Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


THE LION IN WINTER (1968). Director: Anthony Harvey.

"To be a prisoner -- to be bricked in -- when you've known the world!"

Film version of the play by James Goldman, who also did the screenplay. At Christmas in 1183 A.D. King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) bemoans the fact that his three sons would prefer him dead and to rule in his stead, and lets his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn), out of imprisonment for the holidays. There follows a lot of plotting to force the King to choose one son over another as his successor. Although there are interesting moments in the movie, it basically reduces history to soap opera, with these famous characters acting in a very contemporary fashion and just being bitchy to one another. Some of the dialogue is quite bad. Hepburn won an Oscar, but she's miscast -- this stuff is just not her cup of java. Of the other cast members, Timothy Dalton comes off best as King Philip of France, who had an early dalliance with Henry's son Richard (Anthony Hopkins). One suspects that this consists more of moments of "dramatic license" than anything else.

Verdict: A supposedly historical Dynasty minus Joan Collins. **.


The Lion In Winter Movie said...

The film has well written fascinating story. A beautiful film, timeless in its theme of family and inheritances, with shrewd performances. It could easily best film of the year 1968.

tantalus1970 said...

Actually, it's a lot more historically accurate than you might think (or at least based on what people believed at the time). The Plantagenet family was like that. The story of a youthful relationship between Louis and Richard was widespread at the time.

All the European ruling class were inter-related, so comparing them to a soap opera is valid; a lot of the conflict between countries was really just conflict between their rulers. (One of the inspirations for Dynasty was the BBC version of I, Claudius)

What the film doesn't mention is that in the end Henry lost to his surviving sons and his wife.

William said...

Fascinating! I'm going to look up a history of the Plantagenets. However accurate historically, the picture just didn't work for me, but I'll probably enjoy a book on the same subject. Thanks for your comments.