The Emir tells Kenneth that there are people in Richard's camp that are traitors to Richard.  He also says that he is a physician to Saladin and he has been sent by Saladin to cure King Richard.  Kenneth offers to escort the Emir to the Crusader camp.  The Queen's caravan approaches and Kenneth tells the Emir to hide from them in the oasis because the Castilaines may want to kill him.  Passing by the oasis Edith sees the Emir, but says nothing.  However, one of the guards says he caught a glimpse of a turban inside the oasis.  The guards go to check it out.  They start searching the area. 

Kenneth rejoins the caravan.  Edith tells him that she saw an Arab inside the oasis area.  She tells Kenneth not to let the Castilaines kill him.  But they needn't worry about the Emir.  He subdues and kills one of the guards.  The other two see Kenneth approaching and charge him, hoping to kill him.  Kenneth, however, manages to kill the two guards. 

The caravan returns to the crusader camp.  The Emir brings greetings from Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria.  He also brings an offer to Richard.  Saladin wants to fight Richard alone with the winner taking all.  Richard agrees to the fight.  The doctor starts preparing his medicines.  He also flirts with Edith who serves as his nurse.  This makes Kenneth jealous and angry.  He breaks them up.  Richard tells Kenneth that he wants him to stand guard all night because he has lost faith in nearly all.   The doctor starts treating Edith as a maid and Edith gets angry.  The doctor quickly apologizes.

Later Giles tries to go into the tent with Conrad and the bowman.  But Kenneth backs Giles out with his sword.  Conrad asks how is the King's health and Kenneth tells them that it would be going better if the doctor knew the nature of the poison used on the arrow.  He is intimating that the mean are the assassins.  Kenneth also challenges the bowman, who leaves.  The men are afraid that Richard might make a truce through the doctor.  They start to force their way in, but Kenneth gets the better of Giles and Conrad.  The dog Raswell helps by grabbing Conrad's arm. 

The doctor tells Edith that the talisman he keeps with him has the power of heaven as long as it is blessed by faith.  He has Edith puts her hands around the cup filled with liquid and the talisman and then he puts his hands around the cup.  He says there is no magic without a believing love.  He has Edith have Richard drink the mixture.  The doctor then strums some form of guitar and sings to Edith.  Kenneth hears this and gets jealous and angry all over again.  He wants to fight the doctor, but Edith stops him. 

Edith says she's getting tired of war and tired of worrying about what may happen to Kenneth.  This relaxes Kenneth and he promises Edith that he won't fight after the crusade is over.  They kiss.  Conrad sees them kiss. 

At the entrance to the tent, Kenneth tells the soldiers that His Highness is alive!  He says the wound is healing, but the soldiers force their way into the tent to see for themselves.  When they are in they see Richard stand up on his feet.  The men all cheer!  Richard gives the guardianship of England's banner to Kenneth.  

The next day Richard and Kenneth practice jousting. in preparation for the match with Saladin.   At night Kenneth guards the banners accompanied by his faithful dog.  Meanwhile, the doctor continues flirting with Edith.  He speaks of a love of a Saracen for a Christian.  He tells her that with her at his side he would be able to forge a peace between Christians and Muslims. 

Conrad probably told King Richard about Kenneth and Edith, because he comes rushing out of his tent looking for them.  He finds them together talking.  Kenneth has abandoned his post to see her.  Richard breaks up the couple.  Then they go check the banners.  The post holding the English banner has been chopped down and the flag lays in the mud.  And Kenneth finds his dog badly wounded.  The king is furious and he tells Kenneth that the Scottish barbarians sent Kenneth just to plague him.  He challenges Kenneth to a trial by conduct.  They will meet on the jousting course and the contest will be to the death.  And, Richard says, he will command Lady Edith to watch.  Richard leaves.  The doctor comes over to Kenneth and tells him that he will be able to fix the dog up.   

The joust begins.  On the second pass Richard is knocked off his horse and onto the ground.  Kenneth could kill Richard, but instead he gets off his horse to fight Richard on the ground.  Again Kenneth gets the better of Richard.  But Kenneth will not kill Richard.  Richard takes advantage of this and is able to knock Kenneth to the ground.  The King will kill Richard, but the doctor gets up and asks Richard for the life of Kenneth in exchange for the doctor having save Richard's life.  Richard agrees.  Edith comes down from the stands to tell Richard:  "You won a poor victory, cousin." 

The doctor tells everyone that while they have been wasting time fighting duels, the Saracens have set up an encampment in the nearby valley.  Richard strips Kenneth of his knighthood and all other honors.  He is banished from the Crusader camp.  He tells the doctor to take him to the Saracens and let Kenneth serve as his slave. 

With the Saracens Kenneth awakens to find himself given a woman to take care of him thanks to the good doctor.  Then another beautiful woman does a belly dance for the doctor and Kenneth.  Kenneth does not like being in the camp of the Saracens, but the doctor says that in their camp at least he is a nobleman.  Kenneth, after all, has been banished from the world of the Franks.  He advises Kenneth to forget about Edith because now for sure she is way out of his league.     

Kenneth finally realizes that the doctor set the whole thing up in order to get into the camp of the crusaders to be a spy.  He feels tricked and betrayed by the Arab.  But, never mind that, the doctor wants to show Kenneth a prisoner who has recently escaped from the Castilaine prison in the nearby castle. The prisoner is brought out on a stretcher.  It takes him awhile, but Kenneth recognizes the man as the Castilaine bowman.  The doctor tells Kenneth that the man cannot speak because he has no tongue.  It's been cut out.  But with the help of a scribe they were able to piece together his testimony about Sir Giles.  Sir Giles wants to kill King Richard, become commander of the army, conquer Saladin and enslave the Syrian people.  Then the doctor reveals his true identity.  The doctor, the Emir, is none other than Saladin himself. 

The Duke of Austria abandons the crusade.  The French king tells Richard that he has not only trouble here on the crusade, but his brother John back home is an usurper.  Richard agrees.  The French king will stay but he demands that the new leader be Sir Giles.  Saracen diplomats, with their faces covered, arrive and are sent into a private tent to pray before speaking with Richard.   

Kenneth in disguise visits with Richard, but Kenneth is unmasked so to speak when his dog rushes over to him to jump on him.  Richard is actually relieved.  He says that he has already forgiven Kenneth.  He had to because now he needs Kenneth's strength.  But Kenneth tells him that Saladin has made him his ambassador.  He has a new offer.  Lady Edith will be the wife of Saladin in return for a peace being work out between them.  King Richard laughs at the idea about Edith.  Kenneth tells him that there was no doctor and no Emir.  The doctor, the Emir, was Saladin himself. 

Edith hears all this and comes in fuming mad.  She can't believe that Kenneth would come to the camp only to "fetch" her for Saladin.  She seriously considers going because she is so mad.  She says it would be good because that way she could help bring about peace.  Kenneth tells her he expected and still expects Edith to tell Saladin to go jump.  Edith is still mad and leaves.  Kenneth gives a copy of the bowman's confession to Richard. 

Sir Giles decides to kidnap Edith because both sides want her.  He takes some men and goes into the tent with the Muslim diplomats.  They sneak up on the men and kill them with their knives.  Meanwhile, Conrad comes into King Richard's tent.  Kenneth and he start sword fighting.  The dog helps Kenneth and Kenneth is able to kill Conrad.  Sir Giles and his men dressed as Arabs go to kidnap Edith.  Edith thinks they are Saladin's men and tells them to tell Saladin that she can never love any man but Kenneth.  The men grab Edith and take her away. 

Kenneth is made a knight again, but this time is also made a Chevalier of the House of Plantagenet.  Kenneth then goes to find Edith.  She finds she's been kidnapped and, so, he reports to King Richard that Saladin has stolen Edith.  Richard goes to examine the tent that where the Saracen diplomats stayed, while Kenneth rides out in search of Edith.  When Kenneth arrives at the Saracen camp he demands to know from Saladin what has he done with Edith?  Saladin doesn't know what he is talking about.

Just then King Richard and his men come riding into the camp.  Richard dismounts to tell Saladin that he has shameful news.  His diplomats were killed by Sir Giles and his men.  And they are now taking Edith to their castle.  Saladin jumps right to action.  He sends a falcon with a message to stop Sir Giles and his men along the road to the Castilaine castle. 

The Castilaine castle sends out some men to meet up with Sir Giles.  But these men are ambushed by the Saracens.  It's a slaughter.  One man gets away with two arrows in him, but he doesn't get far before he falls off his horse and onto the ground along the path. 

Saladin is able to catch up with Sir Giles and his men who still are all dressed in Arab clothing.  He joins in on the back of the group.  He then works his way over to the man carrying Edith with him on his horse.  He takes Edith from the man and then when he sees his change he breaks off onto a side path.  Only one of Giles's men sees the move.  He chases after Saladin and Edith, but Saladin maneuvers the man in such a way that he is knocked right off his saddle when he hits a low hanging branch. 

Saladin watches as King Richard's men pass by him.  He uses this moment to refer to Edith as his love, his queen.  He then tells her that he is actually Saladin.  Edith is surprised, but not impressed.  She still only wants to be with Kenneth.  Saladin tells her that she will have her moment to bid farewell to her barbarians. 

Kenneth catches up with Sir Giles's men first and takes out quite a few.  But then he is cornered.  King Richard and his men arrive to save the day, but Sir Giles and two other men get away.  Kenneth sees them and chases after them.  He is able to catch up with them and kill the two men with Sir Giles.  He then catches up with Giles himself.  The men in the fort see what's happening and decide to strand Sir Giles outside the castle.  They start lifting the draw bridge. 

Giles arrives first at the bridge and jumps for it.  He is able to catch a piece of the top of the bridge.  Kenneth jumps right after him and they start trying to kick each other off the bridge and into the moat.  As they fight on the bridge, King Richard catches up with the two fighting men.  Then Saladin and Edith arrive along with some of Saladin's archers.  King Richard tells Saladin to give his men the order to kill Giles, but Saladin says it is up to Allah now.  After a long struggle, Kenneth is able to stab Giles, killing him.   Kenneth rushes down the slanted bridge, kills a guard and lowers the bridge again.  He is reunited with Edith.  Edith tells him to take her to his highlands of Scotland.  But King Richard says Kenneth will go with him.  He needs him to fight his enemies abroad and at home in England.  He even says he will give Kenneth the Castilaine castle if Kenneth comes with him.  But Kenneth wants Edith and Scotland and will not be deterred.  King Richard says:  "Never trust a Scot!"


Old-fashioned action costume drama.  It's o.k., but nothing special.  In general the main facts in the movie are true.  There's just not a lot of facts in the film.  But I was pleasantly surprised that it was better than I thought.  The love story was good, but fictional.  But that's o.k.  Makes the film more interesting and memorable. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


The Third Crusade (11891192) was an attempt by European leaders to re-conquer the Holy Land from Saladin, the Arab leader.

After the failure of the Second Crusade, the Zengid dynasty controlled a unified Syria. 

The Zengid dynasty fought the Fatimed rulers of Egypt and won.  The result was the unification of Egyptian and Syrian forces under Saladin.

1187  --   Saladin lays siege to the city of Tiberias.  The Crusader army was destroyed at the battle of Hattin.  

1187  --  Saladin takes Acre and recaptures Jerusalem.

With Jerusalem back in Arab hands, Henry II of England and Philip II of France ended their conflict to start the Third Crusade.

1189  --  Henry II's death put the English contingent under the command of King Richard I.  

The English and French were joined by the Holy Roman Empire.  Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa leads a massive army, but drowned before reaching the Holy Land. Many of his troops go home.

His son  Frederick of Swabia took the 5,000 leftovers and marched to Antioch.  There the army was reduced by fever. Frederick had to ask for help from Conrad of Montferrat to lead him to Acre. 

1191 (July 12)  --  Richard captures the city of Acre. 

1191  -- Leopold V of Austria (replacing Emperor Frederick I) and Philip II of France, very frustrated with Richard I, leave the Holy Land.

1191 (September 7)  --- Richard wins the Battle of Arsuf (30 miles from Jaffa).  Richard goes on to capture Jaffa.

1192 (July)  --  Saladin retakes Jaffa.  Then Richard re-conquers Jaffa. 

1192 (September 2)  --  Richard I and Saladin finalize a treaty.  The Moslems still control Jerusalem.  (But Christian pilgrims can visit Jerusalem.)

1192 (October 9)  --  Richard I leaves the Holy Land.

1192 (December)  --  Duke Leopold arrests and imprisons Richard on the charge of having murdered Leopold's cousin Conrad of Montferrat.

1194  --  Richard returns to England.

1198  --  since the Third Crusade was a failure, a Fourth Crusade begins.

1199  --  Richard dies of a crossbow bolt wound at the age of 41.


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