“Put our product to the test, you’ll feel just fine…”

Miles O’Keeffe, his helmet of hair, and so many wasted thespians—that, in brief, is Sword of the Valiant. I wrote about this cinematic disaster back in February, when I revisited the movie and found it almost endearing: bad, yes, but usefully inscrutable.

But did you know that Sword of the Valiant was actually a remake? Yes: the 1984 travesty was a remake of a 1973 film written and directed by the same deluded people; it even starred some of the same unfortunate actors. For 35 years, the original movie roiled in the purifying fires of cinematic limbo—until something, probably the recent bestselling success of Simon Armitage’s translation of the original poem, prompted an ill-advised DVD reissue.

So the DVD came out two weeks ago, and Fortune did as Fortune does. For one thing, the Amazon product description mistakenly draws on the listing for a Gawain-related documentary. Worse, though, is the fact that—well, I’ll let the fresh list of one-star reviews tell you the rest of it:

I received this DVD from Amazon, the packaging and DVD label say Sir Gawain but the DVD itself is called “Pike Fishing in Winter” and features two guys pike fishing somewhere in England. At first I thought it was a joke, but pike fishing is all you get.

Firstly, having ordered this DVD I discover it isn’t the film advertised, but a 70 minute documentary. Secondly, when I put the documentary in to play, I get ‘Winter Pike Fishing with Mick Brown and Des Taylor’ …

I didn’t open it to play it, so I don’t know about the fishing others have mentioned, but the CD packaging itself indicates it is a documentary…

Not the 1973 Robert Hardy film. Mislabeled and mismarketed prior to release. I haven’t played it yet, so I don’t know if I got the pike fishing too.

In the words of Sir Gawain himself: “Oops.”

On the off chance any of those disappointed reviewers are still eager for a Gawain video fix, they should check out YouTube. They’ll find numerous versions of the romance, including: an award-winning Irish cartoon with a remarkable stained-glass sensibility (part one; part two; part three); a 1994 live-action mangling with a Green Knight right out of the original Star Trek (part one; part two; part three; part four); and—mirabile visuan adaptation for paper-bag puppets.

All of the above are better than Sword of the Valiant—although mind you, I can’t promise that they’re any more satisfying than “Pike Fishing in Winter.”

2 thoughts on ““Put our product to the test, you’ll feel just fine…”

  1. Wonderful — I gave a twenty minute paper on the first, oh, six minutes of the film and its homo-erotic subtext. The expanded version of the paper will be in a forthcoming book on masculinities and medievalism. I always use this film when teaching Gawain, although I’d like to get hold of the Murray Head version.

    I love pointing out to my students that O’Keeffe is quite literally only a body as his voice was dubbed. My my, that hair. The students are inevitably stunned, but less so than with the Lambert Beowulf (which scars them for life, or so they tell me).


  2. Any erotic text that emerges in the first 6 minutes of a film can hardly be very “sub.” Do you mean “inept?” “boring?


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