Some more movies set in the Middle Ages


With an emphasis on some non-Hollywood movies this time – you may recall I did a top ten of medieval flicks before. I named some obvious classics but here’s some you may not have heard of. For example, the great Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein made an epic about the Russian hero Alexander Nevsky, telling the story of how he repelled the Teutonic Knights – an order similar in many ways to the Templars. The film was released in 1938 and students of history will appreciate that Nevsky, the Russian hero, might have been intended to be Stalin while the evil Teutonic Knights could have been Nazi Germany.

You may have seen later versions of the story of Joan of Arc – the French heroine – but this 1928 silent French film is extremely potent and strangely modern. The actress has an incredibly expressive face.

Turning to Hollywood for a moment, there is a movie you may be unfamiliar with by Cecil B Demille whose movies were always on an epic scale and The Crusades was no different. The only problem – it was about as factual as Fox News. The Crusades invents some bunkum about Richard the Lionheart going on crusade to avoid an unwanted marriage and the woman he does get hitched to ends up being kidnapped by Saladin. None of that happened. Here is the Siege of Acre (which did happen).

Here’s a crusade you may not know much about – the attempt by the Holy Roman Emperor to stamp out the Hussite heresy in what’s now the Czech Republic. At the Battle of Vitkov Hill, a crusader army was beaten by the Hussites in a surprise defeat. This 1956 communist era movie captures that moment in technicolor.

Rutger Hauer playing the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, may not have lived up to its promise. Barbarossa was a Christian king who took a vast German army across what is now Turkey and posed a fatal threat to Saladin. Unfortunately and pretty inexplicably – he managed to get himself drowned in a river. His army then melted away – only 5,000 men making it to Acre. Here is Rutger trying on the role.

 

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