Getting a job on ‘Arthur of the Britons’

By a series of total coincidences, (mainly running low on money in Bristol, England) I heard Harlech TV was having open casting sessions for the extras for the townspeople [for “Arthur of the Britons.”]

I got it, and worked 6 days a week until the end of the series. For me it was a paid graduate school, with plenty of time to watch the different methods of the rotating directors, and some very good character actors to bolster roster.



Gerry is the extra standing in the middle of the picture, immediately below Oliver Tobias (Arthur).
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Atmosphere on set

It seemed like there was much pressure to hit the short deadlines for a quick turn-around. The filming was extremely well organized and all the crew and actors created a friendly but always moving forward atmosphere.

… I remember hearing that was sometimes a B crew shooting cutaways and other footage at different locations to help keep things moving. It seemed to me that they were trying to keep to filming one a week and having a B Unit get any extra coverage needed to keep the pace up ...
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The cast

It was openly acknowledged that Michael Gothard added quality to the series and he was hired to bring up professional acting level. The word was that the producers were worried a bit that the young star, Oliver Tobias, was too new, and not that experienced, although … Tobias did a really good job as it turned out.

On set Oliver was always the most quiet of the three main characters. As the lead, he had the biggest responsibility and he was the youngest. While waiting, he seemed to keep it very serious. He was always very courteous to everyone. It was my impression that the three lead actors liked each other very much.
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Stunts

From the parts that I observed it was always Oliver and Michael doing everything without stuntmen. When there was a group of riders I believe some of those others were stuntmen. Oliver and Michael were always doing their own riding from the parts I could observe. They both were very good at it.

I don't recall any stunt people standing in for either of them. For that matter, extras would get an extra £2 for the day if they were involved in something like that. I remember once Blessed had to rampage through the village knocking people out of his way, the director picked me to be thrown by him over his shoulder, and that take was done at least five or six times.

Getting to know Michael

Having already worked in TV in NY before I left, I already knew to never bother the actors; they need their space to think about their lines, get into the character, etc. Always wait until spoken to and stay on business unless someone else brings up another topic.

But somehow, Michael Gothard began talking with me, and found out I had just been travelling about Europe, much as he did some years earlier. During that period, we hit the pubs a few times.”
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On Michael and his girlfriend

In “Some Saxon Women” I am in quite a few shots, but more interestingly there are good shots of the young woman that Michael was seeing ... at the scene starting at 7:00 where the two men look over the Saxon women that are chained up.


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On Michael

It was a time of discovery for people willing to travel to really delve into a culture and take risks. I think "La Vallee" expresses that for Michael, and he liked that film very much.

As an example of this, Michael was different than, let’s say, Oliver Tobias or Brian Blessed. One small example would be that the latter two would never talk with extras …
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In conclusion

When I put the first DVD episode on I was very happy to see that it really was a great show. It was also sad to think that Michael Gothard left this life far too soon …

It is amazing how popular and long lasting ‘Arthur of the Britons’ has been. Many of the Brits and Aussies that I have known here in the US remember the show very fondly and vividly. It is an incredible testament to the actors, writers, producers, etc.

* with regard to Brian Blessed:

I (Joya) met Brian Blessed on 23/10/2011, talked to him about 'Arthur of the Britons', and showed him some pictures of us dedicating a tree to Michael.

Brian hadn't been aware that Michael had died: hardly surprising he missed the news, given how little coverage it got at the time. I told Brian that Michael had killed himself in 1992. He became serious, and said that he was sorry, and that Michael had been depressed when he knew him, and that Michael had confided in him over some of his problems.

It seems possible that, as someone who already knew Michael, and seems to have considered him a friend, Brian's disapproval of the extras getting a ride in the stars’ car was due to the suspicion that these extras were just taking advantage of Michael.

When I suggested this to Gerry, he agreed that it was possible.

.
Distribution

The 24 episodes were broadcast at 4:45 pm on Wednesdays, the first episode being broadcast in the UK on 6 December 1972.

The series was a joint venture with a German company, included some German actors as recurring cast in Season Two, and some of the scenes were filmed in German as well as English.

It was shown in Germany, and all over Europe (including Eastern Europe), in the USA, South America, and Australia, where it was of-cten given repeat showings, though it was seldom repeated in the UK.

Foreign TV networks variously dubbed or subtitled the show as they saw fit.

In 1975, scenes from various episodes were put together to make a film, “Arthur the Young Warlord”, though this was a shadow of the series, and left out most of Michael Gothard’s scenes, as well as the distinctive theme tune by Elmer Bernstein.

The series finally came out on DVD in 2009.

Michael’s former girlfriend N.B., who first met him in 1984, says:

'He didn’t like watching himself. I never got him to show me any movie he had worked in. From what he told me, I think he liked the film “Up the Junction” and “Arthur of the Britons.” And the French one, “La vallée.”'

Cast and crew with whom Michael Gothard worked on other projects.

Peter Stephens, who appeared in the episode ‘In Common Cause’ as Brother Amlodd, just before his death at 52, on 17 September 1972, had earlier starred with Michael Gothard in ‘Herostratus.’ Stephens played the part of the advertising man, Farson.

Brian Blessed: Porthos in in ‘The Further Adventures of the Musketeers’, and Korski in ‘The Last Valley’, and Mark of Cornwall in ‘Arthur of the Britons.’

Mike Pratt: Jeff Randall in ‘When the Spirit Moves You’, and Mordant in ‘People of the Plough’ (‘Arthur of the Britons’ episode.)

Alfie Bass: Charlie in ‘Up the Junction’ and Trader in ‘The Swordsman’ (‘Arthur of the Britons’ episode.)

Peter Firth: Colonel Caine in ‘Lifeforce’ and Corin in ‘The Pupil’ (‘Arthur of the Britons’ episode.)

Patti Love: Tasca in ‘Warrior Queen’, Gladwyn in ‘Rolf the Preacher’ (‘Arthur of the Britons’ episode.)

Peter Brayham: stuntman in ‘The Devils’, stunt arranger for ‘Stopover’ (‘The Professionals’ episode) and ‘Jack the Ripper’, and second unit director and stunt co-ordinator on ‘Frankenstein,’ fight arranger for ‘Arthur of the Britons.’

Watch on Youtube:

Season 1


Episode 1: Arthur is Dead
Episode 2: The Gift of Life
Episode 3: The Challenge
Episode 4: The Penitent Invader
Episode 5: People of the Plough
Episode 6: The Duel
Episode 7: The Pupil
Episode 8: Rolf the Preacher
Episode 9: Enemies and Lovers
Episode 10: The Slaves
Episode 11: The Wood People
Episode 12: The Prize

Season 2
Episode 1: The Swordsman
Episode 2 :Rowena
Episode 3: The Prisoner
Episode 4: Some Saxon Women
Episode 5: Go Warily
Episode 6: The Marriage Feast
Episode 7: In Common Cause
Episode 8: Six Measures of Silver
Episode 9: Daughter of the King
Episode 10: The Games
Episode 11: The Treaty
Episode 12: The Girl from Rome

IMDB entry

Stills from the series can be seen here, and even more here.

.
In this story about the Hundred Years War that ravaged Europe, Michael Gothard played Hansen, one of a band of marauders led by The Captain (Michael Caine).

“The Last Valley” was filmed at Halliford Studios, Shepperton, England, and in Trins, Tirol, Austria.

Filming seems to have taken place during 1969, because there were 40th Anniversary showings on 24 and 27 September 2009.

Per an uncredited source, he may have got this role as a result of his performance in “Michael Kohlhaas.”

"In [Michael Kohlhaas], Michael Gothard played the part of a young soldier who joined Kohlhaas' band, but who, refusing to obey, looted for his own gain, and finally died by hanging. His truculent performance, especially in the last scenes with Anita Pallenberg, earned him a very similar role in “The Last Valley”, James Clavell's ponderous allegory."

Quote taken from Michael Gothard Tribute Site

It also seems likely that Michael’s performance in “The Last Valley” may have led to him being cast as Kai in “Arthur of the Britons.” He even wears the same studded tunic in both productions.

“The Last Valley” was the second project on which Michael appeared with Brian Blessed (who played another mercenary, Korski) – the first being “The Further Adventures of the Musketeers”, and the third being “Arthur of the Britons.”

Harry Fielder, a stuntman/extra/stand-in with whom Michael had worked on the “Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)” episode, “When the Spirit Moves You”, was an uncredited pillager in “The Last Valley”, and would later work with him on “The Devils.”

Michael Gothard would also work with Michael Caine again, on “Jack the Ripper.”

Incidentally, Michael Caine has confessed that (unlike Michael Gothard) he is a terrible rider, and was lucky to escape unharmed during “The Last Valley.”

"I am absolutely useless. I act as though I can ride. In “The Last Valley,” I led a charge. If I'd have come off, they'd have all run over me.”
Full article.

Watch "The Last Valley" on Youtube:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

Details on IMDB

Reviews

This Island Rod

"… the rapacious Hansen (Michael Gothard) is given to stirring up trouble, eventually raising a rival band of brigands to contest the valley …

The evocation of a blasted, cruel, evil epoch isn’t as ineffaceable or provocative as that in Ken Russell’s 'The Devils' from the same year (they both sport cast member Gothard, with his gift for portraying multiple varieties of creep) but shares some imagery and mood, combined with high-riding sweep of narrative."

Full review

Deitmar Zingl in 70 mm News:

“Michael Caine is especially fond of TLV. It's one of his own favorite movies. He uses a slight German accent for his role as Captain Hauptmann, the cool warrior with a wounded soul.

Omar Sharif is the romantic intellectual, some kind of Zhivago lost in Germany. Per Oscarsson is a religious fanatic priest, wonderfully over the top, as most of the religious fanatics, even today. Florinda Bolkan is the independent woman in a male dominated society and pays a high price for her independence.

More wonderful actors are Nigel Davenport, Arthur O‘Connell and the wild and angry Michael Gothard as Hansen. His performance resembles that of Klaus Kinski in "Aguirre, The Wrath of God" although that came two years later.”

Full review

Other reviews of “The Last Valley.”

DVD Talk
In Stereo
New York Times
Cane Toad Warrior
rtbot
“The Further Adventures of the Musketeers” was a BBC drama series, based on Alexander Dumas' "Twenty Years After."

The sixteen episodes were broadcast on BBC1, at 5:25 pm on Sundays.

Michael Gothard appeared in ten of the sixteen episodes.

He plays Mordaunt, formerly John Francis de Winter, the vengeful son of the executed enemy of the Musketeers, Milady de Winter.

Episodes in which Michael appeared, with the introductory quotation from the Radio Times:

3. Conspiracy (4 June 1967)
“I see a man, a Royal Prince, defying bolts, bars, and fortress walls. I see him free … two days from now. At seven o’clock.”

4. Conflict (11 June 1967)
“The King’s name is no password here. To the sword, sir!”

5. Peril (18 June 1967)
“There is only one man in France I would trust with these secrets. You must destroy these papers … or die.”

6. Abduction (25 June 1967)
“People like us, madam, must not trust even our own two hands.”

7. The Boy King (2 July 1967)
“Monsieur D’Artagnan, you are under arrest. The King has vanished.”

9. Escape (16 July 1967)
“Your Majesty, I promise that anyone who has the audacity to touch you will die.”

10. The Oath (23 July 1967)
“You cannot live without me, my love. I am your star, your protector, your husband. We will make this true before God.”

11. The Trial (30 July 1967)
“Never doubt me again, Athos. I vow to take upon myself all that concerns the delivery of the King.”

12. The Scaffold (6 August 1967)
“We are about to separate before the most desperate adventure of our lives – the most glorious! We shall not fail.”

13. Treachery (13 August 1967)
“Athos, you are becoming imbecile. Do you realise our situation? It is kill or be killed.”

Brian Blessed's memories

This was the first of three productions on which Michael Gothard worked with Brian Blessed, who played Porthos in "The Further Adventures of the Musketeers." (The other productions were "The Last Valley", and "Arthur of the Britons.")

I met Brian in 2011, and showed Brian some pictures of fans dedicating a tree to Michael. Brian didn’t even know Michael had died. I told him he’d killed himself in 1992. He became serious, and said that he was sorry. It was hardly surprising he missed the news, given how little coverage it got at the time.

He said that Michael was depressed when he knew him. Michael used to say, “Oh, Brian, I don’t know if I’ll make it as an actor. No one seems to like me,1” and he had a lot of bad luck – some bloke he’d paid to decorate his house left the job half-finished.

Brian mentioned working with Michael on the “Further Adventures of the Musketeers.” He said: “We killed him in the end.”

1 It was not clear to me whether Michael thought no one seemed to like him professionally, or personally, though the former seems more likely.

Series availability

Brian Blessed seemed to think that “The Further Adventures of the Musketeers”, was available on DVD but he must have been confusing it with the previous BBC series, which is.

I have made enquiries about the series.
Lisa Kerrigan at the BFI Curatorial Unit informed me that the series: "does exist on film in the BBC Archive. Due to copyright restrictions any DVD release of this title would have to be licensed or produced by the BBC as the series was a BBC production."

Joss Ackland, who appeared as D'Artagnan in this series, later played D'Artagnan's father in "The Three Musketeers," in which Michael Gothard played John Felton.

Excerpts from reviews on IMDB:

“This TV version of the Dumas novels was made during the golden age of the BBC Sunday teatime classic serial, and I still have fond memories of it forty years later. Like its predecessor, 'The Three Musketeers', the whole thing was played straight and not as a jokey camp fest like so many of the movie versions.
It is actually a very good story, and if played straight with outstanding actors as was the case in this BBC version, can make for thrilling and at times moving drama. Let's hope that the original tapes are still lodged safely in the BBC vaults and have not been wiped, since this is a true classic.”

mkb-8

~~

“This fine 1967 series is a sequel to the fine faithful BBC 1966 version of The Three Musketeers. Has most of the same cast as 1966 Three Musketeers except that Joss Ackland took over for Jeremy Brett as D'Artagnan. Michael Gothard does an excellent job as Mordaunt né John de Winter the vengeful son of Milady de Winter.

Michael Gothard always is cast as a villain or a fool in movies. Joss Akland I don't think could ever give a bad performance. Fine performances by both actors.

Faithful this version sure is.”

FromBookstoFilm

Complete reviews

IMDB entry

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