hmv.com presents… The Best Soundtracks of All Time: The Sword in the Stone
With some great in-store offers coming this summer on film soundtracks as part our 'Decades' series, every day we'll be picking the best soundtrack, one for every year, starting with 1950 right through to the present day. Today we're up to 1963 and we're taking a look at a Disney classic...
The Sword in the Stone, Disney’s animated classic adapted from the legend of King Arthur.
So what’s the film about?
Set during the Dark Ages, The Sword in the Stone picks up the legend of Arthur when he is still a boy, yet to be crowned King of Camelot. When an English monarch dies leaving no heir, a sword is placed under a magic spell and locked into anvil (why it’s an anvil and not a stone at all, we’ve never been sure…)
Legend has it that he who removes the sword shall become king. Many try, all of them fail. That is until the weakling young Arthur rolls into town. Assisted by Merlin the Magician, who believes the young boy to be the chosen one, the young Arthur’s claims to the throne are ridiculed at first, but then he does the unthinkable and slides the sword neatly of its resting place with a minimum of effort, much to the embarrassment and frustration of the assorted strongmen whose attempts have ended in failure.
Is this a score or a soundtrack?
It’s a score featuring original songs and music by the Sherman brothers, the men behind many a Disney sing-along, including Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Disney’s animated adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
So what’s it like?
If you’ve seen any of the other Disney films from the era, you’ll know what to expect from the Sherman’s chirpy songwriting style. It’s bright and breezy, keeping things upbeat throughout the movie, although it does have its darker, spookier moments, such as the battle between Merlin and the evil witch Madam Mim.
What does it give the film?
Arthurian tales are long-winded affairs and epic yarns aren’t really something Disney specialised in during the early 1960s, focussing very much on family entertainment. As such, the plot is super-condensed and the main achievement of the Sherman’s work on the film’s score is helping to make sense of a compressed narrative, using the songs to illustrate the story to great effect.
What’s the best moment?
The Merlin vs. Mim battle is still one of our favourite moments in this film, the soundtrack adding real value to the hilarious scenes of the two sorcereors turning into menagerie of animals in a bid to outdo each other.
Has it stood the test of time?
If you compare this to Mary Poppins or The Jungle Book, it does seem a little dated and, unlike the other films, doesn’t really stand up too well in its own right, but teamed with the film it does an excellent job of gluing the narrative together and generates some beautiful moments, such as Arhtur’s triumphant retrieval of the vaunted sword.