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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome Return
Version is 142min restoration anamorphic w/screen R2 (not Blu Ray)

This masterpiece of filmed theatre had long been out of the catalogue but the restoration to absolute pristine condition, even better than the original cinema prints, apparently, makes this well worth waiting for. This is not a mere two hander although Burton (Thomas Becket) and O'Toole (Henry...
Published on 15 Feb 2011 by Bedinog

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3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I've loved "The Lion in Winter" since I first saw it on TV back in 1978. It's one of my all-time favourite movies, and so I've wanted to see "Becket" for many, many years. I finally saw it tonight on TV, and I was very disappointed with it.

I think it's my own fault, since I was thinking I was in for something similar to Lion, but obviously they...
Published 3 months ago by Marco M


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 3 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Becket [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
Good historical film with fantastic actors. Would recommend it to all. Really good family movie. Kids loved it as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it qwas the first time, 17 April 2012
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This review is from: Becket [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
Another remarkable film that does not age, with superlative performances by Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. Beyond praise, to be be watched and watched again for its depth and dramatic tension.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Murder most foul, 20 Jan 2012
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Mr. T. Jones "Tim Jones" (Barry, Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Becket [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
One of the 2 most shocking murders of the Plantagent era. A rant by King Henry 2nd about his former chancellor Thomas Beckett ended with the words "Will no one rid me of this man?" and led to the Archbishop of Canterbury being murdered in the Cathedral. Excellent film both lead actors Peter O'Toole as Henry 2nd and Richard Burton as Becket are outstanding.A great production.

The other murder(s). The Princes in the Tower in 1483. We will never know the culprit or who ordered the killings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Becket, 2 Jan 2012
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Mr. Gary M. Stocker "G of Warwickshire" (Radford Semele, Warks, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Becket [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
The charecters were played very well by Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton. Although Henry II (I think) did a lot of good by introducing one secular law for everyone, he was shown very well as a man of his time. That is given to getting his own way and having fits of violent temper if he did not. Whereas Becket took his duty of loyalty to his employer very seriously. Although I did not agree with everything Becket did, I found myself sympathising more with him. A very powerful drama.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Such marvellous acting and film-making, 31 July 2007
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This review is from: Becket [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
The film gets rid of some of Anouilh's stage directions and the grandiloquent sounding setting he had devised. The actors are great, the acting is very good, and the music is fascinating, though voluntarily anachronic: this is not a historical film. Same remark about the costumes that are of a fashion that will only appear in mid 13th century. But it retains the absurd historical vision Jean Anouilh imposed onto the subject, and this cannot be considered as creative art, as the composer Laurence Rosenthal says about the music. Becket was not a Saxon since both his parents were of Norman extract and his father was a London merchant. Luckily this film adaptation cuts off the Saracen mother, yet the music and the singing of Gwendolyn introduces another anachronism: the song is in Welsh, that is to say in a Celtic dialect and not in Saxon at all, though originally, historically it could only be in English (if English could already be considered as existing) or in French. There is an antagonistic situation in England at the time: the social antagonism between the merchants and the nobles. Thomas Becket was not a nobleman, nor a baron, but he was the son of a merchant. Anouilh replaced this social antagonism with an ethnic opposition: it is wrong though I do not pretend it is entirely false. Yet fifty years later the Saxon and Norman barons will unite with the church as a whole against the king (the younger brother John known as Landless of the eldest son of Henry II, presented as Henry III in the film) to impose the Magna Carta. The film has a tremendous advantage over the text of the play: it visualizes the meaning with real settings. The splendor of the situations and the court can be seen, though the director, and probably producer never insisted in doing an epic film. So things remain moderate and contain no battle whatsoever. Now the film explains the whole situation as a conflict between the Saxons and the Normans as basic for the conflict between the church and the crown. This is historically false. The conflict is between royal power and church power. The king is trying to impose royal justice and tax paying to the church. He will succeed as for tax paying thanks to Becket himself when Chancellor but he will fail as for justice, at least partly. The repentance and penance of the King is determined politically but not so much as a conflict between once again the Saxons and the Normans, but as the result of a conflict between Eleanor of Aquitania, the Queen, and her son Henry III, the eldest son who had been crowned before the death of his father by his father's decision. These two were trying to set up a rebellion against the king to seize power. But the film is also badly historically informed in the fact that the pilgrimage started before the king's penance (Friday July 12, 1174) and the sanctification was the Pope's decision and once again before the king's penance, on Ash Wednesday February 21, 1173. These mistakes are of course in the play and are Jean Anouilh's. In fact they are not mistakes. They are rewriting history by Anouilh in order in 1959 to satisfy his own personal desires in Paris. He was probably thinking of Poland, Hungary and even Algeria in the late 1950s more than of England in the twelfth century. These subtleties could easily go through in Broadway New York, 1962, but they could have been slightly modified for the film, and they were indeed by dropping the Saracen mother for example: they could have been more. Then the film insists on the love Henry feels for Thomas and here again Anouilh tricks everyone by making that love excessive, even in a way suspicious, and yet based on something historians are quite doubtful about: the real common interest in and sharing of good cheer, wine and women. The acting of Peter O'Toole makes that love become little by little hysterical which is a rather surprising mistake: it could be somber, inwardly contemplative, but not jealous and uncontrolled as it is shown here. It would have been frowned upon at the time, and a lot more than in the film from the Queen Mother and the Queen. The film though minimizes the austere life of the archbishop, though it could have rebalance this element that is definitely made minimal by Anouilh and this deprives us of an explanation as for the sudden change of attitudes of brother John. Note he is a Saxon monk and here Anouilh could have insisted on the fact that Becket was the first archbishop who opposed the Barons who recaptured their Saxon serfs when they escaped into some religious order or monastery. The film is very good indeed but it has all the defects of the play behind it, justly corrected of the most salient elements that were quite absurd at times.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine & University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High, Very High Drama..., 18 April 2008
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A. O. P. Akemu "Ona" (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Becket [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
How do I describe the sheer delight that I derived from watching the fascinating interplay of religion and politics set in the Middle Ages, and exemplified by the rivalry between King Henry II and Thomas Becket?

The plot is familiar to any history buff: Henry II appoints Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of England on the assumption that he (the King) could influence the Church by controlling Becket. However, Thomas Becket, transforms into a strict ascetic after his appointment. He thereafter resists secular control of the Church. This culminates in a battle for supremacy between the King and the Church, which eventually results in Becket's murder.

Peter O' Toole is simply magnificient in his portrayal of the libertine Henry II. What I loved the most about this movie was the dexterity with which the characters used the English language. Oh, I still get pangs of excitement when I recall the Excommunication scene. The ritual of Excommunication was duly given its time. The dialogue is flowery, high-falutin, pompous, full of hubris and so despicably self-righteous. And I loved it! Gielgud, O' Toole and Burton capture the Medieval obsession with religion and its grasp on society. The stranglehold of the Church on the salvation of men's immortal souls was aptly portrayed.

Some of the outdoor scenes are unrealistic and lack the kind of "grit" that more recent movies like Kingdom of Heaven have. Furthermore, the makeup and attempts at comic relief, especially in the Papal Court at Rome, are laughable to the modern viewer, who has been beaten into submission by the computer-generated graphics of 21st century Hollywood.

But these shortcomings are forgivable since the movie was made in 1964.
This is not a movie about special effects or gratuitous sexuality. It is about human drama driven by basic instincts like greed, lust for power and pride. If you enjoy mentally stimulating dialogue, and deft yet subtle portrayals of human emotion by the finest screen talent of the last 40 years, then this is one to watch.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A theatrical and highly stylised recounting of history, 19 Aug 2007
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This review is from: Becket [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
I don't think this is the definitive version of the Thomas Becket story. This is a good film, but it may not be to everyone's taste. It is of a period, a very high period in British theatre, and this was still the training ground for most of our top film actors of the day. Two of the biggest and best star here: Burton and O'Toole. You don't really get more high classical British theatre than that, do you, except maybe Olivier and Gielgud, the latter of these two also in this film. But what it should ensure at least is very good acting, and this is what we get.

It is so theatrical in tone however, so high camp, as is the British way, that the viewer can never get away from the fact that this film is based on a piece of theatre. The screenplay has barely been naturalised or calmed down from the original playscript, in that it still relies heavily on the stylised slanging matches of the two main characters. I would imagine the language has even been heightened by the screenwriter here, to suit the acting styles of the two stars. On one level it works brilliantly, because it entices the best out of both men. At times it's like a breathless verbal swordfight between the two very physical actors. On another level of course it must fail somewhat, and that is in the narrative. Rather than letting a more pictoral narrative impart the story as normal movies do, we have no choice but to let the characters' verbal conflict tell us this, as was done in classical theatre. So you can imagine it's going to make some film purists really wince.

But I like it because it has O'Toole at his campest best, and I like it because I like Burton, and he is at his most magnetic here. I'm really not sure if I like it as a film of the tragic story of Thomas Beckett though, I have to say. I would like to see a less didactic, less artificial and much less theatrical movie on this very film-worthy subject made more in the style, lets say, of A Man For All Seasons. Unfortunately for us, films of that quality do not get made every day.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Stage to Screen .... Thomas Becket's a Winner., 26 Dec 2009
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This review is from: Becket [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
Always a difficult one, this - filming a very theatrical play. It's a question of getting the balance right. With 'Becket', Jean Anouilh's original text has been adapted successfully from its excellent English translation by Lucienne Hill, and lots of the original remains intact - with some big-screen-friendly tweaks and nips and tucks by the director.

Which is what you generally - though not always - have to do, when filming something originally written for the stage.

Sometimes, of course, there isn't enough 'adaptation', and you're left with a mess -as in the other Peter O'Toole vehicle, the staggeringly tedious 'The Ruling Class'; in the case of 'Becket', we have a film that is almost an epic of 'Ben Hur' proportions, but isn't quite. That's because not all the stops are pulled out visually. There are no spectacular battle scenes, no vasty fields of France, just a row of tents and then a very large beach in Northumberland. One can't help feeling that the producers pleaded poverty at the last minute.

It doesn't really matter.

If 'Becket' had not been based on Anouilh's play, it would have been a different product altogether - and would probably never have seen the light of day in the first place. Imagine trying to get backing for an original screenplay about an early mediaeval Archbishop of Canterbury: "No jokes, no legs, no chance," would have been the immediate response.

As it is, we have interesting subject-matter: the spiritual world at odds with the temporal, and a very strong portrayal of two very strong central characters. Burton and O'Toole are pretty much at their peak, Burton in fine mellow voice to complement the shriller tones of his opposite number.

There are some excellent moments - the cathedral interiors are particularly impressive - and the film is ultimately very likeable.

Visually, it's superb, epic or not, and just about manages to avoid that sometimes risible look that so much 1960s historical drama suffers from. There are gems to be had, too - John Gielgud's lethal king of France being a case in point: the subtext is there in every effete gesture, and it's worth remembering that this film relaunched Gielgud's screen career. It is also nice to see a grandly mature Martita Hunt in full colour as Henry II's mother. Her costume may be impossible for the period, but so what ? It conveys the right feeling, and looks magnificent when she is in full sail.

For interest, among the DVD extras is an interview with the matchless Anne Coates, the film's editor. Her splendidly fruity account is a fascinating glimpse of film history, and how things come to be the way they are.

This may not be the classic film to end all classics, but it's a pretty good one that also gives the audience something to think about.

It's enjoyable on all levels, and like a good friend will definitely stand many return visits.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed Epic, 7 Feb 2013
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Becket [1964] [DVD] (DVD)
Surprisingly, I find myself starting this review with reference to one of the extras to be found on this DVD.

It must have been a bit of a coup to get Peter O'Toole to provide a commentary as an extra on this DVD. We learn from him of the factual errors in the original play that were translated into the film, as well as the fact that both he and Burton had to be good boys during filming - learning their lines, no drinking, etc - not least because Gielgud and Wolfit, their idols, were also in the cast. But as well as talk of the nuts and bolts of making the film and being on set - and, amazingly, on set rather than on location it was mostly made - O'Toole also helpfully explores Becket's and Henry II's intentions and characters.

O'Toole is chatty, erudite, but also a little mistaken with details: he refers to the film at one point as being set in the "early 1100s", but neither he nor his interviewer (Mark Kermode) are historians. Indeed, it is interesting that O'Toole says he read nothing about the real Henry II: the character he must play is that set out by the author of the play/film, and he must abide by that and not be swayed by the real Henry II.

But that is part of the problem and why I have difficulties with this film. Not because O'Toole does not make an excellent Henry II and Burton a formidable Becket; no, it is because of a basic howling error that undermines the film (and play's) whole premise, and that is this: Becket was a Norman, not a Saxon. Having said that, the production design is very impressive, if not perfect: everything from the architecture to the costumes and the props has all been given some thought with regard to their authenticity. The print itself is good but not perfect with colour issues in some scenes.

Thus the film has all the strengths of the English historical epics of the 1960s, and all the defects, such as a measure of didacticism, the making of heroes and saints of people who are merely human, and an excessive love of ceremony with all-cheering crowds in attendance. The screenplay could have been polished better in places, removing such items as the word `snack', or anachronisms like `the state' or `the church of England' (`IN England', surely). And English kings were not crowned at Canterbury, but at Westminster.

There are other issues: Becket was murdered not at Canterbury's main altar but at a side altar, as anyone who visits the modern cathedral can see. In the film Becket is seen to have a premonition of his death and does not argue with the knights who kill him. I fail to understand why the producers decided to stick to all these historical inaccuracies, slavishly following the text of the play, when the history itself has just as exciting a story to tell. Burton and O'Toole are very, very good in their roles, but I cannot help feeling whether it would have better if Burton, with his fiery temperament, would have made a better Henry rather than Becket.

Other extras on this DVD include a seven-minute interview with the editor Anne Coates. (Yet I noted quite a few bad edits in the film, which is always a bad sign.) There is also a thirty-minute film from 2007 called `A Tapestry of Music - Laurence Rosenthal on His Score for Becket', which includes Rosenthal explaining how he taught Burton to sing Gregorian chant.

In conclusion, then, I like this film but it has deep flaws: three stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars love it., 14 July 2014
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A classic; love it.
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Becket [1964] [DVD]
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