21 JULY 1979, Page 25



Ted Whitehead

The Spaceman and King Arthur (Odeon, St Martin's Lane) The silly season has suddenly arrived, with the school holidays bringing the usual flood of 'children's films,' i.e. 'U.-certificate movies with a U-certificate view of the world. It's a weirdly artificial genre, devoted to pious-domestic or romanticheroic values, completely insulated from contemporary reality. Perhaps it only exists for the reassurance of adults. Children's literature, by contrast, offers a wealth of hair-raisingly sadistic classics as well as an increasing choice of stories that honestly reflect the world we live in.

The master of the U-certificate world is' of course Walt Disney, and the latest offering from the Disney stable lives up to expectation. This is The Spaceman and King Arthur (U), distantly inspired by Mark Twain's story, 'A Connecticut Yankee •in King Arthur's Court.' The screen-writer, Don Tait, skips the issue of contrasting cultures and gets his laughs from the bewilderment of the Arthurian court in the face of modarn science. It's nonsense, but it provides the opportunity for some good knockabout farce aided by enjoyably tongue-in-cheek performances. Quite safe for adults accom panied by children. '

Denis Duggan plays Tom Trimble and a humanoid replica of Tom, who set out in their spacecraft on a 30-year journey to a distant star, only to enter into a time-warp and find themselves descending on Camelot in 508. Asked to explain himself and his odd. attire, Tom supplies King Arthur (Kenneth More) and his Knights with a brief history of the next 1470 years, which leaves them understandably suspicious — and confused. Was it the Wright Brothers who made the radio?' asks the King. 'No,' says Sir Gawain, 'It was Babe Ruth.' Despite his desire to stay out of office politics, Tom finds himself drawn into the conflict between the evil Sir Mordred (Jim Dale) and the King. He survives a number of ordeals: being burnt at the stake, protected by his space suit; an Errol Flynn style swordfight with Sir Mordred, from which he escapes by magnetising his opponent's sword so that it picks up candlesticks, chalices and sundry other weights; and a jousting match in which he substitutes the humanoid, who astounds the spectators by fighting on despite the loss of his arm and then even his head.

Things look pretty bleak when the wicked magician Merlin (Ron Moody) steals Tom's laser gun and joins Mordred in an invasion of the castle. I towever, Tom dons Arthur's .shining armour, which deflects the laser rays, and flies around the castle repelling invaders in his jet pack seat (good aerial. effects here).

The rebellion crushed, the name of Sir Thomas is inscribed on the Round Table alongside those of Galahad and Lancelot. Tom says goodbye to Clarence (Rodney Bewes), a page who has helped him in exchange for a copy of Playboy, and more sadly to Sandy (Sheila White), a peasant girl with whom he has fallen in love. He can't take her with him because she might age 1000 years on the journey. But accidentally he takes her goose — sorry, gander — only to discover that it doesn't show any signs of ageing. And so be turns the spacecraft around, intending to collect her and `to live happily ever after — as you're supposed to do.' Meanwhile, back at Camelot, Lancelot. and Guinevere — but that's another story, and wouldn't get a U-certificate.