Before Lord of the Rings made sword and sorcery the big trend in Hollywood in the early ’00s, there was Prince Valiant (1997). Prince Valiant was an epic tale of might and magic that featured some fairly big names from both America and the UK, and nobody saw it.
The cinematic anomaly is currently streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video, just waiting to be discovered like some forgotten relic of the past.
The Prince Valiant Movie
Prince Valiant was an Irish-British independent fantasy movie based loosely on Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant comic strip.
You may remember it as the one in the Sunday paper that you skipped as a child because instead of a bug-eyed cat or tennis-playing dog. It starred realistic-looking characters and lots of boring text boxes instead of word balloons.
Ripping Off King Arthur?
The film basically just rips off King Arthur by putting the young squire Valiant smack dab in the middle of Camelot and having him run into Arthurian figures like Morgan Le Fey on his way to retrieve Excalibur.
In Prince Valiant, the title character, played by True Blood‘s Stephen Moyer, must fight Vikings while juggling a blossoming romance with Princess Ilene, Grey’s Anatomy alum Katherine Heigl.
Other notable cast members include Udo Kier, Ron Perlman, Warwick Davis, and Joanna Lumley as the evil Morgan Le Fey.
Prince Valiant Creatives
Prince Valiant was directed by Anthony Hickox of Waxwork and Hellraiser III fame from a screenplay by himself, Michael Frost Beckner, and Carsten H.W. Lorenz. The movie was shot on location in Berlin, Germany, and Wales, United Kingdom.
The film was taken from director Anthony Hickox and re-edited by German producer Bernd Eichinger without the director’s knowledge. As a result, all of the humor and religious aspects of the film were removed.
It’s arguable whether the excised material would have made much difference in terms of the final product’s quality, however.
Harsh Words From Warwick Davis
Willow star Warwick Davis had some harsh words for the director of Prince Valiant in his memoir Size Matters Not: The Extraordinary Life & Career of Warwick Davis.
In the book, Davis called the making of Prince Valiant an “absolute disater,” remarking that the film “premiered, panned and bombed.” Davis remarked that “even the wonderful Joanna Lumley—who still managed to put in an amazing performance as Morgan le Fay—couldn’t save it.”
The actor put all of the blame squarely on the shoulders of director Hickox, saying that he “seemed intent on partying all night long and giving roles to his friends.”
Prince Valiant was received poorly upon its release. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has too few reviews to warrant a critic score, but the audience score is an abysmal 24%. The few critics who reviewed the film generally agreed that the movie was poorly edited and could do with some better special effects.
Prince Valiant Worth It?
Is Prince Valiant worth being rediscovered and reevaluated over 20 years later? It certainly deserves at least a cursory look based on the cast alone. It’s only Katherine Heigl’s sixth credit overall and predates not only Grey’s Anatomy and Knocked Up but even Roswell, Heigl’s first big role.
Stephen Moyer is pretty much the same story except Prince Valiant, which was the seventh project he was ever credited with. Seeing actors in roles before they became famous is always a fun diversion. Add to that some honestly great performances from Joanna Lumley and Ron Perlman and you’ve got an entertaining way to kill 90 minutes. Prince Valiant is streaming right now on Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service.