Imagination Connoisseur, Stubble McShave, gives quick overviews of two historical epics he has enjoyed for years: IVANHOE and GETTYSBURG.

Greetings to The Evengelist of Entertainment Enthusiasm, as well as to the PGS.

I thought that I’d beat the drum for two historical epics that were made for television. What I’m talking about is the tv-movie IVANHOE that was shown on TV in 1982 and the war epic GETTYSBURG that had a limited theatrical release in 1993, but was primarily a mini-series for television.

I have a certain fondness for IVANHOE. Here in Sweden, it’s been a tradition for almost 40 years to show it on television on New Year’s Day. I know it by heart because I’ve seen it most of those times it’s been shown, and I recognize that it’s a fairly low-budget production.

It does however feature some great acting from some top actors. Actors include James Mason, Michael Hordern, Sam Neill, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover, Olivia Hussey, Lysette Anthony, Stuart Wilson and Anthony Andrews. The story is based on Sir Walter Scott’s epic tale of timeless romance and chivalry. It’s also a tale of prejudice and superstition.

The main character is Ivanhoe (Anthony Andrews) who is a knight, of Saxon heritage, returning from the Crusades. He wants to reconcile with his father (Michael Hordern) who never forgave him for leaving to fight with a Normand king in a foreign land. He also wants to get back with his old girl (Lysette Anthony).
It features the Jew, Isak (James Mason), and his daughter Rebecca (Olivia Hussey). Ivanhoe develops close bonds of friendship with Isak. Rebecca and Ivanhoe develop feelings for each other during a period where they are prisoners and she is tending his wounds. In the prejudiced society it’s a love that can’t lead anywhere.

The story is set in the time-period of Robin Hood, who has a secondary role in this story and features the dispute between Prince John and his brother Richard the Lionheart who is returning from captivity abroad to try to reclaim his throne.
The main antagonists are three Normand knights under Prince John’s control. Front de Boeuf (John Rhys-Davies), Maurice de Bracy (Stuart Wilson) and Brian de Bois-Guilbert (Sam Neill).

There are some battles in the movie but it’s fairly low-budget.

The reason I try to watch this each New Year’s Day is because of the pure story and the excellent acting.


The other tv-movie I wanted to mention was the war tv-movie/mini-series GETTYSBURG that had a limited theatrical release in 1993. From now on I will refer to it as a movie.

This movie would never have happened without Ted Turner. He more or less financed the whole thing. This also has a strong cast although it’s mostly American actors. Since this is based on the events around a war in 1863 (the US Civil War) there are basically no women in the movie. I think I spotted one.

Anyway, the cast consists of names such as Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, Sam Elliott, Stephen Lang, Kevin Conway and Richard Jordan.
Richard Jordan died from cancer soon after he filmed this movie. He, as Brigadier General Armistead and has a great scene with Tom Berenger, who plays General Longstreet.

This was before the times of CGI so when you have panning aerial shots of 40 or so cannons going off at once it feels much more real than if it had been done with CGI. They were able to enlist the help of large groups of reenactors and were allowed to shoot it on the actual historical battle sites.

There are several great acting scenes between different officers. For example, when General Robert E. Lee (Martin Sheen) is reprimanding a cavalry officer for neglecting his duties. I was most positively surprised by Tom Berenger (Longstreet), the last time I saw him on this level was in PLATOON.
This movie has a great soundtrack written by Randy Edelman you should absolutely listen to it.

Two things worth noting before you watch it.

There are a lot of big beards and moustaches in this movie. And the running time is 254 minutes, schedule an intermission or watch it in two sittings. I’ve heard that this movie is shown in some schools in the US, which is understandable since the battle of Gettysburg is central to American history.

For the Bond enthusiasts I can mention that George Lazenby plays Major General Pettigrew. Ted Turner also has a cameo in the movie. In the finale battle he’s seen for a short time before he’s killed.

That’s all I wanted to say on the matter.

– Stubble M.