Sword of the Valiant (1984) was Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan’s attempt to cash-in on the success of John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981) by adapting the 14th century Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Interestingly Stephen Weeks, the writer and director of Sword of the Valiant, had previously helmed an adaptation of the famed Arthurian legend back in 1973. Neither of Weeks’ adaptations are particularly faithful, and the Canon Film Group production is likewise weighed down by contrasting aesthetics; one imported over from Boorman’s film and the other being the general “house style” of Golan-Globus.
The late Sean Connery makes an impressive Green Knight even though his costuming and magical green breath recall Boorman’s Zardoz (1974) more than Excalibur. Peter Cushing has a small but memorable role as Gaspar with which he channels his Victor Frankenstein quite effectively. Notable character actors like Ronald Lacey and John Rhys-Davies add a bravura to the proceedings, helping this ill paced adventure film along quite nicely. Miles O’Keefe as Gawain is by far the weakest link in the entire film. He’s the kind of beef-cake hero one sees in most Canon adventure films of the 80s; great body, limited acting range. Cyrielle Clair, best known for Robbe-Grillet’s late career masterpiece La Belle captive (1983), plays the damsel in distress Linet (who has been imported over from the Arthurian tale of the Red Knight) who always seems to be desperately looking for some sort of chemistry with O’Keefe, only to consistently find that there is none.
This kind of impressive cast in a film with low production values was typical of Golan-Globus’ productions. Sword Of The Valiant was produced much in the way an exploitation film would be but was marketed as an equal to Excalibur. This kind of false advertising isn’t unique in the industry by a long shot, but it was a tactic so often employed by Canon films that it inevitably became part of the charm of these movies. One would see the trailer for something like Sword Of The Valiant and not be fooled for an instant. Instead one would think to one’s self “I wonder what Canon’s Excalibur would be like?”. Canon so consistently road the coat tails of bigger and better films that fans of one often became fans of the lesser imitation, cherishing the underdog. I think that’s why Sword Of The Valiant and other Canon films have managed to survive.