GDR #18: The Sword in the Stone (1963)


The Sword in the Stone is like Cinderella for boys. You have an orphan rags-to-riches thing going on, an eccentric older mentor figure, a talking animal sidekick, and a magical item that turns a lowly peasant into a figure of royalty. Take out the romance, add some dueling, and you’ve got a boy-ified version of Cinderella.

I’m kind of conflicted about this movie. The thing is, this movie is like two or three movies squished together. And I like each individual storyline, but they never really tie together for me in a way that makes sense.

Plot #1 is the whole King Arthur business, but…I mean, they mention the sword in the stone at the beginning of the movie, and it’s brought up every so often, but considering this is the main point of the movie where everything is heading, it really gets lost among the squirrels and purple dragons. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention hard enough, but I don’t recall there being any mention in the movie that Wart, or Arthur, is actually Uther’s son, and that‘s why he’s the one who can pull the sword from the stone. The actual sword in the stone feels like such an afterthought considering that it’s the title of the movie, and the reason for this is because our secondary plotline doesn’t really mesh with this one. It’s a totally separate thing, and at the end, it’s like, “Oh yeah! Sword in the stone!” Not that I don’t love the scene where Arthur pulls out the sword, but it feels like a completely different movie.

Plot #2 is this whole Merlin-educating-Arthur business. And this is pretty much the bulk of the movie, and the most interesting part, which is…a good thing, except that the movie is called The Sword in the Stone, and Merlin isn’t even there when Arthur pulls out the sword. He knows that he has to help teach and guide this kid, but he doesn’t really know why, so it feels like this whole plot doesn’t go with the Sword in the Stone plot. Arthur doesn’t use what he’s learned from Merlin to become king–in fact, Merlin throws a hissy fit when he hears that Arthur is going off to be Kay’s squire. And I get that Merlin thinks Arthur is squandering his new education, but…how exactly does that education fit together with his pulling a sword from a stone?

Okay, enough nagging. Because there are some seriously awesome scenes that come from this plotline. For one thing, we have Archimedes, who is the most awesome animal sidekick EVER. Seriously, I forgot how wonderful he is. In general, this movie does animals brilliantly. No matter what Merlin turns into, he’s still so Merliny, with his bushy beard and his glasses and his blueness. The fish scene is fun (and scary! I remember being so scared by the big fish!), but really, it’s all about the squirrels. You remember the squirrels. I know you do, because it broke your heart. The pitiful sound of Arthur’s squirrel ladyfriend crying is enough to make you wish that Arthur would just go back to being a squirrel and get squirrel-married so she would just STOP BEING SO SAD. He could become Arthur, King of Squirrels. I kind of want a sequel to this where Merlin turns the girl squirrel into a human…named Guinevere…who then ends up breaking Arthur’s heart in revenge! IT TOTALLY WORKS.

Anyway, Plot #3. This is arguably still part of the general plot of Arthur’s Education, but it just comes out of NOWHERE and like, is my dominant memory of the movie, even though it doesn’t even take very long. I speak, of course, of Madame Mim, who is our only main female character in the movie (other than the lady squirrels), which kind of sucks, but at least she steals the show. The Merlin vs. Mim wizards’ duel is such a diversion from everything, so again, I’m not sure how it fits in with, you know, Arthur becoming King of Britain, but it’s also the BEST PART OF THE MOVIE, so I can’t complain too much. The fun thing about Mim is that she’s so gleeful! And yet she hates happiness and sunshine and all those good things! She’s so happy and comedic, but then she’s all, “I’m afraid I’ll have to destroy you,” and it’s such an OH CRAP moment. Her comedic ridiculousness doesn’t detract from her scariness–it lulls you into a false sense of security before she KILLS YOU.

There are a few songs in the movie, but sadly, they’re all kind of forgettable. Like, I didn’t even remember that there were songs in this movie. “Higitus Figitus” is probably the best one, but really, I don’t even remember how any of the songs go, and I just watched this yesterday. Well, okay, I remember Mim’s song, because she’s fierce.

So, this is my problem. I love certain parts of this movie to pieces, but they just really don’t come together in way that I find satisfying. I have, however, decided that I need to start exclaiming, “What, what!” the way Archimedes does. Did I mention he’s also the voice of Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh? That’s your fun fact of the day.

Favorite moment #1: Archimedes can’t stop laughing

Because Archimedes is seriously my new personal hero.

Favorite moment #2: The Wizards’ Duel

Because it’s wildly entertaining and the animal character designs are brilliant.

Next time: The Jungle Book!



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Filed under movies, The Great Disney Rewatchathon

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