Cover image for The reel Middle Ages : American, western and eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian films about medieval Europe
The reel Middle Ages : American, western and eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian films about medieval Europe
Harty, Kevin J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson, NC : McFarland, [1999]

Physical Description:
vii, 316 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1995.9.M52 H37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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Those tales of old--King Arthur, Robin Hood, The Crusades, Marco Polo, Joan of Arc--have been told and retold, and the tradition of their telling has been gloriously upheld by filmmaking from its very inception. From the earliest of Georges Melies's films in 1897, to a 1996 animated Hunchback of Notre Dame, film has offered not just fantasy but exploration of these roles so vital to the modern psyche. St. Joan has undergone the transition from peasant girl to self-assured saint, and Camelot has transcended the soundstage to evoke the Kennedys in the White House. Here is the first comprehensive survey of over 900 cinematic depictions of the European Middle Ages--date of production, country of origin, director, production company, cast, and a synopsis and commentary. A bibliography, index, and over 100 stills complete this remarkable work.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The Middle Ages conjure up images of knights, castles, dragons, and fair maidens, brought to life by filmmakers from the earliest days of cinema to the end of the twentieth century. Harty has taken approximately 600 films and created a work that will benefit a wide audience. The preface and introduction explain why a film such as Dragonheart was included and Conan the Barbarian excluded. Confining his selection to films about the European Middle Ages, Harty includes films from Japan, China, and India that fit his criteria. Certain stories have been told over and over, such as Joan of Arc, which was first filmed in 1897. Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of this work is the coverage of a large number of silent films. Wisely, Harty decided not to include Shakespearean films, which have been covered in other resources. The filmography section gives the title of the film, alternate titles, production company, director, producer, and cast members. A synopsis of the film, which varies in length from a few sentences to several paragraphs, outlines the plot. An analytical or comparative section, which may address accuracy, point of view, production qualities, and other pithy observations, follows the summary. A bibliography of reviews, periodicals, and books with full citations completes each entry. A number of photographs are included. Major films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn get the full treatment, including a photograph of Flynn. Full-length animated features, such as Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame, receive equal treatment with nonanimated works. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is deemed "perhaps the funniest movie set in medieval times." The bibliography provides a solid list of film resources. The index is especially useful, indicating both the entry number of each film and the pages on which other references to the film can be found. Numbers in boldface indicate pages with photographs. A work such as this is important on a number of levels. It is a key work on how filmmakers have handled the Middle Ages, an excellent resource for teachers trying to locate good films on a particular medieval event, and a collection development tool to build a film library. It is also interesting to browse. Recommended for public and academic libraries.

Choice Review

Until recently, this reviewer would have had difficulty imagining a serious book on this subject. Academic--what Robert Rosenstone calls Dragnet ("Just the facts, ma'am") historians--disdained films about medieval Europe. Today--due largely to Rosenstone's Visions of the Past (CH, Jan'96), which extended American History/American Film, ed. by John O'Connor and Martin Jackson (CH, Dec'79)--a few historians consider historical film worthy of study, particularly for their students. Harty (English, La Salle Univ.) does not offer such meaty fare as Rosenstone. He includes nearly 600 films dealing with medieval Europe produced from the earliest days of cinema to the present. Harty organizes the entries alphabetically by film and for each includes brief credits, synopsis, and bibliography (if applicable). Harty's limited comments on even on the most substantive films (The Seventh Seal and Passion of Joan of Arc, for example) and his inclusion of numerous largely forgotten and forgettable films (such as Tennessee Ernie Ford Meets King Arthur) restrict its usefulness. Recommended as a reference work only for collections serving medieval history programs that use film extensively. K. S. Nolley Willamette University