The answer is, of course, dull.
No one wants to watch a film loaded with dialogue and cheap, imitation props that look like they came from the 99 Cents Store. Movie audiences expect realism and a couple of hours of exciting escapism when they pay for a movie ticket. Often, it’s the quality of realistic props that sets the mood as much as the story line and acting in a film.
Large scale productions often use their own prop departments to build the prop accessories while low-budget film companies can rent props that specialize in medieval replica items.
Five of the most popular medieval props are:
Medieval Stage Prop Swords – Wood and plastic swords are the most common prop weapons used by the movie or television industry. The lightweight materials produce a weapon that actors can use during a day’s work without suffering arm fatigue. Additionally, the materials are easy to work with and can easily be transformed into swords that are as real as the actual medieval weapons.
Suits of Armor Props – Life-size suits of armor made of steel or aluminum add realism to any movie calling for battle scenes. There are various companies that make, sell and repair suits of armor not only for the movie trade but for the growing interest in medieval reenactment events.
Torture Props– No medieval movie would be complete without at least one torture scene in the bowels of the castle dungeon. One of the more familiar props in this category include the infamous “rack” where the limbs of the prisoners were stretched and pulled to near dismemberment in order to extract a confession. Iron pincers that were heated red hot and then used to inflict horrible pain on various parts of the body often shows up in the hands of the demented torturers. Though only pretending to inflict torture, the more realistic the prop looks, the more squeamish the audience becomes.
Catapult weapons – No castle siege scene would be complete without at least one giant wood catapult hurling massive rocks again the castle walls or slinging flaming bundles over the walls into the courtyards. Because of the required size of such weapons, prop companies often build the catapult components off site and assemble the oversize weapons at the filming location.
Flags and banners – A colorful array of banners and assorted flags adds realism and excitement to any medieval scene. Envision a knight charging full force towards his jousting opponent without a brightly colored flag depicting his country or allegiance attached to the end of this pole. Or imagine waves of soldiers marching toward each other in battle without banners and flags identifying each unit fluttering high overhead. The movie wouldn’t have the same feeling of realism and excitement without these props.