The Lion in Winter (1968)
|Category||Drama||Menu Animation & Audio|
|Year Of Production||1968|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Anthony Harvey|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
After watching Peter O'Toole battle bravely through the turgid nightmare that was the leaden scripted Troy, what a pleasure it was to return to an earlier kingly role, Henry II of England rather than Priam of Troy, in the 1968 Best Picture nominee A Lion in Winter. Adapted by James Goldman from his own stage play, the film stars no less than Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins (in his breakthrough role) and the great Katharine Hepburn, who carried off yet another Best Actress statuette for her portrayal of the cunning and powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine. For those with an aversion to "theatre as film" I would suggest you back out now before it's too late, for although Goldman has done a commendable job of opening out the play into something more cinematic, the film is laden with dialogue and the camera consistently static. There are exceptions - the arrival of Eleanor on the river is suitably impressive and fluid, and there is legitimate kinetic excitement as Henry forges ahead with one of his plots towards the end of the film but it is on the tongues of the actors, if I can phrase it that inelegantly, that the film derives its momentum and character. But what dialogue! I can think of few other films so jam packed with razor sharp, witty dialogue - O'Toole, Hepburn, Hopkins, Timothy Dalton and the rest of the fantastic cast all hurling verbal barbs at one another, endlessly conspiring in their covetous quest for power, lands and thrones.
Students of medieval history will no doubt be familiar with the figures I've already mentioned. True the play takes tremendous license with the characters and constructs an almost impossibly intricate web of deceit and betrayal (more intricate even than the royal family tree): brother against brother, husband against wife. Yet, the film does rather expertly capture the sense of danger and maddening power held in the hands of these admittedly ruthless but one senses not entirely wise few. I came away with a much greater sense of gratitude for those who fought for democracy and the weakening of monarchical power. As the film opens Henry is engaging in swordplay with John, one of his sons vying for his throne. Eleanor of Aquitaine soon arrives for Christmas celebrations having been locked up in a castle prison for months on end, having previously raised an army against her own husband. Henry is to decide how best to divide the kingdom. He favours handing the throne to John (the snivelling weasel of a king from the Robin Hood story), whilst his estranged wife is moving to secure Richard (later to become the 'Lionheart' and hero of the Third Crusade) the expansive kingdom of her husband. Secret meetings in the cavernous hallways of the castle ensue, along with scorching arguments between King and Queen. Yet for all the bickering and treachery O'Toole and Hepburn craft performances that allow us to see a more tender, genuinely loving bond between the two great powers of the time. There is a sense of Greek tragedy pervading the royal houses, that whatever their wishes might be, they are ultimately condemned to play out this endless game of strategic moves until their deaths, for no decision or state of affairs could ever satisfy all those seeking power.
A terrific piece of filmic theatre.
For a film released over three and a half decades ago the video transfer is excellent. It is presented at its originally intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with 16x9 enhancement.
Sharpness levels are consistently good. Shadow detail does suffer during some of the night scenes, but there is little to seriously complain about.
Colours are clean and stable. Skin tones are well rendered. The film doesn't have the rich palette we now expect from recent productions but looks pretty good.
Film to video artefacts are thankfully negligible.
A few film artefacts can be spotted during the opening credit sequence but from then on there are very few blemishes to report.
Compression artefacts are also kept to an absolute minimum.
The audio transfer is a little disappointing compared with the video but is true to the original release.
We are presented with a solitary English 2.0 Dolby Surround track.
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand in all but a few places.
Audio sync is excellent.
There were no noticeable audio dropouts or blemishes.
The surrounds are used only sparingly, and lend a little weight to an excellent if sometimes a little tinny sounding score (which won the Oscar that year) from John Barry.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 release features an audio commentary from the director, which has been reported from different sources as being both "informative" and "quite boring". So you'll have to make a determination yourself as to whether or not you want the extra. I'd say the Region 1 wins out at the moment, cost taken into consideration.
A Lion in Winter is a fantastic showcase for great acting and writing.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio is limited but well presented.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S100, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||Yamaha DVR-S100 (built in)|
|Speakers||Yamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer|