I Cavalieri che Fecero L'impresa (2001)
By: Dr. Obrero  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Twentieth Century Fox (Italy). Region 2, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Italian DD 5.1 English DD 5.1. English and Italian Subtitles. 147 mins
The Movie
Director: Pupi Avati Starring: Raoul Bova, Edward Furlong, Marco Leonardi, Stanislas Merhar, Thomas Kretschmann, F. Murray Abraham, Enzo Andronico, Dino Cassio
Screenplay: Pupi Avati
AKA: The Knights Who Made the Enterprise, The Knights of the Quest, Knights Quest.
It would appear that the sword 'n' sorcery subgenre is seemingly back in vogue in the wake of Ridley Scott's Gladiator, though SADiator might've been more apt for that tedious overblown farrago, but never mind. Still, better movies, such as Brian Helgeland's cracking contemporary jousting piece A Knight's Tale and the Jonas McCord directed, Antonio Banderas starrer The Body have come along to sustain this resurgence, plus the fact that several other fantasy projects such as The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons are already about. It's even beginning to look as if the long awaited Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger tie-up Crusade, which seems to have been in development since before Christ, may even get the green light soon.

It is 1271, and a band of youthful knights, led by Simon of Clarendon (Furlong), undertake a quest to Thebes in Greece to recover the Sacred Shroud and deliver it back to France and into the hands of the royal family. As ever with such arduous undertakings, the guano soon enough hits the air conditioning, and as the less-than-merry band of brothers (in arms) journey across medieval Europe on their holy quest, they encounter all manner of trials and tribulations, not least a dubious F. Murray Abraham, and when they finally return to France with news of the Shroud, it's only to discover that the King has up and died on them. Oh well, the best laid plans and all that. There couldn't have been a better time than now for little known (outside Italy and horror fan circles) director Pupi Avati to seemingly switch styles and undertake this personal project, based upon the recorded history of the Shroud of Turin, but the result is a badly botched career misstep. The major problem is, authentic recorded history for this particular relic only dates back to the 14th century, so I Cavalieri che Fecero L'impresa is entirely supposition as it tells just one possible tale of how the Shroud might have been relocated to France in the 11th century, without ever suggesting precisely how from there it eventually made it's way to Italy, that, and the fact that Furlong's Simon of Clarendon is a fictional character makes it difficult to tie the film in to a particular historical period.

Shot at a variety of picturesque locations including Scotland, Italy, France, and Tunisia, with a budget of $18 million, I Cavalieri che Fecero L'impresa certainly looks sumptuous, but handsome scenery alone does not make for a great movie, and I Cavalieri che Fecero L'impresa is a mess. Avati's forte lies in smaller, intimate, often tragic and always creepy tales, expounding the mysteries of life, always set in rural Italy; such as L' Arcano Incantatore, La Casa Dalle Finestre che Ridono and Zeder, but here, he decides to tackle a full-blown medieval epic on the Quest for the Shroud and to be frank, it simply doesn't work. Mixing kid's adventure style with flashes of graphic violence, undermined by a scarcely linear plot and inexplicable narrative gaps, it's a pudding of a movie. I Cavalieri che Fecero L'impresa appears to have been edited with garden shears, huge plot holes abound, the knights themselves are no more believable than Martin Laurence in Black Knight, and meandering, pointless sequences, completely meaningless within the narrative structure just seem to play forever, in a 147m film that is grossly overlong. It is all capped by an inane finale, with an entire French army slaying the survivors in a pitched battle that carried the authenticity of a Carry-On movie. I Cavalieri che Fecero L'impresa is poorly constructed, ineptly written, incompetently acted and unimpressively directed. I'm a big fan of Pupi Avati, and there's a certain novelty value in seeing Euro-genre-stars Thomas Kretschmann (La Sindrome di Stendhal) and Edmund Purdom (Don't Open 'Til Christmas) popping up here, but whilst I'm glad to have this in my DVD collection, it's one I'm not liable to be returning to with any great haste.
20th Century Fox (Italy)'s DVD features a decent transfer of the film. I Cavalieri che Fecero L'impresa is presented in anamorphic widescreen, retaining the correct 2:35.1 ratio and it's an agreeable looking presentation for the most part. The transfer isn't perfect; there is a little grain in places, but there is no edge enhancement, and no distracting artifacting. I did notice a couple of instances of moiré patterning, and unfortunately colours look soft and a little muted on occasion, but this it obviously how dp Pasquale Rachini shot, so it would be churlish be too critical. Fleshtones are naturalistic, shadow delineation is adequate and blacks are reasonably solid.
Both the original Italian soundtrack and a English dub, each presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 are present. The Italian mix is undeniably superior, but both are more than acceptable, dynamic range is quite good, overall separation of the front three channels is impressive and the surrounds are brought into play impressively. Dialogue is impressively anchored within the centre channel, with the score and ambient effects nicely spread across the entire soundstage. I was also impressed that the mix features some reasonable sidewall imaging, and whilst rarely used, the .1 LFE is effective when called upon. The optional subtitles are clear and set below the frame, though suffer from a few minor translation errors.
Extra Features
Supplemental materials are pretty standard stuff. The Italian Theatrical trailer is reasonable, but nothing special, as are the 15 & 30-second TV spots. We get a 12-minute "Making of" documentary, which is the usual promo-fluff, mixing behind the scenes shots with rough-cut sequences and cast and crew interviews. These extra features are in Italian only, sadly for those who don't read or speak the language. There is also a Photo gallery consisting of 14-shots from the film. The DVD comes nicely packaged in a clear plastic Amray case. There are 16 chapters and the sleeve is double-sided, the rear being visible through the DVD case on the inside.
The Verdict
John Boorman's peerless Excalibur still stands as the benchmark for the medieval genre for this reviewer, and I have a fondness for Paul Verhoeven's wonderfully tasteless Flesh + Blood (anything with Jennifer Jason Leigh has a good start in life), I Cavalieri che Fecero L'impresa sadly however, is quite simply, not even remotely in the same class. It's not even as good as SADiator, which is a damning indictment indeed! I Cavalieri che Fecero L'impresa is a mediocre picture at best, made notable only for the helmer. The DVD itself is reasonable, few frills, but a competent presentation. I wouldn't put money on any sort of release outside Italy in the near-future, so if you feel you muse see this, then this is your only real chance.
Movie Score
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