It is big, it is incredibly lavish, and it is long. It is also sometimes a little more comedic than it may mean to be, not quite dramatic as it might be, and of a particular moment in time despite taking place during another era. However, whatever Jack L. Warner's 1967 musical Camelot may be, it has a truly fantastic score from Lerner and Loewe.
Directed by Joshua Logan (South Pacific) and starring Richard Harris as King Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guenevere, and Franco Nero as Lancelot du Lac, Camelot is something of an overripe fruit, bursting at the seams. It is the classic tale told by T.H. White in The Once and Future King of the love triangle between the three main characters, but done on a grand scale. The sets are massive, the costumes are incredibly intricate, everyone's emotions runneth over, and the singing hardly ever stops.
It is a three hour musical which feels closer to four, but as long as Harris or (to a lesser extent) Redgrave is singing, it is a joy to behold. It is generally when the singing stops that things fall apart. There is, generally speaking, more emotion that one can get away with without causing a snicker in the audience when things are being sung. Here, whether in song or in speech, Richard Harris is something of an emotional basket case and while musically it works, it doesn't as much when he is simply speaking… especially speaking to himself.
This is clear from the beginning of the film, where Arthur finds himself outside Lancelot's castle bemoaning his need to lay siege to the place. Arthur is quite the "woe is me" character from the outset and, perhaps, as the film is told as Arthur's flashback from this moment, it is understandable that the film is rife with over-the-top sentiment, but it still (at least today) fails to draw in the audience. There is, in short, a theatricality to the film and performances which is, unfortunately, enhanced by some of the cavernous sets rather than toned down. It distances the viewer when it shouldn't.