This film version was made coinciding with the renewed interest in sword and sorcery and heroic fantasy that came about as a result of the success of tvs Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1994-9) and Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001). During this time a number of other popular heroes Sinbad, Robin Hood, Conan, The Beastmaster, Sheena were revived in various tv series and films. Unfortunately, Prince Valiants turn befell director Anthony Hickox. Hickox was previously known for horror films such as Waxwork (1988), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1990), Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) and Warlock: The Armageddon (1993), which all fail through Hickoxs campy, splatter-heavy tone. Certainly, Anthony Hickoxs films subsequent to Prince Valiant Jill the Ripper/Tied (1999), Contaminated Man (2000), Submerged (2005) have become much more serious in tone, but sadly not Prince Valiant. (Hickox himself can be spotted in an acting appearance at the start of the film, playing the part of Prince Valiants mentor Gawain).
The surprise about the film, as the end credits reveal, is that it was originally intended for cinema release. Instead it was dumped straight to video and its clear to see why Anthony Hickox takes little of it seriously and everything is budgeted and constructed like a cheap sword and sorcery film, the sort they made dozens of in Italy during the 1980s. The costumes, sets and animation effects are all cheap and unconvincing, the fight scenes dully choreographed.
The moderate name cast overacts with Joanna Lumley and Udo Kier being notably guilty offenders. The least dignified is Ron Perlman who goes through much of the film seeming like he is an extra who has strayed in from the filming of Braveheart (1995). Katherine Heigl, several years before gaining fame on tvs Greys Anatomy (2005 ), does nothing to suggest Prince Valiants love Ilene she seems more like a modern American wannabe starlet with a bright smile that has been placed in period costume. Stephen Moyer, a few years before finding fame in tvs True Blood (2008-14) and here a complete unknown, is slightly better as Prince Valiant, although his formal, upper class British accent clearly belies the working class squire he is meant to be.
By the time of the climax with modern colloquialisms We should stop meeting like this being bandied and Katharine Heigl dispatching Joanna Lumleys witch by sneezing just as she is about to blow the magic stasis powder, it is clear that Anthony Hickox had stopped taking much of any of the film seriously. It is a sad fate for Harold Fosters creation to befall.