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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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This two-part film for television about Henry VIII and his six wives is very good.
It may not be historically accurate but if it were it would be a much longer film.
In the interests of entertainment the story is told in a condensed way but also it does stick to the main points of the historical facts.

Ray Winstone has been criticised for his London accent and his "gangster" style of aggression in his performance. But since no one knows how exactly how Henry VIII sounded except for "a" London accent what does it matter? I think his performance is excellent. His performance changes throughout the piece. We see him aggressive but we also see him as caring and romantic. Also compared to other actors who have played Henry VIII he is more convincing.
Unlike the TV series "The Tudors" we see Ray as Henry go from being young and fairly slim to being old, big, fat and ill. The transformation of his appearance and his behaviour through the acting is very good.

There is good attention to detail with costumes and props and the story moves at a good pace. Generally this is an entertaining three hours of TV history.
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on 15 November 2004
I found this TV production though not "historical", highly entertaining, 90% of it because of Ray Winstone's Henry VIII. He paints a portrait full of masculine vigor, with enough lust in his heart for at least a dozen men, and his tough guy East End accent somehow works well too, though it is quite a change from the Richard Burton/King's English type of Henry VIII I have previously seen.
There are scenes where he is memorable, like the emotion he expresses after Anne Boleyn (Helena Bonham Carter) gives birth to Princess Elizabeth..
In his old age Henry becomes a sad and sickly figure, and Winstone realistically catches that aspect of him too.
The rest of the large cast is also good, which includes David Suchet as Cardinal Wolsey, and Sean Bean in a role that is not long, but one of his most powerful, as Robert Aske, who goes against the king for having committed the brutal "dissolution of the monasteries".
The plot starts in 1509, with the death of Henry VII, and the young Henry VIII marrying Katherine of Aragon, but quickly segues to 1524, and centers on the last 21 years of Henry's life, with still no male heir from Katherine, enter Anne Boleyn and the other wives, court intrigue, and manipulations by Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell among those vying for power.
It is also quite gritty and bloody, and not for the young or squeamish, including muddy, violent battle and jousting scenes, lots of heads being chopped off, and even a dog fight, which fortunately is more heard than seen.
Well paced direction by Pete Travis, script by Peter Morgan, cinematography by Peter Middleton, and score by Robert Lane, make this an engrossing, if not historically accurate film, and since the core of this production are the intimate scenes, artistic license is to be expected.
Total running time is 250 minutes.
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HALL OF FAMEon 1 December 2004
As an historian, I was a bit disappointed with the latest recreation of the lives and wiles of Henry VIII, arguably one of the most important figures in British history. The nursery rhyme is well known - Henry the Eighth was six times wedded; two he divorced, two beheaded...
This production, written by Peter Morgan (known for other television productions such as `The Jury') and directed by Pete Travis (also of `The Jury', also `Other People's Children'), is a period piece that largely rests on one primary theme - that Henry VIII was charged by his father with one task above all others, and that was to secure the succession for another Tudor. Since this was a world in which (supposedly) a queen could not rule in her own right, this required a male heir to the throne (of course, it would be Henry's own offspring that would change that assumption, for the better, and for ever).
Henry's quest to gain a male heir knew no bounds; by the time his obsession had destroyed many lives (not just those of the unfortunate women he married), he was an overweight and overbearing man with not too many years left to live. His succession of wives is made all the more dramatic by the speed of the unions - between his first divorce from Catherine of Aragon in 1533, he had five more wives in the span of only 10 years, the last one to last until his death in 1547. The women came into favour and fell out of favour quickly, sometimes due to infidelity and political intrigue, and sometimes due to the quirky whims of Henry.
It is this quirkiness that is highlighted in Ray Winstone's performance. Winstone is not well known to American audiences, but a regular fixture on British television and cinemas. Henry is presented as a brash, lustful, but often boyishly-innocent figure, vulnerable and wounded by others around him, especially the wives, if they do not live up to his expectations or desires of loving him for himself. The cast of women portraying the wives is impressive, including the award-winning Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn, Emilia Fox as Jane Seymour, and Clare Holman as Catherine Parr. If you think you recognise the voice of the narrator, you probably do - it is that of Shakespearean Derek Jacobi.
The sets, costumes, and other atmospheric pieces are well done and appropriate to the context. But this is an actor's piece, driven by dialogue, and here is falls a little short of fully satisfying. The characters are a bit too much of caricatures; they overemphasise certain strengths and weaknesses, and do not play as balanced figures (even for the imbalanced people that history tells us they were). This is meant to draw the tragedy of Henry's life out, and his role as more sinned against than sinning in many parts of the film play.
Well worth watching, the viewer who expects an undistorted history lesson will be disappointed. However, in the `some events have been changed for dramatic purposes' world of acting, it does help to cause some reconsideration here and there of all the events of the time. History is as much a record as it is interpretation. This is one.
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on 25 July 2011
Oh dear!!!! Henry VIII has a wonderful cast - if only the same could be said about the mini-series itself. From the awful dialogue to the bizarre costumes - Anne Boleyn looks like a belly dancer in one scene - this is a hit and miss affair. I do wish the writers and creative people would leave history alone - the 16th century is an era rich in cataclysmic events and people of calibre who were willing to die for what they believed in. But frequently, history is toyed with and the end result falls far short of the mark. Of all the characterisations, Emily Blunt's Katherine Howard seems to fair the best in a few excellent set pieces. But Ray Winstone - accomplished actor though he is - never completely convinces as Henry VIII although he deserves credit for his attempts. Historical purists may rightly balk at the inaccuracies - we have a rather youthful Duke of Norfolk here (played by Mark Strong) and gory beheadings added for maximum emotional impact no doubt. Helena Bonham Carter (who according to the DVD extra's has very admirably done her home work) does not convince as Anne Boleyn and this is primarily down to the script which isn't great. David Suchet makes a wonderful turn as Cardinal Wolsey and Emilia Fox does the best she can with the few scenes she is allowed. This mini-series has a brooding quality and the music seems like an accompaniment to 'Elizabeth' - a brutal if profoundly better movie to this. All in all, this is a mini-series that does not fit together well, the liberties taken with historical facts notwithstanding. Nevertheless, it towers above 'The Tudors' in that it is not a soap opera like romp and Ray Winstone does sturdy work in nailing the complex character of Henry VIII. A missed opportunity to shine, this is a good mini- series but not a great one and is no way near as valid as the BBC's majestic 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII' (1969). Two stars for a great cast and some suspenceful moments, otherwise not a memorable drama and one you rent rather than buy.
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on 1 December 2012
Henry VIII has had so many dramas made about his reign and will continue to because of how fascinating his story is- i mean six wives, two divorced, two beheaded, the split with Rome and founding of the Church of England, the constant heads rolling in this dangerous political climate- i really is something that writers and producers of dramas today could only dream of making up, of course each drama has their own take of it- sadly this one fails massively when trying to make Henry sound like a London gangster.

The first part focuses heavily on the story of Henry and Anne and the break with Rome- really the most interest part of Henry's reign, despite the accent problem for Ray he and Helena give it their all when playing their roles- although Ray does look a little bit old for playing Henry when he would have met Anne! This movie does really well at combining the romance story and including the intrigue that surrounded the Tudor court- although only focused on briefly the breaking with Rome around the time of Henry and Katherine's divorce has a great tension around ( although the actress playing Katherine sadly is quite wooden). Unfortunately this drama slips up once Henry and Anne are married- really you don't get any sense of why the marriage has suddenly started to crumble, once again focusing on Henry and Anne's relationship deteriorating and her downfall simply because Cromwell mentions to Henry 'rumors' he's heard regarding Anne, then next we see Anne being taken to the Tower- they really missed a great opportunity their!! The trial itself is well played again Helena Bonham Carter gives it her all as Anne challenges the judges over the lack of evidence and the fact that she's already condemned and they know she's innocent- as the verdicts read out we see Henry looking devastated as he knows the truth- the execution scene is well played- although it is strange how they portrayed Elizabeth as being in the Tower with her mother, very odd. The main downside is the portrayals of Cromwell and Lady Rochford (George Boleyn's wife) who are both portrayed as pantomime baddies lurking behind corners- a great disservice to the actors who play them.

The second part begins just after Anne's execution and Henry's swift marriage to Jane Seymour ( played by the fantastic Emilia Fox), it's great how Henry questions whether he's moved to fast on marrying so soon and also questions Anne's supposed 'guilt', sadly this part tries to cram in Jane, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr which makes the pace go to fast! It is great though that they show the dissolution of the monasteries and Robert Aske's story- Emilia Fox also gets to show her great acting skills here- though once Jane's story's done it rushes through Anne of Cleves story ( she doesn't even have one line), Katherine Howard is portrayed is a nymphomaniac who basically does nothing but have sex- it would've been better if they'd tried to make more sympathetic before her last scene on the scaffold!! I mean she was a teenage girl after all married to this ageing old man by her corrupt relatives!! Then Katherine Parr's story is rushed through (although unlike Anne of Cleves at least she gets a few lines) and sadly the fact that she was regent during Henry campaign in France and nearly arrested over her religious beliefs her completely ignored- one scene Henry lays eyes on her next he marries her, again just odd, though i think it was mainly down to time difference!! Henry's death scene is fairly moving and shows him regretting his desperate desire for a son, which you have to wonder f the real Henry ever wished that at the very end!!!

This drama is superbly cast but lacks real substance- the second part in particular is so rushed you really don't get any time to understand or really follow the story. The sets and costumes are very medieval and not at all Tudor like. It's not a bad drama at all- but would have been better as a three part drama rather then two parts.
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on 13 March 2008
Ray Winstone is an excellent actor, but I fear he was miscast as Henry VIII in this production. What chiefly grated on me was his "Eastenders"
accent which contrasted sharply with the accents of his courtiers who all speak with received pronunciation. Admittedly we do not know how Henry VIII actually spoke (though his letters and other writings give a clue as to his linguistic code) but presumably he would have spoken with the accent and vocabulary of a highly educated upper class man of his time.
Hence I found such lines as "Wot, nuthink from court?" stretched the credibility of his portrayal to the limit.
Having said that, this production is still far superior to the dreadful
characterisation by Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the recent BBC TV series "The Tudors".
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on 3 July 2012
This show takes liberties on the Henry story , much like the tv show the tudors did too. Still Ray Winstone is excellent as the bloodthirsty and rapacious; but in some ways great king. This is a newer version of the story and so on dvd it looks great but, don't expect accuracy in historical details. that is one reason the classic 'six wives of henry the eighth' is a superior show content wise. Although that was shot on sets using videotape. This one is still worth watching and I actually own this dvd. The main fault is that unlike the classic 1930's version which starred Charles Laughton, this just doesn't have the writing or wit of that movie. It's fine , and I would say worth watching though. It's just not outstanding , the acting is fine though. If you liked the Tudors , you will like this , although henry in either show really doesn't become the sick , huge man , he would become in later life. The man was huge at six foot five! and really handsome in his youth, but by his last days his people had named him 'the mugwarp'. This is worth a watch and buying it a cheaper price is probably a good idea.
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on 25 May 2004
Suprisingly, it is good. I understand why some may be baffled as to the choice of the actor in the lead but Ray Winstone is not bad at all. And mind you - I am not a big fan of his. Especially as older Henry he gets better and better. His accent is a bit of an isssue sometimes - cockney does not wash with Tudor times but then again, he definitely looks the part and plays Henry well.
Pity that the script is written in a very modern, sometimes too casual, way. When fragments of Anne Boleyn and King's letters are read out, the original language of the time works really well.
The portrayal of Henry as a tyrannical, tough and selfish man is fairly accurate. Let's not forget that Henry was a cruel and conceited King (despite being an intelectual) and left the country ruined. He did reform Church but only to a certain extent, which suited him. Despite this reform he was persecuting protestants. His last wife, Catherine Parr (who was a closet Protestant), was in trouble for being too outspoken about religion and King had her investigated behind her back. She escaped serious danger only by the King casually changing his mind. He created a whole new class of poor people and beggars by dissolving monasteries (only because of the money he wanted off them). Casting thousands of nuns and monks out in the streets, leaving poor people without medical care that was provided by monasteries was a cruel and stupid move. Henry was not a good ruler and this film shows him in the more realistic light.
David Suchet gives a fantastic performance as Cardinal Wolsley. So does Sean Bean as a Catholic Northern rebel leading the Pilgrimage of Grace against the King.
I quite liked Emily Blunt as Katherine Howard. She really conveys that teenage recklesness, that lost her in the end.
Good film and worth seeing.
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on 19 January 2012
Fantastic Film.. Ray Winstone catches Henry's charather brilliantly..
I love the scenes between him and Anne Boleyn, Helena Bonham Carter seem to make Anne come alive again. Also the scenes between Anne and Catherine of Aragon.. I should imagine that in real Life Catherine of Aragon would have cheerfully strangled Anne without grace or gravy if she hadn't got other things on her mind..
One of the scenes, where Anne and Henry dance together (well sort of) after they've just got married is a particulary beautiful moment in the film as you can see the love between them, and the music that goes with that scene is driving me nuts, it's just so beautiful. Does anyone actually know who wrote it? and if it's possible to get hold of it?
There is also another scene that is sort of disturbing, when he finds out that Katherine Howard has been playing away from home so to speak. Marches into her room to kill her, I think that did actually happen in real life but of course he was stopped by his bodyguard or something.
Anyway I loved it and it deserves more than the 5 stars I've given it here so I guess I could say 5.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000etc etc forever..
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on 5 January 2017
I bought this DVD in respect of the one by Keith Michell which I thought was brilliant and unsurpassed R
Ay Winstone has ruggedness but I d.on'know if that was correct for that period Michell was do disrespect to Winstones acting he did well but it wasn' Michell if you know your Henry VIII then buy Michell and enjoy this one only goes as far as Anne Boleyn
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