Medieval Warfare - The Crusades
THE BATTLES For nearly two centuries, generations of knights from England and western Europe marched to do battle with the Saracen hordes who occupied the Holy Land. Bitter and bloody, these great battles are known to history as the Crusades. Perhaps most famous of all was Richard the Lionheart's struggle with the Emperor Saladin on the burning sands of Palestine in 1190. THE DVD The Crusades: the Holy Wars features reconstruction footage and spectacular computer effects to tell the dramatic story of the great conflict between Christianity and Islam.
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I know that one doesn't turn to documentaries to witness high level acting and production values, but both were very weak here. On a positive note, it's so bad that you might find it amusing. Actors portray various participants in the Crusades, such as a knight, Saladin, and Richard the Third. The monologues were very poor, with the award for weakest going to the actor portraying Saladin. In addition to a noncredible reading, this actor attempted an accent that was all over the map, even lapsing into one that was almost a brogue. Makeup was poor. The battle scenes could hardly have been worse.
I did give this DVD two stars because it does have some informational value. Yet even that is incomplete and sketchy. For instance, the narrator tells us that we can only "speculate" as to why citizens signed up for the First Crusade, almost as if this act is a complete mystery. While we can never know why each individual participant joined the mission, we do know that Pope Urban II promised remission of sins to all participants. This would have been a heady incentive in 1096. Add to that the real chance of material gain by plunder, and you have two pretty good motivators. Another example is in the discussion of the Third Crusade, when we are told that Saladin and Richard the Third negotiated an "uneasy" truce, without discussion as to why this truce was "uneasy". The reason it was "uneasy" is the most interesting part. Richard the Third and Saladin were both exceptional leaders. They came to believe that Christians and Muslims could live together in Jerusalem in peace, but that position was met with resistance from the citizens. Who knows where we would be today had the citizens gone along and given peace a chance?
The producers of this DVD also chose to end the discussion with the Third Crusade. Their reasoning, I assume from the narrative, is that this was the last crusade of Christians against Muslims. Yet the rest of the Crusades have extreme historical importance. The Fourth Crusade, for example, saw the Christians of the West lay siege to Constantinople, and slaughter fellow Christians. This event created a division between Latin and Greek churches that still exists today. The remainder of the Crusades were Christian against Christian, with the mainstream Catholic church putting down heretical movements, such as in the Albigensian Crusades.
If you are looking for a quick thumbnail sketch of the first three crusades, and aren't bothered by poor dramatization, you might like this DVD. Otherwise, I suggest that you steer clear.