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on 25 October 2016
I first saw ‘The Lion in Winter’(1968) during its first release, largely because its subject matter related to about 25% of my university studies. Now viewing the DVD almost 50 years later I don’t think my views have greatly changed.

In sum, the film goes wildly over the top and there’s the joy init. The cine-photography is first rate and the musical score (dominated by the massed choirs and full orchestras popular at the time) backs up the impact of the settings. The Chateau de Chinon I visited a few years ago would have been dwarfed by some of the depiction of the structure in the film (e.g. the dungeon in which ‘the boys’ are confined) and which certainly has a garrison exceeding what would have been expected, but then it’s also moved closer to the river.

The characterisation of the leading players is strongly drawn. Henry II (Peter O’Toole) and Queen Eleanor (Katherine Hepburn - please ignore the occasional ‘accent’) rage at each other and the world; it becomes clear that love has shrunk simply to the need to relate, if only through quarrels and plotting. Richard (Anthony Hopkins) has become imprisoned by his ‘soldier-masque’ (perhaps the most historically accurate portrayal of all), Geoffrey (John Castle) is a cowardly schemer (perhaps with excessive Machiavellian motivation for the real Duke of Brittany, even as described by Gerald of Wales) and John (Nigel Terry) is a feeble, headstrong wretch (not consistent with the unsuccessful manipulator appearing in modern historical studies not resting on the biographies of chroniclers such as Matthew Paris). Philip II of France (Timothy Dalton) - normally styled Philip Augustus - displays the guile which must have existed within the monarch who repossessed almost half of the Angevin lands in France twenty-odd years after the setting of the film (Christmas 1183). Even Alais ( in reality ‘Alys) has some fine speeches even though, as in reality, she remains a pawn. All the actors deliver to the full the exciting and dramatic screenplay by James Goldman. Is the text enhanced by the inclusion of several anachronisms ( e.g. ‘wait ten minutes’, ‘my finest angle - it’s on all the coins’) as well as how they all can read & write {note the schoolboy howler of ‘King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215’) and employ a style POSSIBLY unknown then (e.g. ‘Geoff’)? I’m inclined to think it serves the purpose of revealing a family at war for a modern audience. I must add one of my favourite illustrations of this: ‘ Henry II: I marvel at you after all these years. Still like a democratic drawbridge: going down for everybody. Eleanor: At my age there's not much traffic anymore.’

As far as I know the events as displayed at Chinon never happened but the family certainly warred against each other. Side-references - e.g. of ‘the Young King’ (the first born son who died in 1183) and the personality of Louis VII (Eleanor’s first husband whom she cuckolded during the Second Crusade) - appear accurate, even if relying on the veracity of 12th century chroniclers. Eleanor (a remarkable woman in many respects) was indeed imprisoned for 16 years, but remained ‘difficult’ right up till her death in 1204. Henry (despite O’Toole’s blustering of a strength he never possessed) in reality could be headstrong (note the relations with Becket) which, if one follows the chroniclers, appears to be a characteristic expected in the 12th century. Ironically the remains of Henry, Eleanor and Richard are all to be found at Fontevraud, perhaps there really is ‘laughter in heaven’.

Despite the criticisms above I thoroughly enjoyed the film and wholeheartedly award it 4 stars.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 December 2013
This film was adapted from James Goldman's play that bears the same title. He also did the film's screenplay, with the film being directed by Anthony Harvey. This shows throughout the film, although you (or, I, at least) do not mind the theatrical scenes, given the rather superb dialogues and psychological warfare going on between the characters, and especially the two main ones: the old King, Henry II (Peter O'Toole) and his fiery, estranged and imprisoned wife Alienor, Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right.

The title of the film (and of the play) refers to the ageing Henry II, King of what some historians have called "the Angevine Empire". In addition to England and parts of Wales and Ireland, it also included most of France; far more of it than what the King of France, to whom Henry owed homage, had himself.

The film's strongest point lays in its constant scheming and verbal warfare, in an atmosphere of utter distrust between just about all the protagonists including Henry and Alienor's three surviving sons (Richard, Geoffrey and John), and Philip, the newly crowned King of France. The action takes place at Christmas, at the castle of Chinon, where Henry has conveyed all the others to let them know who will succeed him, how his vast lands will be shared out and whether, at last, young Alice (the elder sister of the King of France but whom Henry had made into his mistress) will be married of to the heir of the Angevine Empire.

The dominant theme across the whole film is the love/hate relationships and selfish interests between the various members of the Plantagenet dynasty. As for Philip (played by a very young Timothy Dalton), there is in reality only hate as he is forced to compose with his more powerful vassals and tries to pit them against each other. The whole play is a collection of devious plots with just about everyone betraying everyone else.

The central characters are the ageing Henry II and Alienor (superbly played by Katharine Hepburn) who fight against each other like cat and dog all the time, shifting from tenderness, to spite and fury to regrets without anyone knowing for sure when they are really being sincere. Together, they manage to hurt just about everyone else, starting with their sons and including each other. The only character that comes out as being somewhat sympathetic is Alice, probably because she is an unwilling pawn in what is a theatrical and superb "Games of Thrones".

The characters of the sons are more contrasted. While Richard the soldier (played by a young Anthony Hopkins) is shown as tormented and used by his mother against his father who knows he is the best of the litter, Geoffrey is devious and cunning, and suffers from his parents' indifference. John, however, is a bit of a caricature and shown as a wimp, according to the traditional portrait of him. Although erratic and not as strong willed as his brothers, he may have not been the utter coward and incompetent that he shown to be in the film.

Four solid stars
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on 11 August 2017
After visiting Chinon Castle and Fontvreaud Abbey, felt the need to find out more. I think you need to know about Henry II, Elinor and the sons before you watch the film as there is implied knowledge required to understand some sections of the film.
It is amazing to think this film covers but a few days around Christmas 1183. What is thought to be the last time the family got together and after you see this film, you will understand why. There are occasions when you think the special effects came from 1183 when compared with today's technology, but given when the film was made, you can forgive them and the quality of acting through most of the film makes up for the badly painted scenery and badly choreographed sword fights (again accepting I am comparing with today's technology).
After you see this film, you will wonder how the Kings and Queens of England ever survived!
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on 9 October 2017
Enjoyed every minute of this movie. The cast is wonderful and the acting superb. Peter O'Toole is magnificant as Henry. I wish there were more movies that capture this period of our history. There are so many about the Tudors, but hardly anything on the earlier Kings. Great watch though and would recommend
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on 26 August 2017
An old classic film. because there is not a lot of action, it's been getting not really good reviews.
But just watch Hepburn and O'Toole having ago at each other (words wise) it's soo good. Plus
John Barry's score.Also see James Bond and Hannibal Lector, in early days as well
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on 11 December 2013
A right Royal family quarrel if ever there was one, over Christmas in the court of Henry II, played by Peter O'Toole. He summons his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, (Katherine Hepburn) who he has kept imprisoned for 10 years, and their 3 remaining sons, for the holiday, in the hope of choosing a successor. This award winning film entertains us with fiery relationships, turning constantly from tenderness to fury as they fight and vie for the title of the next king of England. Henry and his queen have their own favourites. The drama is so strong that I recommend sustenance while viewing, but so well worth your attention as these great actors truly earn their fees. A young Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton show their worth to perfection, and the theme music is beautifully composed by the talented John Barry.
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on 16 June 2017
I saw this film many years ago and was impressed with it. Recently I have read a text book covering the period that this film covers and although it cannot be considered as "documentary" (and was never claimed as such) it was nevertheless evocative of the time. Very happy with this purchase.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 September 2011
Christmas 1183 - Invite the family to discuss the succession. Henry II releases his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, from prison where he imprisoned her ten years earlier. Invite the children - Geoffrey,(nobody's child) John (his favourite) and Richard (her favourite). (Peter O'Toole, Katherine Hepburn, John Castle, John Terry and Anthony Hopkins in order.)

With that story and this cast, it could not fail and Anthony Harvey does not disappoint. In an atmospherically dark and cold castle, the worst Christmas imaginable plays itself out; daggers drawn - literal and metaphorical, the fateful decision draws near and Christmas comes and goes.

A very enjoyable film - thoroughly recommended.
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on 20 November 2016
Of the historical middle ages dramas from the 1960's this film holds its own against A Man for all Seasons with some compelling performances from the main cast. Although O'Toole and Hepburn take centre stage with a typically larger than life turn from O'Toole ,Terry,Hopkins and Castle are admirable in supporting roles. Only Nigel Stock seems a little wasted as a bit of a stooge.
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on 1 November 2011
Loved this film since I first saw it in the cinema and watch it whenever it is on tv. Buying the dvd (wrongly titled A instead of The Lion in Winter!)because to own it and see it whenever I like will be fantastic. The music is evocative, the scenery brilliant and the acting may be old fashioned, as someone has stated in one of the reviews, but Katherine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole are wonderful as Eleanor and Henry, the only character I don't particularly like is John! Please watch this, you will be hooked especially if you are a fan of history.
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