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Crusades (1995)

Crusades

Director:Terry Jones
Genre:Film, Documentary

By Andy Markowitz | Posted

Who the hell wants to sit through a three-plus-hour treatise on medieval geopolitics? Hey, you watched Braveheart. And this is better. The two sides of Terry Jones—Monty Python member and legit scholar (he authored a respected study of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales)—meet in this four-part BBC documentary, a rigorously researched and smashingly entertaining chronicle of Europe's centuries-long wars to destroy Islam and reclaim the Holy Land for Christ. Jones throws himself into his role as guide, recounting the religious fervor, political intrigue, military maneuvering, and raw brutality of the Crusades with a comic's wit and a historian's passion, whether detailing the savagery of the Crusaders (who slaughtered pretty much everything in their path, including other Christians), ruing the fate of the sophisticated Arab societies they destroyed, or donning full battle armor to retrace part of the warriors' hellish 1,000-mile march to Jerusalem. ("'Come and make a nice historical documentary about the Crusades,' they said," he deadpans during one particularly tough stretch of the trek.) This is, as the saying goes, history come alive—intelligently constructed, cleverly filmed, full of sweep and spectacle and fascinating odd corners.

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