Beowulf (US DVD)

USA, 1999. Rated R. 95 minutes.

Cast: Christopher Lambert, Rhona Mitra, Oliver Cotton, Götz Otto, Vincent Hammond, Charles Robinson, Brent Jefferson Lowe, Roger Sloman, Layla Roberts, Patricia Velasquez
Writers: Mark Leahy and David Chappe, based (sort of) on the epic poem Beowulf
Music: Ben Watkins
Cinematography: Christopher Faloona
Producer: Lawrence Kasanoff
Director: Graham Baker


Grade: C- Review by Carlo Cavagna

O ne of those so-bad-it's-almost-good movies that Christopher Lambert has made his stock in trade, Beowulf saw a theatrical release in Europe but went straight to video in the United States. Directed by genre auteur Graham Baker (Alien Nation, Omen III), the film's cast also features minor character actor Oliver Cotton (Christopher Columbus: The Discovery), a German lunkhead named Goetz Otto (Tomorrow Never Dies), and a trio of well-endowed females, Patricia Velasquez (The Mummy Returns), Playboy model Layla Roberts, and Rhona Mitra (Sweet Home Alabama; TV's Boston Legal), who began her career as the original model for Lara Croft of the “Tomb Raider” video game series.

This group of thespians has been assembled to undertake a cheesy post-apocalyptic update of the ancient tale of Beowulf. The story of a hero who battles supernatural beasts, “Beowulf” is the earliest surviving epic poem written in English, yet the English in which it is composed is so archaic it cannot be understood without a translation. In an effort to give you, dear reader, an insight into the source material from which screenwriters Mark Leahy and David Chappe reverently drew, we offer the following translation of certain key passages:
Beowulf (UK DVD)
Beowulf box art for UK DVD release.

HWÆT! Wé Gárdena na in geardagum.
þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon
húðá æþelingas ellen fremedon.

LISTEN! We—of the Spear-Danes in the days of yore,
of those clan-kings—heard of their glory,
how the worthy princes performed courageous deeds.

Béowulf wæs bréme blæd wide sprang
Scyldés eafera Scedelandum in.
Swá sceal geong guma góde gewyrcean
fromum feohgiftum on fæder bearme
þæt hine on ylde eft gewunigen
wilgesíþas þonne wig cume.
léode gelæsten lofdædum sceal
in mægþa gehwære man geþéön.

Beowulf was famed—his renown spread wide—
Scyld's heir, in Northern lands
Travel far did he battling great evils
ever seeking the enemies of mankind
an enigmatic, melancholy, French-accented hero he,
Platinum-bleached hair shorn close upon the skull he wore.
Twas quite a silly look for him, truly.

Beowulf (German DVD)
Beowulf box art for German DVD release.

Swaða drihtguman dréamum lifdon
éadiglice oð ðæt an ongan
fyrene fremman féond on helle
wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten
mære mearcstapa sé þe moras héold
fen ond fæsten fifelcynnes eard

On the moors the lord's men lived
All was relatively okay, until one began
to execute atrocities, a fiend from hell, an infamous stalker.
Fed he upon the stupid who investigate strange noises all alone,
this ghastly demon was known as Grendel.

heresceafta héap ic eom Hróðgáres
ár ond ombiht ne seah ic elþéodige Róland
þus manige men módiglicran
wén ic þæt gé for wlenco nalles for wræcsiðum
ac for hige þrymmum Hróðgár sóhton Kyrá

In the castle Hrothgar dwelt with his people
As did the master of arms, the dumb oxen Roland
And Hrothgar's fair daughter, Kyra,
Great big synthetic breasts had she,
Though she did not reveal them.

þá wæs geatmæcgum geador ætsomne
on béorsele benc gerýmed
þær swiðferhþe sittan éodon
þrýðum dealle þegn nytte behéold
sé þe on handa bær hroden ealowæge

Outside the castle an army laid siege
To contain the great evil within
So fearful of the demon were they
That all who escaped the castle were sliced in twain
By an enormous razor thingy.

him þá ellenróf andswarode Pendra
wlanc wedera léod word æfter spræc
heard under helme wé synt higeláces
béodgenéatas Béowulf is min nama
wille ic asecgan sunu healfdenes
mærum þéodne min ærende.
aldre þinum gif hé ús geunnan wile
þæt we hine swa gódne gretan móton

Notwithstanding the damsel Pendra fled.
She did flee, and fled she did. Need had she to leave.
Great big synthetic breasts had she also,
Though she did not reveal them.
Afore the besiegers could slice and dice her
Beowulf rode hard to save the day.
The besieging warriors gallantly fought him one at a time
So that the hero might slay them more easily
Whilst a stunt double performed many backflips.

Hróðgár maþelode helm scyldinga
fére fyhtum þu wine min Béowulf.
ond for árstafum usic sóhtest
geslóh þin fæder fæhðe mæste Kyrá
wearþ hé heaþoláfe tó handbonan

To Beowulf Hrothgar offered a suspicious hospitality
Yet Beowulf cared not, so concerned was he
To battle the great beast, and time permitting
To seduce the maid Kyra with his surly ways
Though chemistry had they none.
Whatever the opposite of chemistry is—that's what they had.

niceras nihtes nearoþearfe dréah
wræc wedera nið wéan áhsodon
forgrand gramum ond nu wið Grendel sceal
wið þám áglæcan ána gehégan

Time and again, on and on, etcetera and etcetera
Beowulf fought the beast
For naught—futile were his efforts
Though a stunt double did perform many cool backflips

nihtlongne fyrst nean bidan
grimre gúðe gif þú Grendles dearst
maþelode bearn ecgþeowes
Ochtobér 1997 Pláboy Pláimate of die Mónth
Húbba húbba húbba! Woof! Woof!

Meanwhile in the darkest hours of night
Hrothgar dreamt of Grendel's beguiling mother,
Former handmaiden to the great Lord Hefner.
Great big synthetic breasts had she
And proudly didst she reveal them!
Before turning into a mean ugly monster, that is.

Arrrg! Wháþ! Clánk! Cling! Thúmþ!
Whúmþ! Rooooooaaaaar! Urk! Urk! Clánk!
Roar! Wháþ! Waaauuugghh! Riþ!
Look out! Wháþ! Wháþ! Roooooarrr!
Wháck! Clánk! Thúmþ! Háck! Urk!

Beowulf prevailed.

Béowulf wæs dæð,
dæð, tótally, cómplaetly dæð
alive was nae his condition
dæð as a doornæl wæs he
one húndræd pércent dæð.

Into the sunset Beowulf rode with the maid Kyra
And happily didst they live ever after
Or as happy as two people who don't seem to like each other can be.
And Beowulf was not
the slightest, tiniest, eenziest bit dead.

We humbly hope this will serve you as a useful guide to Graham Baker's adaptation of the legendary epic poem.

Review © May 2005 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2004 Buena Vista Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

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