Hollow Crown, The (Season One) (Blu-ray) (2012)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 8-Mar-2017

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Drama Series Featurette-x 4 (one for each disc)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 504:46 (Case: 506)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Eyre
Rupert Goold
Thea Sharrock
ViaVision Starring Ben Whishaw
Jeremy Irons
Tom Hiddleston
Simon Russell Beale
Rory Kinnear
Julie Walters
Patrick Stewart
David Suchet
Paterson Joseph
Tom Georgeson
Maxine Peake
Melanie Thierry
Case ?
RPI ? Music Adam Cork
Stephen Warbeck
Adrian Johnston

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The Hollow Crown is the BBC’s newest adaptation of Shakespeare’s English history plays in chronological (although not the order in which they were written) from Richard II through to Richard III with exceptional production values, impressive cast lists and good directors. The Hollow Crown: Season One consists of Richard II , Henry IV (Parts I & II) and Henry V on four Blu-rays. The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses is released separately with Henry VI and Richard III to complete the saga.

Disc 1: Richard II (141:31)

     Richard (Ben Whishaw) is a weak king, too reliant on the sycophants in his court and with a rather tenuous grasp of reality and realpolitik. After Harry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), son of the powerful and influential John of Gaunt (Patrick Stewart), accuses Thomas Mowbray (James Purefoy) of treason, the King banishes them both, leading to a rift with John of Gaunt. When Gaunt dies, Richard disinherits Bolingbroke and takes Gaunt’s lands, plate and wealth for the crown before setting off to subdue a revolt in Ireland. Bolingbroke returns to England to reclaim his lands and rights and many of the nobles, including Northumberland (David Morrissey) and York (David Suchet), the King’s uncle, flock to Bolingbroke’s banner. His intention is not to depose the king but to reclaim his lands and title, but with little remaining support Richard accedes to his demands, anoints Bolingbroke his heir and is required to abdicate. Bolingbroke is crowned Henry IV but immediately has to deal with those who dispute his right to rule, including York’s son Aumerle (Tom Hughes), his reign thus beginning in dispute and bloodshed.

     As a play Richard II is not frequently performed but it sets the background of what is to come, leading to the Wars of the Roses. As the flawed, indecisive and somewhat inconsistent Richard, Ben Whishaw is mesmerising; Shakespeare in this play uses rhymed iambic pentameters very frequently, giving a power to the language that Whishaw delivers, alternating dignity, pathos, anger and tragedy. Patrick Stewart and David Suchet are also excellent. Directed by Rupert Goold, music Adam Cork, cinematography Danny Cohen.

Disc 2: Henry IV Part I (114:49)

     The England of Henry Bolingbroke, now Henry IV (Jeremy Irons), is facing revolts in the north and in Wales. Henry’s foremost warrior is Henry Percy (Joe Armstrong), called Hotspur, the son of Northumberland (Alun Armstrong) who had been pivotal in deposing Richard II and winning the throne for Henry. Henry also has troubles nearer to home; his oldest son and heir, Hal (Tom Hiddleston), is a rogue and wastrel, consorting with low lives, thieves and cut purses such as the fat and cowardly Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale), Poins (David Dawson), Bardolph (Tom Georgeson) and prostitute Doll Tearsheet (Maxine Peake) in the East London tavern run by Mistress Quickly (Julie Walters). There Hal avoids any responsibility, drinks with his companions and plays tricks on Falstaff, exposing him as a braggart, a liar and coward.

     Henry despairs of the behaviour of Hal and publically wishes that his son had been the valiant and glorious Hotspur instead. But when Hotspur wins a battle in Scotland and takes a number of prisoners he refuses to hand them over to the King, as was the custom. In addition, Hotspur’s father-in-law has been captured by the Welsh rebel Glendower and Henry refuses to pay his ransom. Believing that Henry is not allowing the Percy’s their proper due for helping him to the throne, Hotspur and his uncle Worcester (David Hayman) raise an army in revolt. Hal leaves the tavern long enough to join his father’s army while Falstaff is commissioned to raise some men; he takes the money and recruits cripples and the infirm. The armies of the King and Hotspur meet on the snowy and muddy field of Shrewsbury, where valour and cowardice both appear and the fate of the kingdom is decided.

     Henry IV Part I is not really about the king but about the character of Hal, the man who will become Henry V. Tom Hiddleston is good, as is Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff, perhaps the most exuberant and larger than life character in all Shakespeare. The film ends with the Battle of Shrewsbury, where the excessive use of hand held queasy cam, perhaps to cloak the lack of numbers involved, made me feel dizzy. Directed by Richard Eyre, music Stephen Warbeck, cinematography Ben Smithard.

Disc 3: Henry IV Part II (115:47)

     Henry IV Part II is primarily about Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale) who, his reputation enhanced by (as it is believed) his killing of Hotspur at the battle of Shrewsbury and his friendship with the Crown Prince, Hal (Tom Hiddleston), is living it up with his cronies and lording over others in the East London tavern run by Mistress Quickly (Julie Walters). Hal, after his heroics at Shrewsbury, has seeming reverted to his old self, much to the despair of his father King Henry IV (Jeremy Irons), although Hal was not joined Falstaff’s revels. King Henry is also still facing a revolt in the north by the remaining Percy forces, and the King’s second son John (Henry Faber) leads the Royal forces north to deal with them. Falstaff recruits peasants for the army with the help of his old friend Justice Shallow (David Bamber) and joins Prince John, who displays a degree of cunning to end the revolt without a battle, and so destroy the King’s enemies.

     In London King Henry is now sick and dying, still wracked by guilt for taking the throne from the king anointed by God. He is also in despair for the kingdom when it is left to Hal but he dies after being reconciled with Hal. When Falstaff learns that Henry IV is dead, and that Hal is now Henry V, he is ecstatic, has expectations of advancement and promises his friends privilege and office due to his friendship with the new King. But when Falstaff approaches Hal during his coronation, Hal, now Henry V, very publically humiliates and repudiates him. For England a new king, and a new dawn.

     Perhaps more than anything Henry IV Part II is a reflection on aging, time passing, guilt and retribution with a dominating performance by Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff with both Henry IV and Hal drifting to the sidelines. Falstaff is a rogue, a fool, a liar, a coward and a braggart but he remains larger than life and it is impossible not to like him during some poignant scenes played with Julie Walters and Maxine Peake as Doll Tearsheet. His public rejection by Hal is very moving; however much Falstaff is a rogue, his fall is spectacular and sad. Also in the cast are some familiar faces including Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones) and the wonderful Geoffrey Palmer, having a ball as the Chief Justice. Directed by Richard Eyre, music Stephen Warbeck, cinematography Ben Smithard.

Disc 4: Henry V (132:39)

     While the previous films dealt with political manoeuvrings within England, Henry V goes international. Henry (Tom Hiddleston) has been convinced that he has a claim to the French crown and lands and when the French Dauphin (Edward Akrout) sends Henry an insulting present of tennis balls, implying he continue with riotous pursuits and leave matters of state alone, Henry gathers an English army and invades France. Included in the army are some of his old companions from the London tavern, Bardolph (Tom Georgeson), Pistol (Paul Ritter) and Nym (Tom Brooke), Falstaff having died. In France Henry, closely supported by his uncle Exeter (Anton Lesser) and cousin York (Paterson Joseph), storms and captures the town of Harfleur, where Bardolph is hanged for looting a church.

     Henry marches his army deeper into France but bad weather, muddy roads and disease debilitate his men. He turns back towards the coast but the French bar his way near the castle of Agincourt. Although badly outnumbered, Henry wins a stunning victory. The French king (Lambert Wilson) sues for peace, ceding Henry’s claims and giving Henry his daughter Katherine (Melanie Thierry) in marriage to cement the alliance. With the birth of a son France and England will be united in one kingdom, but as the epilogue and the Chorus tell us, Henry died suddenly at the age of only 36 and his infant son became Henry VI. Without a strong hand, overseas possessions were lost and England returned to chaos.

     Henry V is a fairly simple, straightforward play showing the coming of age of Hal as a man and a king. Shakespeare, as is his want, juxtaposes scenes, the majesty and the commoners alternate, while extortions to valour, such as the “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” speech, is immediately contrasted with Pistol, Bardolph and Nym hiding in a ditch, drinking and avoiding the fight. There is also humour and the scene where Henry woos Kate is played delightfully by Hiddleston and Melanie Thierry. Henry V is the high point for England in this “hollow crown” saga, before the decline to the Wars of the Roses. As usual there are familiar faces in the cast, such as Geraldine Chaplin as Katherine’s handmaiden and John Hurt as the Chorus. Directed by Thea Sharrock, music Adrian Johnston, cinematography Michael McDonough.

     The Hollow Crown is a stunning achievement. From the lush English countryside, to the lofty, drafty palaces, to the dirty streets and taverns of East London teaming with life, to the muddy and bloodied battlefields, The Hollow Crown looks and feels real while the exceptional cast bring out the power and beauty of Shakespeare’s English language.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     The Hollow Crown is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The colour palate throughout the films is generally drab, as many scenes take place in tall, cavernous palaces or churches with grey stone prominent, or the tavern and streets of London, which have a more browny look. Costumes are also predominately dark, with browns and greys, and the steel grey of armour is also evident. Occasionally, however, The Hollow Crown bursts out into brightness; the English countryside in summer (although more often it is the snow and mists of winter), Richard II’s dazzlingly gold and white costume or Henry V’s red coronation robes. Skin tones sometimes seem unnaturally brown, blacks were deep, shadow detail could be occasionally indistinct but contrast and brightness were consistent.

     Other than occasional motion blur I did not notice marks or artefacts.

     No subtitles are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

     The dialogue of Shakespeare is clear and centred. The surrounds are used for ambient sound; voices in the street and tavern, horses hooves, battle cries and the like, plus music. The sub-woofer added appropriate bass to the battle, charging horses, the tavern and London crowd.

     The scores, Adam Cork for Richard II, Stephen Warbeck for Henry IV and Adrian Johnston for Henry V are appropriate, supporting the visuals, with Adrian Johnston’s the most impressive.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Disc 1: Bonus (11:17)

     There is an authoring error on this disc. The video is of Richard II, but the audio is the same as the audio of the bonus on Henry IV Part I on disc 2!

Disc 2: Bonus (12:42)

     This short extra is a discussion of the character of Hal and his relationship with Falstaff over the course of the two plays / films in which they appear. There is extensive use of film footage, a bit of on-set footage and short comments by director Richard Eyre and cast members Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Jeremy Irons and Julie Walters.

Disc 3: The Hollow Crown: The Making of a King (14:06)

     A fairly superficial “making of” with lots of talking heads. Items covered include adapting Shakespeare for a modern audience, the language and locations. Comments from the directors of the series, Rupert Goold, Richard Eyre and Thea Sharrock, the producers, production designer and cast members Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Ben Whishaw, Paterson Joseph, Julie Waters, Rory Kinnear and Simon Russell Beale.

Disc 4: Bonus (10:09)

     Another short extra dealing with Henry’s journey towards self-discovery and the taking of responsibility, the casting of Tom Hiddleston , the battle scenes and that famous pre-battle Agincourt speech. Extensive use of film footage, a bit of on-set footage and short comments by director Thea Sharrock, the producer and cast members Tom Hiddleston and Patterson Joseph.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The versions of The Hollow Crown: Season One seem to be the same in all regions.


     With such a vast range of Dukes, Earls, churchmen and other characters, who often appear, add some dialogue and then are gone, it is sometimes difficult to keep up with who is who. Nevertheless, The Hollow Crown is a stunning achievement, mixing the bawdy with the political machinations of the period. The series looks expensive; the sets and costumes are fantastic, and Shakespeare’s dialogue is spoken naturally by a range of quality actors, bringing out the power of the English language.

     The Hollow Crown succeeds in bringing these history plays of Shakespeare to a modern TV audience. Henry IV with the character of Falstaff and Henry V, with the oft-quoted Agincourt dialogue, are more familiar; the surprise to me was how powerful, tragic and poignant was Richard II, helped by a beautifully nuanced performance by Ben Whishaw.

     The video and audio are good. The extras are fairly minor.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
The versions of The Hollow Crown: Season One is not the same in all regions - RichardP REPLY POSTED