Trial by Combat (1976)

PG | 88 mins | Black comedy | September 1976

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HISTORY

       The Summary for this record is based on a U.S. home video release titled Choice of Weapons.
       Though actor John Hallam is listed in the credits as “Sir Roger Moncton,” another character twice refers to him as “Richard.”
       The 23 Sep 1975 HR noted that principal photography was set to begin that day in England.
       The film opened in small U.S. markets, including Minneapolis, MN, in Sep 1976, under the title Dirty Knight's Work, according to the 29 Sep 1976 Var. A film poster misspelled the title Dirty Knights' Work.
      End credits contain the following information: “Filmed entirely on location in England by Combat Pictures Ltd., London ... More Less

       The Summary for this record is based on a U.S. home video release titled Choice of Weapons.
       Though actor John Hallam is listed in the credits as “Sir Roger Moncton,” another character twice refers to him as “Richard.”
       The 23 Sep 1975 HR noted that principal photography was set to begin that day in England.
       The film opened in small U.S. markets, including Minneapolis, MN, in Sep 1976, under the title Dirty Knight's Work, according to the 29 Sep 1976 Var. A film poster misspelled the title Dirty Knights' Work.
      End credits contain the following information: “Filmed entirely on location in England by Combat Pictures Ltd., London England.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 Oct 1975.
---
Films and Filming
May 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
31 Jul 1983
Section U, p. 16.
Variety
29 Sep 1976
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Gamma III Release
A Weintraub-Heller Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
Story
Suggested by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
2d unit cam
Stillsman
Chief elec
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Const mgr
Propman
COSTUMES
Ward supv
SOUND
Dubbing ed
Dubbing mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Chief makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod services
Consultant to the prods
Loc mgr
Casting dir
Prod secy
Asst to the prods
STAND INS
Stunt co-ord
With special thanks to the
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Dirty Knight's Work
A Choice of Weapons
A Choice of Arms
Release Date:
September 1976
Production Date:
began 23 September 1975 in England
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
88
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24435
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In England, knights lead William Whitfield on horseback to a field, where Herbert Forest, the “Herald Extraordinaire,” convenes the court of “the most noble Order of the Knights of Avalon.” In preparation for a duel, Sir Giles Marley, the “Grand Master,” selects a lance, while another knight presents a lance to the reluctant prisoner. During the joust, Sir Giles knocks Whitfield off his horse, then kills him with a sword. As the knights cover Whitfield’s body with a red banner, Sir Edward Everhard Gifford suddenly emerges with his hunting dog from nearby woods and demands an explanation. Sir Giles says that the courts could not implicate Whitfield in his many crimes, so the Order resorted to a trial by combat. Realizing that Sir Edward knows too much, the knights kill him. Later, the body of Whitfield is tossed onto a street in London, England. Within days, Sir John Everhard Gifford arrives in London from his home in the U.S., and family friend Bertram “Bertie” Cook, former “Commissioner of Police” for Scotland Yard, drives him to police headquarters. There, Bertie asks the new commissioner, Oliver Griggs, about the investigation of Sir John’s father’s murder, and Griggs replies that Ben Willoughby, the slow-witted caretaker of the Gifford House estate, disappeared after he found Sir Edward’s body. Later, Bertie tells Sir John he is working on a series of murders of London criminals who have avoided prosecution because of technicalities or an absence of witnesses. Though Griggs and other policemen show no concern for the murders, Bertie believes in the rule of law regardless of the victim. He drives Sir John to Gifford House, where a dozen Knights of Avalon, including Sir ... +


In England, knights lead William Whitfield on horseback to a field, where Herbert Forest, the “Herald Extraordinaire,” convenes the court of “the most noble Order of the Knights of Avalon.” In preparation for a duel, Sir Giles Marley, the “Grand Master,” selects a lance, while another knight presents a lance to the reluctant prisoner. During the joust, Sir Giles knocks Whitfield off his horse, then kills him with a sword. As the knights cover Whitfield’s body with a red banner, Sir Edward Everhard Gifford suddenly emerges with his hunting dog from nearby woods and demands an explanation. Sir Giles says that the courts could not implicate Whitfield in his many crimes, so the Order resorted to a trial by combat. Realizing that Sir Edward knows too much, the knights kill him. Later, the body of Whitfield is tossed onto a street in London, England. Within days, Sir John Everhard Gifford arrives in London from his home in the U.S., and family friend Bertram “Bertie” Cook, former “Commissioner of Police” for Scotland Yard, drives him to police headquarters. There, Bertie asks the new commissioner, Oliver Griggs, about the investigation of Sir John’s father’s murder, and Griggs replies that Ben Willoughby, the slow-witted caretaker of the Gifford House estate, disappeared after he found Sir Edward’s body. Later, Bertie tells Sir John he is working on a series of murders of London criminals who have avoided prosecution because of technicalities or an absence of witnesses. Though Griggs and other policemen show no concern for the murders, Bertie believes in the rule of law regardless of the victim. He drives Sir John to Gifford House, where a dozen Knights of Avalon, including Sir Giles, have assembled for the reading of Sir Edward’s will. Having returned to his childhood home, Sir John recalls his father preparing him to be a gentleman, schooling him in archery, swordsmanship, and the rules of chivalry, but also remembers how he angered Sir Edward by choosing to go to America with his mother. The lawyer announces that Sir John inherits the estate only if he lives on it and administers its affairs; otherwise, Gifford House becomes the property of the Knights of Avalon. Sir Giles invites Sir John to a fair at nearby Mordred Castle, where a joust will be held in his honor, and Sir John agrees to participate as a knight. Arriving at the ceremonies with Bertie, Sir John meets another American named Marion Evans, who works for Sir Giles by hanging banners around the estate during knighthood events. The joust begins with a dozen mounted knights with lances, but once they are knocked off their horses, they continue fighting with swords, maces, and battle axes. The two men left standing, Sir John Gifford and Sir Roger Moncton, face off in a final joust, which Sir John wins. He gives the prize, a crown, to Marion. Later, during a banquet in which everyone wears Medieval costumes, Bertie watches how a pet bear turns aggressive and is subdued with a red battle banner thrown over it. The banner is similar to those wrapped around murder victims in London. When Bertie later returns to Griggs’ office to request a look at Whitfield’s body, Griggs says the man was buried the day before. Meanwhile, the Knights of Avalon, dressed in civilian clothes, kidnap the notorious Reagan brothers from a police van. Newspapers treat the story as a gang-assisted breakout, but Bertie suspects otherwise. He guesses the next kidnap victim will be Sidney Gore, London’s only remaining major criminal. Bertie and Sir John waylay street criminal Blind Freddie, who tells them they can find Sidney in Half Moon Lane, but when they arrive at the dark alley, criminals surround them. After the two men fight off several miscreants, Sidney appears, happy to see his former nemesis, Bertie, whom he thanks for an old favor. Sidney takes them to his mother, “Ma” Gore, who runs the enterprise. Recognizing Sir John as an American, Ma suspects he belongs to the Mafia, an organization she admires. When Bertie warns Sidney that he is probably next on the serial killers’ list, the mobster laughs. Meanwhile, at Mordred Castle, the knights dispatch the Reagan brothers during a sword fight on a bridge, sending them tumbling in full gear into a lake. Later, after the brothers’ banner-wrapped bodies are left on a street, Bertie tells Sir John he is going to follow Sidney. Sir John should return to Gifford House and find Ben Willoughby. When Sidney’s two henchmen deliver him to a pub and wait outside the door, Bertie parks nearby. Inside, a seductive barmaid gives Sidney a drugged cigar and lights it. As he loses consciousness, two Avalon men whisk him away. As soon as Sidney’s henchmen discover he is gone, Bertie heads directly for Mordred Castle and finds himself behind a roadster in which Sidney is bundled. At Gifford House, Sir John finds Ben, who knocks him unconscious and ties him up, claiming he did not kill Sir Edward. When Sir John later awakens, Ben explains he found Sir Edward with Sir Giles and several knights at the scene. Meanwhile, Bertie sneaks into Mordred Castle, but he is captured and taken to Sir Giles, as Marion watches from an upstairs window. Inside, Bertie is greeted by his Scotland Yard nemesis, Oliver Griggs, who tells him that with society falling apart and the justice system in ruins, putting criminals on trial by combat is the only solution. When Bertie is taken to a field to watch Sir Giles joust Sidney, he surreptitiously hitches a rope to Sir Giles’ saddle, and the Grand Master is suddenly yanked off his horse. As several knights prepare to kill Sidney, Marion rescues him in her car, but they are unable to leave the estate because the gates are closed. Sidney rolls out the passenger door and hides moments before knights on horseback force Marion to drive into a lake. She is later chained in a dungeon with Bertie. When Sir John arrives at the castle to confront his father’s murderer, Sir Giles offers him knighthood within the Order, but Sir John demands a trial by combat instead. Sir Giles grants his wish, but says Sir John must fight every knight. During the joust, Sir John dispatches two knights, then runs into the castle, with a dozen knights giving chase. In the dungeon, Marion and Bertie escape their chains, disable Griggs, find a cannon, and load it with powder and a ball. They fire it and hit Sir Roger as he chases Sir John into the room. As Marion and Bertie chase Herbert the herald, he escapes in a car, but Sidney jumps on the running board and escapes with him. Meanwhile, John duels with Sir Giles, who tries to escape on horseback as the front gate is lowered. His horse makes it through, but Sir Giles is impaled. Marion, Bertie, and Sir John walk away.      
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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.