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23 February 1982: Ivanhoe

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Feb. 23rd, 1982 | 07:00 pm

This historical romance, based on Sir Walter Scott’s novel of the same name, was originally broadcast as a 3-part mini-series. It was filmed at Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle, and Pinewood Studios, presumably during 1981.

Michael Gothard was, for the second time in his career, cast as a Saxon. This time it was as Athelstane, a Saxon noble.


Athelstane’s uncle, Cedric of Rotherwood, hopes that Athelstane will one day reclaim the throne of England from the Norman conquerors. But Athelstane is reluctant to involve himself in anything strenuous, being more interested in good food and wine than his uncle’s ambitions; neither is he head-over-heels in love with Cedric’s ward Rowena, though Cedric is determined they should marry.

Cedric’s son, Ivanhoe, who is in love with Rowena, seems a far more suitable candidate for Cedric’s ambitions, but Cedric won’t even recognise him, because he chose to follow the Norman King Richard the Lionheart on the Crusades.

Instead, Cedric persists in putting all his hopes on Athelstane, constantly referring to him as “noble” – usually at a moment when Athelstane is drunk, has his mouth full of food, or both, which is quite often.

Athelstane at first seems to be in the story for comic relief, amid the intrigues involving King Richard and Prince John, and the plot involving Isaac and Rebecca, persecuted Jews who look after Ivanhoe.

Later in the film, however, despite the threat of execution, Athelstane summons up some pride, and faces down the three Norman lords who have captured his party, refusing to leave without Rowena when given the chance, though this chivalry does not extend to Isaac and Rebecca.

During the ensuing battle, we see why Athelstane was so reluctant to join in the tournament: he just isn’t very good at fighting. He finds himself a sword, but is soon defeated, then knocked over by a horse.

When he finally reappears, having been given up as dead, he at last stands up to Cedric, giving a pretty speech where he refuses to be Cedric’s puppet any longer, and renounces his claim on Rowena, allowing her to marry her true love, the insipid hero, Ivanhoe.


Lysette Anthony, who played Rowena, would later appear with Michael again in "Jack the Ripper."

Chloe Franks, who played Katy Coombs in “Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?” appears as Rowena’s attendant.

Julian Glover, who played King Richard in this production, had recently appeared as the villain, Kristatos, (the employer of Emile Locque, played by Michael Gothard) in “For Your Eyes Only”, though they did not have any scenes together in that film.

George Innes, who played Wamba, had previously appeared as mercenary Vornez in "The Last Valley", in which Michael Gothard played Hansen.

In 1984, Stuart Wilson, who played Norman lord, de Bracy, was to appear as Lt. Volkenauer in “Our Man in Tegernsee”, in which Michael played Karl Portillo.


Since the premiere in 1982, Ivanhoe has been broadcast on Swedish television on the January 1st almost every year. It is now considered a tradition.

generalmusic from Lund, Sweden says:

I guess all countries have a few strange traditions and this film is connected to one of ours in Sweden. Every New Year´s Day the last twenty years public service television have shown this movie in the afternoon, the perfect time for dragging yourself up, buying a pizza and maybe forget your extreme hangover for a while.
Everyone knows the film inside out but are still watching it year after year; fills in on every funny line (like when de Boeuf shouts "Striiip him!"), laughs once again over great characters like Athelstane and Tuck and gets annoyed over how Ivanhoe can choose the boring Lady Rowena before foxy Olivia Hussey. I can´t really say anymore if it´s a good movie or not but I guess it´s perfect for a day after.

Watch Ivanhoe on Youtube:
Part 1
Part 2

IMDB entry

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