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The Six Wives Of Henry VIII - Complete Series  [DVD]
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Previously unknown Australian actor Keith Michell stars as England's infamous, fickle king in a splendid period production. Winner of 15 awards, including the Prix Italia, an Emmy and 5 BAFTAs, the drama brings Tudor England to life as each wife's story unfolds, from Catherine of Aragon to Catherine Parr.
Henry's marriage to the rawboned Anne of Cleves is the story of an uneasy alliance between England and Germany, a political convenience. But while the annulment of that marriage amounts to a corresponding escape from political dilemmas, it also means the parting of two close friends.
The cast is dotted with familiar faces, with supporting roles for the likes of Annette Crosbie, Dorothy Tutin, Patrick Troughton and Angela Pleasance.
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I have to agree that Annette Crosbie and especially Dorothy Tutin also put on near equally magnificent performances as Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn alike, the latter's refelction on some of her earlier imprudence and haughtiness seem particularly poignant towards the end of the second episode as her downfall progresses, and is much in line with what we know of her personality.
Jane Seymour for me though is the most interesting portrayal. Due to her apparently more reserved personality (probably due to Henry's suppression of her following previous experiences with his wives) and apparent lack of political knowledge, ambition or has also been suggested, intelligence, we know very little about her and certainly even less of her opinions. Yet, the suggestion in this drama that she may well have felt guilty about supplanting an innocent rival is very interesting and clever. Certainly not a theory I have encountered in books, academic works or other dramas before.
However, I do have only a few misgivings about this drama (though indeed, very few) and that is the portrayal of Catherine Howard. I do not blame Angela Pleasence for I feel she put on an otherwise splendid performance. I far preferred the portrayal of Catherine in the film version of this TV series in which she was portrayed (as has been more or less agreed by historians) as an unlucky young woman both with a past and as an unsuspecting tool of the Howards.
Another criticism is that I felt that the drama should have portrayed Anne as slightly more terrified and neurotic whilst in the Tower; a characteristic in which we know her to have deployed in her final days.
Although, all in all, these are just minor reflections in what was overall, a magnificent piece of drama. Lack of blood, guts, gore (and glamour) aside - the likes of The Tudors still pales in comparison to this drama. JRM - take note.
Each episode sees Henry getting older and is played very well by the cast.Very clever as each episode was written by someone different.
If you remember that television drama was never meant to be poor man's cinema, the series has a theatrical quality about it which works to its advantage and makes it all the more riveting.
The acting is superb, and there is a standard of English speech that has now virtually disappeared - especially from the small screen. This quality gives a required weight to the excellent and literate scripts.
(If you don't know what I mean, have a look at the frightful 'The Other Boleyn Girl' on the extra disc, and compare. The cast of this look and sound like estate agents in fancy dress.)
In the Henry plays, we can believe in this magnificent King and his world utterly - sharing in his triumphs, tragedies, and vulnerability - just as we can also believe in every one of the wives, and the machiavellian court that surrounds them.
So what if a microphone shows in one scene ? So what if there are occasional boom shadows ? Just enjoy the drama. They don't make 'em like this any more. Unfortunately.
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