Sometimes there is nothing better than stretching out on the couch to enjoy a cool movie from Hollywood's Golden Age. This film fits that bill.
The Crusades are going on, Richard the Lion-hearted is secretly returning to England, and his brother has tried to usurp the throne. These are the sons of Henry II, who had Thomas a Becket murdered in his own cathedral. Great literature is set in this time. There are jousts and castles and kidnappings in the forest. The main conflict are between the Normans who rule and the Saxons who are subjugated by King John and his knights.
For the most part the huge battles and jousting matches are bloodless but exciting. I unfairly compared the battle scenes to Lord of the Rings where EVERY arrow finds a mark and one swipe of the sword means death. Often here, it looked like someone just threw a bunch of arrows at the soldiers on the wall and they either fell down or didn't. Stunt choreography seemed in it's infancy here.
The individual fight scenes are terrific, however. The way that both lead characters maneuver their horses in single combat - axe vs morning star - is thrilling to watch. This was as close to medieval combat came to real in the movies of the time and no doubt formed an opinions of the times for many viewers, especially young children. It was also one of the first movies of the 50s to be filmed in color.
Of course everything that seems bad ends with the return of King Richard the Lion Hearted and the unification of England but all of that happens in the last ten minutes. LONG LIVE THE KING! Sort of anti-climactic but that doesn't ruin what is actually a nice little adventure.