On the way up to his office, Sean asked me why I was so into “Arthur of the Britons”: was it Oliver? I said, no it was Michael. “Even then?” he said. Perhaps he thought a teenager would be more likely to fall for Oliver. He added, “Michael was a very attractive man.”
We went into his office, and settled down to watch the episode, “The Gift of Life” together; every now and then, as we watched the episode, Sean would press ‘pause’, and tell me something he remembered about what had just transpired.
The first thing he commented on was the horse Michael was riding. He said that either Michael wasn’t a natural rider, or the horses he’d been given weren’t up to the task, because he had been through about 3 horses without finding one that suited him. The horse wrangler, Ben Ford of Stroud, brought in a big dark horse with the wide irregular blaze, and named it Merlin because “if this works it will be a miracle.” As it turned out, this horse did suit Michael, and was very stable.
Sean then pointed out that much of the conversation between Arthur and Kai about what to do with the Saxon children – nearly a whole minute – was filmed in one take.
Then when Kai is getting ready to depart, he pointed out this great shot of Michael:
He said there would have been huge polystyrene reflectors just out of shot, directing bright lights at Michael’s face; he would have been bravely keeping his eyes wide open to avoid squinting.
The conversation between Krist and Kai about the scar on Kai’s neck would have been filmed by a tracking camera mounted on a vehicle, driven alongside the horse.
When Kai was calling for the children, Sean said, “I did find Michael slightly scary – there was a threat about him. He was tall, distant, and rather magnificent.” But he was also “very kind, very patient.” Sean recalled that he and Tamzin often screwed up a shot by, for example, looking straight into camera, but Michael understood that they were just learning. “In dealing with me and Tamzin, he was brilliant.”
Where the children are sleeping, he said he remembered the feel of the sheepskin against his cheek.
I commented on Kai’s furry boot-covers, and Sean revealed that they were a lot of trouble, as they were always coming off.
When Kai springs out of the bracken to break the Saxon villager’s neck, Sean said he would have had his face smeared with Vaseline, to make it look as if he were sweating. By the time they filmed these scenes, they were losing the light.
Sean remembers feeling the sticky “Kensington Gore” (theatrical fake blood) on his face after Kai palms his cheek as he rides away.
During the scene where Kai is lying on his sickbed, we speculated on where Arthur would have obtained the huge bunch of grapes Kai has in front of him. Sean suspects the cameraman was referencing Carravagio’s “Boy with a Basket of Fruit.”
Though he hasn’t been back to the locations where they filmed, Sean sometimes feels drawn to go and see them. His involvement with “Arthur of the Britons” was a very intense experience, and his attachment to it is deep set. When he saw it again on DVD after nearly 40 years, it was better than he remembered. The series has stood up well.