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Henry V (The Criterion Collection)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Leslie Banks, Esmond Knight, Harcourt Williams, Max Adrian
  • Directors: Laurence Olivier
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Special Edition
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: June 22, 1999
  • Run Time: 137 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780021320
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,345 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Henry V (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Shakespearean Royalty: A Chronology of England's Rulers
  • Stills Galleries: the Book of Hours, production photos

Editorial Reviews

Olivier mustered out of the navy to film this adaptation of Shakespeare's history. Embroiled in World War II, Britons took courage from this tale of a king who surmounts overwhelming odds and emerges victorious. This sumptuous Technicolor® rendering features a thrilling recreation of the battle of Agincourt, and Sir Laurence in his prime as director and actor.

Customer Reviews

Laurence Olivier's acting truly is excellent.
PJBE Fan
From various reference sources, in brief, here's the historical background both to Shakespeare's play and to this film.
Robert Morris
In some great battles a general has invaded with a small force and overcome great odds such a Henry V did in France.
Roger Bagula

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Jack Rice on May 1, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a brilliantly conceived movie-within-a-play-within-a-movie that showcases the genius of Laurence Olivier. Today's audiences are exposed mainly to Olivier the movie star. But if you want to see a purer form of acting, see Olivier the stage actor. This is possible by watching his Shakespeare plays on film. And these films are by Olivier the "auteur," long before the title was coined. Olivier's is the legacy to which Branaugh, the darling of the current generation, fancies himself the pretender.
And lest you're expecting a camera pointed at a stage, don't worry. Olivier, who produced and directed most of his Shakespeare films, has actually used the film medium to enlarge his plays' visual scope, while maintaining the intimacy that is the essence of live theatre. Moreover, Olivier is mindful of how daunting the language of Shakespeare is for modern audiences and has modified much of the original script to be more comprehensible, while preserving the feel of Elizabethan English.
Olivier's "Henry V" was to England what Eisentein's "Ivan the Terrible" was to Russia - a familiar history rendered as a national epic, for morale purposes, while audiences were fighting off the Germans during World War II. There are other parallels. For example, both use static, formalized composition, in Henry V's case, meant to resemble the images in medieval illuminated manuscripts and books of Hours. (In Ivan's case, according to Kael, like Japanese Kabuki.) Thus, a soundstage "exterior" backdrop becomes a tableau that serves to enhance, with its flat perspective and subjective scale, the view we have of that fabulous Age of Chivalry, for which the play's Battle of Agincourt was the closing act.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 26, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
From various reference sources, in brief, here's the historical background both to Shakespeare's play and to this film. Henry V, the eldest son of Henry IV and Mary Bohun, was born in 1387. An accomplished and experienced soldier, at age fourteen he fought the Welsh forces of Owen Glendower; at age sixteen he commanded his father's forces at the battle of Shrewsbury; and shortly after his accession he put down a major Lollard uprising and an assassination plot by nobles still loyal to Richard II . He proposed to marry Catherine in 1415, demanding the old Plantagenet lands of Normandy and Anjou as his dowry. Charles VI refused and Henry declared war, opening yet another chapter in the Hundred Years' War. His invasion of France served two purposes: to regain lands lost in previous battles and to focus attention away from any of his cousins' royal ambitions. Henry, possessed a masterful military mind and defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt in October of 1415. By 1419 he had captured Normandy, Picardy, and much of the Capetian stronghold of the Ile-de-France.
By the time when the Treaty of Troyes was signed in 1420, Charles VI not only accepted Henry as his son-in-law but passed over his own son to name Henry heir to the French crown. Had Henry lived a mere two months longer, he would have been king of both England and France. However, he had prematurely aged because of having lived the hard life of a soldier, became seriously ill, and died after returning from yet another French campaign. Catherine had given birth to his only son while he was away but Henry died without ever seeing the child.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 4, 2000
Format: DVD
As usual, Criterion has delivered a package that is well worth the money. The transfer is excellent, the colours vivid, and the feature-length commentary by Bruce Eder is a treasure trove of background information. Also included is a picture gallery from the Book of Hours, which inspired many of the scenes. This is a disc that will give pleasure for years to come.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. A Rubin on February 8, 2005
Format: DVD
I saw a modern remake of this film, 1989, recently with Kenneth Branagh. The battle showed sweat and blood, a non-theatrical production in comparison to this 1944, very theatrical, Olivier production. Some reviewers denounce the heavy-handed acting of 1944, but I find it charming.

Olivier has an economical charisma. His acting has few flourishes, but his voice says everything. Olivier in period costume is mesmerizing. As Shakespeare's bad-boy prince turned earnest King, Olivier takes charge and demands the return of English lands from the rather effeminate French nobility. Outnumbered 10 to one, his merry band of Englishmen dispatches the Dolphin at Agincourt. Then he courts the French speaking princess Katherine with broken French and elegant economy.

The recreation of old London and the Globe Theatre was delightful. The audience and players went on in heavy rains without complaint. The mention of Falstaff's name is enough to get applause, though the buffoon has only a short death scene.

I do believe the play has been abridged. Many of the longer speeches seem shortened. Still, this is accessible Shakespeare. How can you go wrong? Never!
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