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Empires - Holy Warriors: Richard the Lionheart & Saladin

3.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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(Oct 11, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

The epic legend of King Richard the Lionhearted and his struggle to save Christendom's holiest city, Jerusalem, from its Muslim conqueror Saladin is explored in this drama-documentary using original Muslim and Christian sources, as well as interviews with experts from both the East and West. Filmed in the Middle East, it tells the story that defined religious conflict for centuries and transformed Richard and Saladin into legends.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: October 11, 2005
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ADWCX0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,435 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Chefdevergue VINE VOICE on April 20, 2006
Like a previous reviewer, I found the omissions in this program to be glaring & laughable. If anyone is expecting to get a comprehensive treatment of the Third Crusade, look elsewhere. One is gets as accurate a treatment of history as in "Kingdom of Heaven," which played fast & loose with historical accuracy.

One would get the impression that Richard I was the prime force behind the Crusade, depsite the fact that Barbarossa & the Germans left for the Holy Land a full two years earlier. The program would have you believe that after Barbarossa's death, the German armies simply melted away --- I believe the narrator actually said that most of the Germans "went home." If he meant that "home" was Antioch, then I suppose that is an accurate statement. It was the remnants of the German army (largely decimated by plague) that successfully defended Tyre (left almost unmentioned in this program) against Saladin's forces. Also barely mentioned is Phillip II of France, who played a key role in the political events that unfolded in the Holy Land.

The producers at least mentioned Richard's execution of the 3000 prisoners (following the siege of Acre), but left unmentioned is Richard's complicity in the assasination of Conrad of Montferrat, recently crowned King of Jerusalem, in 1192. The program would prefer to paint Richard as a noble warrior, rather than a political strategist of the first order. The political in-fighting between the Germans, French & English (not to mentioned the already entrenched Crusader States) is a not insignificant part of the story of the Third Crusade, but it goes entirely unmentioned here.

In fact, this program skims the topwaters to such a degree that only a historical neophyte could find much value in it. This program is a big disappointment overall.
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I found this documentary very compelling and well done. I particularly liked the actors who they cast in the roles of Saladin and Richard I (the Lionhearted). They looked perfect for their parts. The visuals were beautiful, there were some unnerving make-up (or dummy) special effects, and the narrator was easy to understand.

I disagree with those who thought that the documentary was biased in favor of Richard I. Most of the historical commentators in the documentary were Arabic and greatly favored Saladin's position, and even one of the English commentators said that Saladin was far more noble than Richard; that they came from "different worlds," that Islam is about tolerance, and that Christianity was very intolerant at that period in history, and that Saladin was too noble to comprehend Richard's brand of dirty fighting. They also glossed over the massacre of the survivors of the Battle of Hattin, but gave a fair amount of time to the massacre of the 3000 Muslims of Acre.

From what I have heard of Saladin and Richard, Saladin probably really was more humanistic than Richard, and the Crusades were not the highest point in Christian tolerance (not that it was the high point in Muslim tolerance either), and I think that this documentary makes it very clear which religious group attacked the other first, and who was nobler of the two great military leaders. Neither the Christians nor their leader look very good in this documentary.

In light of a certain amount of anti-Muslim sentiment in the West following 9/11 and the attacks in Europe, and the ensuing war, it is understandable that the makers of the documentary would look back on the Crusades and find fault in Western behavior.
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I appreciated the style of the movie and thought it engaging, entertaining, and visually excellent. However, I disagree with the other reviewers that claim the movie is biased in favor of Richard the Lionheart. The cover of the dvd case states that Richard earned the name Lionheart "as much for his murderous brutality as for his chivalry." Saladin is contrasted from the outset for his "mercy towards the crusaders in contrast to the demonized caricature of popular modern-day Western myth." It seems that the intention of the DVD was to show Richard as more cruel than chivalrous and Saladin as more compassionate than cruel. The intent is therefore obvious and is carried throughout the movie that casts most blame for the crusades/bloodshed on westerners and the intolerance of Christianity. Richard, and westerners in general, compared far less favorably to the enlightened, more tolerant Muslims and Saladin. It was the Christian crusaders that intolerantly slaughtered the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the first crusade. It was Richard that slaughtered 6000 prisoners of war at Acre (as if over a delay in the negotiations for the true cross). Saladin is pictured as much more honourable and thoughtful. It was Saladin that showed the "moral superiority" of his religion by not slaughtering the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This was a not so veiled jab at the West's current political situation. It is quite possibe that Saladin only fairs less favorably to his own idealized reputation as a reluctant peaceful warrior. Both men sought power politically and both men coveted Jerusalem for religious and political reasons. It is quite obvious that the film did not set out to portray Richard as a brave chilvalrous man only wishing to please God. I think the DVD comes under fire more for its attempt at showing both men as political, religious products of their time than the men that we wish them to be--morally superior extentions of our own traditions.
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