"Black Death" must have been a nightmare to market, and perhaps that is why it slipped beneath the radar in most cities. I'm not certain why I bought a copy, probably because Sean Bean is always excellent if badly underused in films. But it was a wise buy, even if I seldom watch the film again.
Hollywood loves to remake films that have been successful, and if Hollywood does not do it, the stage does. "Wizard of Oz" on stage is one of Weber's new attacks upon our emotions, and it is dismal. There was even a musical version of "Gone with the Wind" that died a painful death in Great Britain before it made it across the Atlantic, though Harve Presnell as Rhett should have been interesting. But film remakes are usually atrocious. "The Maltese Falcon" was a great exception with Warner Brothers trying it over and over, until Humphrey Bogart and the rest of that great cast made it work. And, too, "Casablanca". Unfortunately, there have been vile remakes of both since then. What has this to do with "Black Death"? A lot. This film is a failure on so many levels because it doesn't really know where to focus. But if one steps back a bit, looks at it objectively, and represses both the laughter at ridiculous make-up and the shudders of brutal moments of violence, there is a lot to think about that few movies have come close to suggesting.
It is a morality play, but not of the medieval kind. It suits this century perfectly. It also deals with perceptions and with 'realities', using religion more as a springboard than as the central issue. Clearly, there are no absolutes, but what is the range of decency, corruption, deception, and honour? Wrong or right may not matter at all as the two poles we run to or away from. But to what extent can we choose as the old rules fall by the wayside? I'm phrasing it badly, but for those who watch the film, I hope this will resonate, even though much of the film seems to be unaware of what a good deal of the rest of the film is doing. So I leave it to the experts to carefully study "Black Death", pull out the issues that it trips itself on so often, and remake the movie with a clearer sense of the issues. It could then be a memorable experience for the ages. As it stands, it will be sluffed off by the majority of the public who will see it as just another swords and witches bomb. But peel away that surface and imagine what a solid screenwriter and director would have done with this much to explore.
One spoiler alert - probably unnecessary - would Sean Bean start making movies in which he is alive at the end? Please. Yes, he had to die in "Lord of the Rings", but since then he has played too many characters who are dispensed with far too soon. I'll forgive "Game of Thrones", but when it lost him, it lost me, too, and probably a large chunk of the audience. But here, there was no need for his early death, and since it is now part of a pattern, it did not even surprise. It is time that he was offered roles that gave the general movie goer a chance to see one of the best at work. Perhaps cast him in "Black Death"'s remake, and leave him alive at the end. And please redo the end. Letting the witch live undiscovered is fine, but she is still too obviously the source of death and decay and should have been recognized. But, the film's makers thought her being ignored was sufficient irony. No. Death and decay are always to be with us. But more was at stake here (no pun intended), and they let a chance to explore deeper again slip through their fingers.