Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Three Knights

Director: Mark Baker
Writer: Mark Baker
Producer: Mark Baker
Country: UK
Year of release: 1982
Reviewed from: theatrical screening

Any thought that this might be a simple cartoon for little kids is rapidly despatched when the heroic trio of the title ride to the rescue of a young woman being burned at the stake as a witch. First, she is actually being burned at the stake, with flames dancing around her, and second, the two unidentified inidividuals performing the witch-burning are swiftly decapitated and their heads stuck on sharpened wooden sticks.

A terrific piece of cel animation running just shy of a quarter of an hour, The Three Knights is a wordless medieval romp following the adventures of a tall, skinny knight (on a tall skinny horse), a fat knight (on a fat horse) and a little knight (on a little horse). After rescuing the young woman, they ride off and so miss seeing her transmogrify into a green-faced old hag in a black pointy hat.

Over the course of the next ten minutes or so they slay a giant, meet Rapunzel and, in a hilarious sight gag, re-stand a leaning building. Each time, as they ride off, they are oblivious to the consequences and they are unaware of the gradually expanding group of disgruntled folk pursuing them in a manner reminiscent of old Benny Hill Shows (but not speeded up). In the climax, the witch turns herself into a three-headed dragon - not overly dissimilar to Ghidorah - to battle the knights.

Clean of line and perfect of timing, The Three Knights is a mini-masterpiece. It was produced as a student project at the West Surrey College of Art and Design (which also brought us two-thirds of the Nightmares quasi-anthology) and a print is currently available from the BFI. Animation legend Bob Godfrey is generally credited as co-writer but in fact he only receives a non-specific ‘thank you’ credit.

Any opportunity to see this film should be grasped by all fans of British animation.

MJS rating: A+

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