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REVIEWS129 KEViNJ. HARTY, The ReelMiddleAges: American, Western andEastern European, Middle Eastern andAsian FilmsAboutMedievalEurope. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1999. Pp. viii, 316. 116 film stills, isbn: 0-7864-0541-4. $78.50. Kevin J. Harty's The Reel Middle Ages, the first complete and comprehensive survey of films about Medieval Europe, is both ambitious in its scope and fully realized, rewarding for film critics, medievalists, and general readers alike. The collection includes entries for almost 600 films (plus alternate titles), spanning 100 years of cinematic history (from George Mcliès's 1897 films about Joan of Arc to the very recent 1996 releases of Dragonheart (dir. Rob Cohen), Galgameth (dir. Sean McNamara), and The Hunchback ofNotre Dame (animated, dir. Gary Trousdale)), and, as the subtitle indicates, encompassing many languages and national cinemas. The collection is also strikingly comprehensive in its representation of the various histories offilm production and distribution: there arc entries, ofcourse, for the film classics of the large or prestigious studios (e.g., The Adventures ofRobin Hood [dir. Michael Curtiz and William Keighley for Warner Bros, 1938]), as well as entries for Made-for-Television productions (e.g., A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court [dir. Mel Damski for NBC-TV, 1989]), for cult classics (e.g., Monty Python and the Holy Grail [dir. Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 1975]), and for small independent productions (e.g., The Midwife's Tale [dir. Megan Siler for Heresy Pictures, 1996]). Though the historical boundaries defining the Middle Ages for this study are necessarily fluid (roughly early fifth to late fifteenth centuries), Harty has restricted his entries to films dealing only with the Occident; consequently, one won't find entries for films from, for instance, Japan or India when the subject matter concerns those nations' 'medieval' periods exclusively. Similarly, Harty has chosen not to include films based directly on Shakespeare's plays (as he notes in his preface, there have been numerous studies ofShakespearean films already), though he does include films whose narratives overlap with Shakespeare, or which may be based indirectly on Shakespearean plays. For instance, there are entries for The Little Princes in the Tower (France, 1909), Les Enfants d'Edouard (dir. Henri Andréani, 1909), Tower ofLondon (dir. Rowland V Lee, 1939) and The Tower ofLondon (dir. Roger Corman, 1962), all of which owe some debt (to varying degrees) to Shakespeare's Richard III, though none are direct adaptations ofthe play. As central defining principles, Harty's choices work very well: the survey is complete but in no way unwieldy, and its breadth is, in short, remarkable. The entries themselves consistently demonstrate Harty's critical acumen, familiar to readers from his earlier work on 'medieval film' (most notably, his contributions to the collection of essays and bibliographic material he edited in 1991, Cinema Arthuriana, Essays on Arthurian Film). Each of the entries for the nearly 600 films includes a description ofthe narrative, a summary ofthe source materials, and, in the case of remakes, a briefdiscussion ofthe film's relationship to earlier film versions of the same story. Harty succinctly identifies the films' relationships to the medieval sources, and offers useful and sometimes provocative readings ofthe films' effectiveness within a variety of contexts. For each of the films, as well, Harty provides a brief 130ARTHURIANA bibliography of reviews and discussions: this is an incredibly valuable resource for scholars and teachers alike, and elevates this collection far above the usual published filmography. The supplementary material is kept to a minimum: this is both effective and refreshing for a collection of this sort. Rather than burden the volume with multiple appendices and lists of films by various categories, Harty has instead provided a comprehensive and easily used final index. Readers can access entries, through this one index, based on directors (e.g., Robert Bresson), on source materials (e.g., Sir Gawain andthe Green Knight), actors (e.g., Sean Connery), common characters (e.g., Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde) and, ofcourse, titles (actual or alternate). Also included is a brief bibliography of earlier catalogues and discussions of 'medieval film.' Most importantly, Harty's introduction is concise, interesting, infinitely readable and informative, and of use to a wide variety of readers. He contextualizes 'medieval...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1539
Print ISSN
1078-6279
Pages
pp. 129-130
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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