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Henry IV Part One - BBC Shakespeare Collection [1979]

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Anthony Quayle, Jon Finch, David Gwillim, Tim Piggott-Smith, Brenda Bruce
  • Format: Colour, Full Screen
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: BBC Worldwide
  • Run Time: 148 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000TXOKIG
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,881 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

In 1978, the BBC set itself the task of filming all of William Shakespeare's plays for television. The resulting productions, renowned for their loyalty to the text, utilised the best theatrical and television directors and brought highly praised performances from leading contemporary actors - HENRY IV PART ONE - These are troubled times for King Henry. His son, Prince Harry acts more like a rogue than royalty, keeping the company of drunken highway robber Falstaff and other shady characters. Meanwhile, from the north come rumours of a rebelion led by the son of the Percy family, the valiant Hotspur. One of Shakespeare's most celebrated dramatic acheivements, this play mixes history and comedy effortlessly, moving from scenes of royalty to rough drinking dens with ease. This production matches its superb characters with great actors particularly in Anthony Quayle's magnificent Falstaff.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This is a solid production of a forcefully written play. It is generally well acted, produced and directed. It boasts an outstanding performance from Anthony Quayle as Sir John Falstaff (this being my first encounter with the character). Falstaff is a rogue and a thief; a merry-making hedonist and coward who neverthless loves Prince Hal (later to become Henry V) with all of his considerable heart. I won't spoil the plot by telling you more, but I did find myself very impressed with the force and eloquence of Shakespeare's writing throughout this play.

Jon Finch makes for an effective (and ailing) Henry IV, and a youngish Tim Pigott-Smith is very good as the bombastic Harry Hotspur.

The one criticism I would make is that the helmets in the battle scenes look cheap and plastic, and the ill-fitting tabards appear to have been made from gaudy nylon. But I don't think it is altogether fair to allow budgetary constraints of this sort to detract from what is, overall, a good production of a great play.

Beyond the "subtitles" and "scene selection" options, the DVD has no extras.
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By KaleHawkwood TOP 100 REVIEWER on 1 Jan. 2017
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
There are at least two wonderful performances at the heart of this superb BBC production from their variable 1980s Shakespeare series of films: Jon Finch as a chilly, nervy, fatherly Henry, and Anthony Quayle as the perfect Falstaff, big and big-hearted too, lying, lovable, selfish, bawdy and with a twinkle in his eye. Welles in his masterpiece Chimes at Midnight was a fine Falstaff, but Quayle is a great one.
That's not all the riches here though, with the young Tim Pigott-Smith a suitably fiery, flame-haired Hotspur, Michelle Dotrice just right as his wife, David Gwillim hitting all the right notes as Hal, Brenda Bruce a sympathetic Mistress Quickly, and the other roles played and spoken well.
The late Jon Finch was an actor we saw all too little of in his later years, so this is a reminder of what we were missing. He speaks the lines beautifully, his rounded tones exactly appropriate for the pedantic, exacting usurper-king. His dressing-down of his wayward son is both moving and recognisably paternal. In Part Two {on a second DVD} his disease-ridden demise is equally moving, with Hal's precipitous 'trying on' of the crown and his father's reaction heart-stoppingly acted.
It is sensibly directed by David Giles, the Eastcheap scenes well-contrasted with the court, and with plenty of close-ups ~ especially, in Part Two, of Falstaff's asides to us in the midst of battle. The 'I know you not, old man' breaks the heart, and intimates the priggish, pious Henry V to come {of history, if not of Shakespeare}.

Richly recommended.
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Format: DVD
Henry IV has come to the throne of England by snatching the crown from his weak, worldly cousin Richard II. Now he sees his son and heir, also called Henry, spending his time in idleness and dissipation and mirroring the worthless Richard. Meanwhile, another noble Henry, Henry Percy known as Hotspur, is proving himself brave and forceful, and starting to present a threat to the crown.

Although this is called 'Henry IV, part one' it is in reality about the contrasting fortunes of the two younger men, climaxing in a final battle where one kills the other. There is also the contrast between the serious play, as we focus on Henry Percy's rebellion, and a much more light-hearted tone as we see the king's son in company with drunkards and scoundrels, chief among them Sir John Falstaff (excellently portrayed by Anthony Quayle).

There are not many great speeches in this play but I found it very believable and compelling as drama; I was particularly impressed by Tim Pigott-Smith as Hotspur but also found the exchanges between the King and his wayward son to be moving. In general there was very little Shakespearean play-acting here; the dialogue was 16th Century but the acting was up-to-date and natural. (I hate to be uncharitable but I found the actress who played Mrs Hotspur an exception, she looked like she was in a school play!)

A couple of minor gripes - the costumes were at times particularly dreadful; it's hard to concentrate on the action when confronted with a silly little skirted tunic and matching tights, and someone had the unfortunate idea of having Hotspur speak his final dramatic dialogue with his mouth full of mock blood. I couldn't decide whether it was comical or just plain disgusting, either way it distracted from the drama of the moment.
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Format: DVD
The plot itself is nothing very complicated. Henry IV is confronted to a rebellion from the Scots, from the House of York and York’s archbishop, and finally from Wales. We are fully engaged in the War of Roses and Henry IV has to postpone his crusade to Jerusalem to stop the rebellion that had reached the point when they were dividing the country into three shares as if they were sure to win.

He decides to go to war but he has to chastise his son, the Prince of Wales, first before going because the Prince is having a very sorry life, low life actually with some thieves and dissolute people among whom Falstaff, Sir or no Sir, is a flamboyant and out of proportion character.

And off they go to war. The main leader of the Scots, Hotspur, is killed by the Prince of Wales after the prince had saved his father from the rebel, and the other rebels are taken into captivity, but not for long since they are all sentenced to death except Archibald, Earl of Douglas. Then half of the army goes to York to pacify them and the second half under the King’s and the Prince of Wales’ command go to Wales to clean up the place.

But the play is remarkable because of elements that have little to do with the plot or story, or even history. It is the invention of Sir Falstaff, a character that has become an opera of his own due to his Shakespearean fame. He is a marginal character, fat and constantly under the influence of sack, some alcohol common in those days, and permanently eating. When he is not eating or drinking he is sleeping and snoring. He is the main companion of the Prince of Wales who spends a lot of time in a tavern with a band of shady people, half thieves, half anything illegal that pays.
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