FREE delivery: Thursday, Dec 8 on orders over $25.00 shipped by Amazon.
Ships from: Amazon.com Sold by: Amazon.com
Save with Used - Good
FREE delivery: Saturday, Dec 10 on orders over $25.00 shipped by Amazon.
Ships from: Amazon Sold by: Rich Media Direct
Other Sellers on Amazon
Enhance your purchase
|Format||Anamorphic, Blu-ray, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen|
|Contributor||Peter Jeffrey, Patrick Newell, Hamilton Dyce, Niall MacGinnis, Richard Burton, Inigo Jackson, Pamela Brown, Sian Phillips, Peter O'Toole, Martita Hunt, Christopher Rhodes, Victor Spinetti, Geoffrey Unsworth, Laurence Rosenthal, John Gielgud, Linda Marlowe, Gerald Lawson, Frank Pettingell, Gino Cervi, Jennifer Hilary, Percy Herbert See more|
|Runtime||2 hours and 30 minutes|
Classic struggle between Church and Monarchy. Thomas Becket and King Henry Mantagenet engage in one of the most famous power struggles in English history. When Becket first becomes chancellor and later Archbishop of Canterbury, a rift grows between Henry II and his old friend. Some eager drunken knights trying to please the disgruntled monarch assassinate the cleric in the cathedral. Director Peter Glenville Star Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud Special Features: Widescreen Format, Commentary.
A cerebral film spectacle --Time Magazine
Magnificent --New York Times
- Aspect Ratio : 2.35:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
- Product Dimensions : 0.7 x 7.5 x 5.4 inches; 2.4 Ounces
- Audio Description: : English
- Item model number : MPI1803BR
- Media Format : Anamorphic, Blu-ray, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
- Run time : 2 hours and 30 minutes
- Release date : November 25, 2008
- Actors : Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton, Pamela Brown, Gino Cervi, Hamilton Dyce
- Subtitles: : English
- Language : English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
- Studio : Mpi Home Video
- ASIN : B001D5F2LI
- Country of Origin : USA
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #19,070 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- #1,663 in Drama Blu-ray Discs
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Peter O’Toole is, by modern drama standards, pretty bad here. No mistake, he looks great, although I don’t know why they bothered to put him in black hair and beard. He’s supposed to be a Norman, right? O’Toole leaves little scenery un-chewed, no grimace un-grimaced or leer un-leered. His Henry has a manic edge to him that’d be off-putting even if he weren’t going for dissolute corrupt drunken rapey royal creep. Over-selling it. Also, in a couple of ill-advised shirtless scenes, he’s scary pale and skinny. For a King who revels in food and drink and hunting, he’s way more ascetic looking than Burton, who’s playing an abstemious cleric who appears to be severely hungover most of the time. O’Toole apparently did not work out. With his royal robes off, he looks like a skinny fourteen year-old, who doesn’t get much sun.
Richard Burton, with the meatier role, plays, well, Richard Burton. Young or old, whether it’s “Virginia Woolf” or “Night of the Iguana” or this thing, he’s always Richard Burton, hangdog expression, world weary and sad and wiser than is good for him. His Becket is too understated to mesh well with O’Toole’s bouncing off the castle walls. For one thing, despite being contemporaries, Burton looks a generation older.
John Gielgud. It’s a bit part, but when is it not good to see John Gielgud? Especially in full ecclesiastical garb?
The movie itself is an entertaining mish-mosh of improbably clean castle walls, stylized interiors, some hilarious process shots of O’Toole and Burton pretending to ride horses, and unconvincing day-for-night filters. Probably shouldn’t judge this movie by today’s techniques, but for all the piety and pretense, it’s really just a step up from a routine Robin Hood outing.
But fun! Watching two great hams at work, striding about in churches and palaces with doublets and hose, crowns and ermine robes, bishop’s mitres and croziers and swords and daggers and halberds and everybody swirling capes and robes everywhere. “Becket” may be history-lite but it’s got some nicely shouted speeches and mobs of extras and parades through the streets. O’Toole slavers over hot French babes, Burton broods about the injustices done his Saxon brothers and sisters, politics are politicked. Becket and Henry ramble on about their love for each other until you want to tell them to just get a room, OK? Seriously, if O’Toole was any more over-the-top shouting and mewling Henry’s obsessive love for Becket, we’d be watching “Brokeback Mountain”.
For their final meeting on the French coast, you kind of expect O’Toole to tell Burton, “I wish I knew how to quit you!”
Burton, meanwhile, mopes. He mopes as Henry’s best bro, then he mopes as Archbishop. Full mope mode. Becket’s turnabout from Machiavellian schemer and Royal Fixer to pious churchman is done in about five minutes of unconvincing screen time. Really, a scene or two of having doubts and seeing the light would have slowed things up, but made more sense? Henry also goes from “Love the B man!” to “That guy is getting on my last nerve!” on 4X FFWD. OK, you got to compress a lot of history to fit it into two hours, but a little character development wouldn’t hurt.
Characters talk endlessly in a manner that no living human being has ever talked; speeches, not dialog. But not bad speeches in a stagey sort of way. Except maybe the ridiculous ones King Henry orates at his wife and mother. Those are terrible, and the ones to his kids not much better. Of course, Henry’s real kids were a revolting lot, a whole mess of revolts, so maybe he’s right to critique these ungrateful brats. Eleanor, in her later years, was kind of a trial, too.
That said, the historical Becket wasn’t Saxon. Norman through and through. And Henry II wasn’t quite Norman. And it’s not like the Saxons were the put-upon original inhabitants of Britain; they were a few generations removed from their own invasion and suppression of the Britons who’d previously owned the place. And by the time of Henry and Becket, the usual intermarriage and gene-pool spreading of the latest invaders and the last invaders had pretty well blurred bloodlines anyway. Henry’s claim on England was a lot shakier than his roots in France. He didn’t even speak English, I mean.
But Henry Plantagenet was quite the brilliant administrator and his legal reforms set the stage for English common law that we’re still working with today. While he might have hunted to excess and caroused more than prayed, he also put the Kingdom on a sound monetary footing, which was no small chore after his dad’s management. And the historical Henry simply didn’t have time to moon all that much over his wayward priest, what with constant touring of the provinces, rebellious flare ups in France (always with the flare ups in France. Seriously, was France really worth all the trouble?), conquering Ireland, the bleeding Scots…. Henry had a lot to put up with, aside from his struggles with the Church. He left England with more territory and better laws than he found it; his kids pretty much pissed it all away, of course.
And let’s just say that the long-running tension between church and state and reformation and orthodoxy is kind of oversimplified by a factor of 10 or so. A tension which would last until the arrival of another Henry, the Tudor usurper. About whom a lot of other movies have been made.
But enough nitpicking about history. If you want to watch British screen legends working off each other in front of elaborate scenery, you can’t go wrong with Burton and O’Toole. There’s a lot to enjoy here, and the Hollywood (or Shepperton) version of sainthood besides. Burton gets a great death scene; O’Toole gets to emote like a spurned lover and then be sorrier than anybody’s ever been sorry before. And there are some lovely bits of film with Gregorian chants and files of black-clad monks to look at. The score is the sort nobody does anymore, the Technicolor is exploited to the full, the costumes are on the cusp between lush and laughable. So, lots to enjoy. For a period costume epic, you could do worse.
Becket is played admirably by Richard Burton; Henry II is portrayed by Peter O'Toole. Both were nominated for the best actor Oscar, but neither won. In addition to these nominations and the best screenplay award, the film was nominated for nine other Oscars, running the list from costumes, music, directing, best picture, and a best supporting actor nod for John Gielgud, whose cameo as the King of France is rather interestingly presented.
Indeed, the movie has a remarkable realistic feel to it, particularly for a film from the 1960s, when cinema was as likely to portray stylised and idealistic images of the past. The sets are in bare stone with a minimum of ornamentation, as would have been the case in Plantagenet times; likewise, the ceremony around the royal person is much less grand, and the church rather grand, which is both accurate and serves to highlight the underlying conflict of the story in the film.
Becket is portrayed as a man of ambiguous loyalties -- a man of principle who has yet to find principles worthy of loyalty. Finally, in the role of archbishop, he finds a calling from the honour of God (and in so doing is not unlikely many priests who see their path to ordination as the means of spiritual grace; indeed, many are disappointed that the faith does not come with the office). Whether Thomas Becket actually experienced a spiritual conversion that made him a strong champion of the church, or in fact saw the power of the church as a means to an end of dominating the country, we will perhaps never know.
In the film, Becket is often disparaged as being a Saxon; this is perhaps overstated, given his Norman lineage, which is never hinted at in the film. While he does not come from Norman nobility, he is far from being a simple Saxon. Burton's portrayal of Becket shows the change from worldly chancellor to spiritual archbishop in unsubtle terms. Even so, there is an ambiguity that plays out marvelously in both his performance, and the reactions of the other characters who constantly question his sincerity.
O'Toole's performance is not as polished as Burton's; when he plays an older, wiser Henry II in 'The Lion in Winter' four years later, the acting is much more dramatic and effective. It perhaps goes without saying that Pamela Brown does not make the same impression on the screen as Eleanor of Aquitaine as Katherine Hepburn does in the later film, but Eleanor is an incidental character in Becket in any case.
Music in this film is not a prominent feature -- various trumpet and brass flourishes announce events or major scene changes in parts; a lot of chant (long before Gregorian chant achieved popular status) accompanies church scenes -- indeed, I credit this film for giving me my first real taste of Gregorian chant. The scene with Sian Phillips as Becket's love Gwendolyen is accompanied by period string instruments -- again, Phillips is a remarkable actress who is under-utilised in this performance.
Done in a flash-back manner, there is a resolution in the film -- Becket is dead, made a saint, honour is satisfied as the King does penance, and the people are happy. We know what is going to happen, but then, anyone with knowledge of history would likely know the story already. In fact, Henry's reign was rarely without challenge, but he was always powerful, and much more effective after Becket's death than before. Reigning for nearly twenty years after Becket's death, he left a very powerful Western European coalition of lands that soon fell apart, and embroiled England and France in war for centuries later. The tensions between church and state carry forward to this day; while the specifics of the challenges faces Becket and Henry II are very different from issues today, the principle of the relationship between church and state is far from definitively resolved.
Also, the side-line issue of class warfare and racial prejudice (teased out with subtle nuance between the Normans and Saxons, who, ironically, look exactly the same on the screen) are addressed in an interesting, pre-civil rights sort of manner. This issue is never resolved in the film, as indeed it wasn't in the 1960s, either.
This is an intriguing film, with great acting and great production values, and an interesting story that, even if not completely historically accurate, does not alter the history so much that it becomes a parody of the subject.
Top reviews from other countries
O'Toole is mercurial as the spoilt young king, Burton plays the tragic Becket with great dignity. Many great character actors of the time appear in supporting roles and there is a deliciously creepy scene in which O'Toole as the king attempts to seduce Burton's lady, who is, somewhat ironically perhaps, played by O'Toole's then wife Sian Phillips. Who is a remarkably gifted actress and absolutely wonderful in her disdain of the king's unwanted advances.
The DVD I purchased (Second Sight, May 2007) is a restored version of the fillm with vibrant colours and excellent sound quality. No subtitles. The following (rather nice) extra features are included:
- Peter O'Toole Commentary
- Interview with editor Anne V. Coates
- A Tapestry of Music: Laurence Rosenthal on his score for 'Becket'
- Lobby Card gallery
- Original Trailer
The story of Becket's life as portrayed in the film, based as it is on an adaptation of the French play has many fictionalized parts (historical inaccuracies). The most glaring inaccuracy is that Becket was actually a Norman and not a Saxon as depicted in the film. The film leaves out all the early years of Becket's life, and ends at Henry's penance three years after Becket's murder, concentrating on the personal relationship between Henry II and Becket from the time he was made Chancellor. It is very well acted. The costumes are gorgeous and the sets are memorable (although these too are highly fictionalized). It has undercurrents of Hollywood prejudices about many issues probably not noticed by many.
Highly enjoyable and beautiful film all the same. View it and then go read about St. Thomas and Henry in historically accurate sources if you are interested in their stories and their places in the history of England and in the history of the Church.
Without him, I would still have liked the film a lot as it is philosophically and historically very interesting, has a good script and is well acted (even though Peter O'Toole mugs for the camera a bit too much in certain scenes). With Richard Burton in it, it is magnificent.
My only real quibble with this film is that while one understands that Becket goes through a metamorphosis, the underlying reasons are not fully clear and his religious conversion seems to happen quite suddenly. It is unfortunate especially since some scenes (for ex the one with the ludicrous pope) could easily have been cut.
Overall, a great film which I will watch time and again for the sheer pleasure of the amazing acting.
The two leads give excellent performances.