28 February 2017

THE LION IN WINTER. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




THE LION IN WINTER. (1968) DIRECTED BY ANTHONY HARVEY. BASED ON THE 1966 PLAY BY JAMES GOLDMAN. PRODUCED BY JOSEPH E. LEVINE, JANE C. NUSBAUM AND MARTIN POLL.
STARRING KATHARINE HEPBURN, PETER O'TOOLE, ANTHONY HOPKINS, JOHN CASTLE, NIGEL TERRY, JANE MERROW AND TIMOTHY DALTON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a cracking historical drama, based on factual events dating all the way back to Ye Olde Twelfth Century. King Henry the Second of England is in his chateau at Chinon in medieval France, ready to hold his Christmas Court. Joining him will be his three sons John, the youngest fella, his middle son Geoffrey and his eldest lad, Richard.

His missus, the Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine, will be released temporarily from the cell where Richard normally keeps her confined and allowed to join the festivities. This is despite the fact that the randy Henry's mistress, the young and beautiful Alais (pronounced Alice) will be openly present also. The entire family will assemble and celebrate the feast of Christmas. That's the plan, anyway.

What actually happens is that the whole lot of 'em will spend the entire holiday fighting tooth and nail with each other. Meh. It's no different to the festive double episode of EASTENDERS, haha. In fact, the Mitchell clan have fought just as lustily for the ownership of the Queen Victoria public house as Henry and his family did over the trifling issue of... you guessed it... Henry's succession...

Henry wants his adored youngest son John to be the next King, despite the fact that John is weak, simple and a bit of a twat. Henry's wife Eleanor wants the throne to go to Richard, their eldest son. I would have thought that that was the usual way of doing things, but whatever. No-one but me wants the crown to be Geoffrey's, the middle son. Hey, I thought he was cute, okay...?

Anyway, to really stir the royal pot, the snooty and self-possessed King Philip the Second of France has turned up at Court making unwelcome demands of Henry. He's the son and successor of Louis the Seventh of France, see, and he's only seventeen and thinks he's a bigshot just because he's a king.

His half-sister is Alais, King Henry's mistress, but it was always intended that Alais should marry Henry's supposed heir, his eldest son Richard. Philip either wants Alais married off as planned to Richard or he wants her dowry- a nice bit of land- back. Or else... But Richard has no emore intention of marrying his father's strumpet than Alais herself wants to wed Richard. It would appear that both their affections are engaged elsewhere...

Skin and hair flies as everyone crosses metaphorical swords (and real ones) with everyone else. Katharine Hepburn is absolutely magnificent as the bitchy, witty Eleanor of Aquitaine. She and her hubby Henry have been at each others' throats for practically the thirty-odd years of their marriage.

Or they would have been, if Henry hadn't decided to keep her under lock and key for the best part of a decade. She pretends it doesn't bother her, but we know she's hurting, deep down inside. Very deep down, as she's not one to show her feelings lightly. Stiff upper lips and dazzling smiles all the way.

Every wickedly pithy word out of Eleanor's mouth as she pits her not inconsiderable will against Henry's is a sheer delight to observe. Katharine Hepburn won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance here and she really did deserve it. And though she'd rather die than let Henry see her softer side, it's obvious Eleanor's still in love with the fifty-year-old horny hot-headed fool who, as Eleanor well knows, leaves a trail of illegitimate children behind him everywhere he goes.

The dialogue is razor-sharp and just as cutting. The back-and-forth repartee between Eleanor and Henry or Eleanor and her ungrateful sons (not all of whom love and respect her) is like watching a tennis game at Wimbledon where no-one ever drops the ball. The sets are magnificent too, with most of the action taking place in and around the medieval castle.

Anthony Hopkins, in his film debut in a feature role, plays Richard, the reluctant bridegroom. Timothy 007 Dalton is the snooty King Philip, and guess who's gay for one of Henry's sons? I'll never tell. I'd much rather you had the fun of finding out for yourself, haha. By the way, the film isn't really suitable for younger children, not unless you want them to learn words like bastards, whores and even sodomy before it's time...!

One of my favourite things about this fantastic film was all the evidence of Christmas being
celebrated around the place, even as far back as 1183. There's a huge Christmas tree in the castle, obviously straight from the forest (you can practically smell the pine!), the family give each other wrapped Christmas presents and there's Christmas Mass, Christmas songs, Christmas prayers and- maybe best of all?- lovely hot mulled Christmas wine.

The English clearly know how to keep Christmas well, and the amazing thing is that Charles I invented Christmas single-handedly through my books Dickens hadn't even been born yet...!

This wonderful historical drama has been beautifully restored and it's now available to buy on DVD, BLU-RAY and EST, courtesy of STUDIOCANAL as part of the VINTAGE CLASSICS COLLECTION. As a lifelong fan of this kind of historical epic, I literally cannot wait to see what they come up with next.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com






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