Henry V (1989)

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Released 21-May-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 131:33 (Case: 145)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:03) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Kenneth Branagh
Renaissance Films
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Kenneth Branagh
Derek Jacobi
Brian Blessed
Ian Holm
Paul Scofield
Richard Briers
Robbie Coltrane
Christian Bale
Judi Dench
Emma Thompson
Case C-Button-Version 2-Opaque
RPI $29.95 Music Patrick Doyle

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.70:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Henry V (1989) was both a critical and commercial success. A lavish production, it features one of the finest Shakespearian casts assembled, a fantastic directorial debut by Kenneth Branagh, and one of the best battle scenes in a movie.

    There are two well known film adaptations of William Shakespeare's Henry V -- Laurence Olivier's 1944 World War II propaganda piece, and Kenneth Branagh's 1989 version. In my opinion, Branagh's Henry V is not only the better of the two, but it is simply the best Shakespearian movie of all time. Not only does it do my favourite play justice, but it also stands alone as a great movie.

    Considering the incredible impact Shakespeare has had on British culture and language, and therefore our culture and language, it is surprising how very little is known about him. One of the few things we know is that Shakespeare wrote many brilliant plays, and he remains one of the most influential writers in any genre. After the Bible, most of the common phrases in English can be attributed to his works.

    One of Shakespeare's plays is The Life of Henry V, which literary scholars suggest was written in 1599. It is one of his many chronicles or histories -- a genre that was popular in the late 16th century. In a sense, the play Henry V can be seen as a sequel. Based on historical fact, in Shakespeare's Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke usurps the throne of King Richard, and is crowned Henry IV. This later leads to a rebellion, which forms much of the story in Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II. In these plays we meet Hal, the Prince of Wales, who leads a rock star life of parties and drinking. Hal later reforms his wild ways and is eventually crowned Henry V, "the mirror of all Christian Kings". Scenes from the earlier plays are presented as flashbacks during the movie of Henry V to help flesh out some of the relationships, and to explain some of the dialogue in Henry V.

    The plot of the movie (and play) follows historical fact: The English King Henry V (Kenneth Branagh) is led to believe that he is rightfully the King of France as well, based on a dubious hereditary claim. When the French King (Paul Scofield) doesn't agree, Henry invades France (in 1415). The French are ill-prepared, and the British win the Battle of Harfleur, but at the cost of over half the British troops. Retreating to the French coast, the tired, hungry, sick, and wounded British soldiers find that a fresh French army is waiting for them. Henry is left with just six thousand men (most of them archers), and they now face over thirty thousand French soldiers (most in heavy armour). Determined not to surrender, Henry provides a stirring speech, indeed, some of the most sublime and inspirational words ever written, and the British troops prepare for what will be remembered as The Battle of Agincourt -- one of the finest moments in British military history.

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Transfer Quality


    The transfer is very, very grainy throughout, and various film stocks appear to have been used (most of cheaper quality).

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.70:1, non-16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is variable, but generally reasonable. The shadow detail is poor, for example, consider the scenes at 5:09 and 14:01.

    The colour is drab and the image appears a little undersaturated. I do, however, recall that the prints theatrically looked like this.

    MPEG artefacts are not a great problem, but the image does appear highly compressed, and slightly pixelated throughout. There is some slight posterization at times, for example at 93:17.

    Film-to-video artefacts are also not a great problem, but there is some minor aliasing, such as the slight shimmer on the armour from 22:02 to 22:05. There is also some telecine wobble, most noticeable during the opening and closing credits.

    Film artefacts appear infrequently throughout, and most are small. Examples can be seen at 14:41 and 17:00.

    No subtitles are provided, which is a great shame. With the Shakespearian English, there are passages of dialogue which I would love to have read as well as heard.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 85:03. As it is between scenes, it is not disruptive.

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


    Originally released theatrically in Dolby Stereo, with its battle scenes and sweeping score this movie really could have benefited from being remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 for the DVD release.

    The English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is the only audio option. While it suffers from a few drop-outs, the dialogue quality and audio sync are fine.

    The musical score is credited to Patrick Doyle (who also has a small role in the movie), and it is a wonderfully tense, rousing, and dramatic score.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 track obviously has no surround presence nor subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are slim.


    A very simple menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Theatrical Trailer (2:07)

    Also presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    Henry V was released on DVD in Region 1 in July 2000. There is no real difference between the two versions. However, I did get a booklet, which contained some interesting information and trivia, with my R1 version. On the other hand, I much prefer the PAL image of the R4 version.


    Henry V (1989) is based on my favourite play, and it has become one of my favourite movies. This is how Shakespeare's work should be presented -- gripping and tense, yet also humorous and dramatic. Sadly, the DVD is not how movies should be presented -- a non-16x9 enhanced transfer, with a very limited Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track.

    The video quality is disappointing but still very watchable.

    The audio quality is limited by the source material.

    The extras are really not worth mentioning.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Sunday, August 18, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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