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Henry V [Blu-ray]
Format: Blu-ray|Change
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on 7 September 2016
I had my first encounter with Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon at around the age of 15 and I was enthralled. Until then, like so many school kids, The Bard of Avon had just been a pain I'd had to endure in English Lit classes.

My last encounter with Henry V, was with the absolutely brilliant Kenneth Branagh movie version, but it struck me recently that I'd never ever seen the 1944 Olivier movie.

I had completely prepared myself for old production techniques and the age and condition of the movie, but what disappointed in the end was Olivier's Henry V. I think that underwhelmed best describes my overall impression. I'd just expected so much more from him, based on his usual genius.

Having seen both a stage and movie production, I thought that the staging of the movie as a play at The Globe, was interesting. The introductory scene of contemporary London set the scene quite nicely, but the overbearing soundtrack and the noise of the audience at the theatre was way over the top. As was the descent of the acting into farce.

I realise that this version was made as a wartime morale booster and that maybe the 'humour' was to encourage more people to watch the movie, but I found it completely unamusing.

There were moments of excellence. Mistress Quickly's desribing the passing of Sir John Falstaff was genuinely moving.

But when it came to those rousing speeches of Heny V which we all love, for me, Olivier failed to deliver.

And most of the dialogue was produced at a speed that made me think of a group of people rushing through a meeting to get down to the pub more quickly.

So no, not for me thanks. Back to the Branagh movie or the Royal Shakespeare Company.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 January 2016
I really liked this production from Itv studios this like many has been restored the restoration is good I have owned this on vhs for many years and thought that it was worth a change to bluray when I saw the great price.
I noticed the difference straight away the picture quality was better the sound was crisper than the vhs this version the original for me is a lot better than the newer version this one felt more realistic.
This is one of the sad reality of films made today they don't seem to tell a story they are made for a fast buck not for like this entertainment I would highly recommend this.
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on 13 January 2017
The action begins in the Elizabethan theatre, where Henry V is about to begin. Starting backstage, we go with the actors to the wings and then watch them for a time on the stage. And then we go to France, the costumes change from Jacobean stage to fifteenth century, the scenery to a backdrop from a Book of Hours. And then to real fields and the morning before Agincourt, the English, outnumbered 10 to 1, ill, tired and expecting to be slaughtered. Which they will be, if something isn't done. So Olivier/Henry makes that speech - some actors make it and you wouldn't follow them onto a bus. When Olivier has finished, you'd follow him into the mouth of Hell. Spectacular battle scenes follow, Henry is victorious, he woos Catherine de Valois, the French King's daughter, and everything is settled well and rightly. They are married and we are back in the theatre where the audience is applauding wildly, and the actors take their bows.
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on 26 September 2014
An interesting combination of the 'presumed' stage presentation at the Globe theatre - during Shakespearean times and modern cinematography with outdoor location shots. The film was made during the war in 1944 with a fairly low budget, but for its time and under the circumstances it was quite well done. The acting, by Laurence Olivier and others, was impeccable of course - although, why did Robert Newton always have to look and sound like Long John Silver in every film he made?. The Blu-ray rendition was quite good in respect of the video quality, but the sound was very poor at times particularly in loud music/choral and crowd scenes when Amplitude Distortion was very much in evidence to an appalling degree. At more moderate levels the speech was quite clear and apart from the couple of scenes featuring French dialogue there was no need for subtitles. For those familiar with Henry V they are not necessary even there. A generally satisfying and enjoyable production. Comparisons are odious but whereas the Kenneth Branagh version features more outdoor work plus modern technology, there was little to choose between the overall performances - apart from the sound quality.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 29 June 2012
I make bold claims for this wartime film of one of Shakespeare`s greatest plays. Olivier had by then had the chance to see several of the audaciously innovative films of Powell & Pressburger ("the Archers") in particular The Thief Of Baghdad and the then recent Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, both of which use colour brightly and with a bracing boldness which must have impressed the budding director. (Olivier had also had a role in their 1941 film 49th Parallel.)
Everything in this astonishingly fresh and courageous film is a joy, and one can only imagine what it must have looked like to those who first saw it at the end of November 1944 on its release near the denouement of an exhausting, bloody war. Not only must it have been a source of pride (in a more jingoistic, patriotic age) but a feast for the eye and mind too.
It still is.
The initial conceit, to begin the play in a mock-up of the Globe - not yet restored to its present glory! - was an inspired and happy one. We not only get a `real` audience, who were encouraged to cheer, heckle, and generally make their presence felt, but plenty of surprisingly slapstick theatrics from the actors in the opening scene, having first been introduced by the then-famous Leslie Banks as Chorus with those stirring, inherently theatrical words:

"Oh for a Muse of fire..."

The players in the first scene include Felix Aylmer and Robert Helpmann, as the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely, whose `business` together is genuinely funny. We also get the legendary, invariably fruity actor Robert Newton as Pistol, who is here used as a kind of substitute Falstaff, such is his ebullience and mock-bravado, in a performance of rascally glee. I can`t help but wish Shakespeare had had the foresight to give Pistol at least one "Aaggh, Jim lad!"...
Olivier soon arrives on the `wooden O` stage, but only after we`ve seen the actor coughing nervously offstage before his entrance: a lovely touch.
The action of the play/film famously opens out and (for the viewer) leaves the confines of the stage and `becomes a film` when we go to war. The scenes at Harfleur and Agincourt have been justly praised, such is their beauty and cinematic inventiveness; let`s not forget the budget can`t have been big, however great the filmmakers` ambitions.
After the war is won, the wooing of Katherine is delightfully directed and played. Here I must mention Renee Asherson as the French princess - as well as mentioning that, as of the typing of this review, the actress is still with us at 97! She gives a performance of pitch-perfect wit and blushing, yet knowing, innocence. Ms Asherson was fluent in French, which must have helped, but she adds a much-needed and most welcome feminine touch to what is, by necessity, a very male film.
Many of the actors will now be obscure to anyone under about sixty, though nobody can fail to notice John Laurie as a stereotypical Scotsman in the battle scenes, or the 19 year-old George Cole in his second film, as `Boy`, a young pal of Pistol and his cronies.
Freda Jackson gives Mistress Quickly`s eulogy on the death of Falstaff with simple and grave dignity, while old Falstaff himself is seen, in dumbshow, for a few precious moments in bed before his sad demise, and is played by Sir George Robey, a legendary comedian then known as the `Prime Minister of Mirth`. A rare appearance indeed.
Max Adrian is a suitably fidgety and florid Dauphin, Harcourt Williams plays the French king - Charles VI, known as `Charles the Foolish` - with pernickety relish, and Valentine Dyall has a wonderful few minutes as the Duke of Burgundy, as he looks out over a conquered France - it is here the set designs really come into their own - his words eloquent accompaniment to a lengthy tracking shot of the French countryside that is partly a studio set, partly painted. It`s one of many such scenes of unforgettable cinematic daring in this always sumptuous work of art, and one of its aspects that most reminds one of Powell & Pressburger`s filmic quirks.
For work of art is surely is. Olivier, with his cameramen, editors and designers made one of the great British films, of any age.
There is even an effective, reflective scene in which the very young Anthony Newley plays a boy in the soldiers` camp - possibly the most likeable performance he was ever to give.
But there are so many wonderful, sometimes heartstopping touches, such as when a bright blue banner fills the screen, then we see an extended arm as if pointing to it, only for the camera to move a little to show us one of the Frenchmen mid-yawn, arm naturally outstretched. Few directors would have bothered with such a seemingly facetious touch, but it is both witty and, in an odd way, moving.
William Walton composed the insistent, vibrant score, using (uncredited) quite a few passages from Canteloube`s then not so famous Songs of the Auvergne. Did he think we wouldn`t notice?
Oh, and by the way, contrary to one or two ridiculous, dismissive reviews here, not only are the costumes and sets brilliantly conceived, but Olivier (before his 1947 knighthood, let alone his later peerage) never puts a foot wrong. His ability to use the inbuilt rhythms and long-breathed phrases in Shakespeare`s poetry, whether to stir up his soldiers or to woo a princess, is awe-inspiring. He may not have had as `beautiful` a voice as Gielgud or Redgrave, but boy did he know how to speak verse.
A stirring, stunning and ultimately moving masterpiece.
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on 26 February 2016
Since seeing this at the Fairfield Halls as a 10 year old I can't count the number of times that I have seen this. A video cassette has gone the way of all flesh and this DVD has filled the hole. When you consider the time when this was made, you can forgive some of the excessive jingoism, but for anyone with a love of Shakespeare's language or wanting to unlock the seemingly dry and confusing words with a modern ear then this is a great place to start. When this has got the juices flowing, consider Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, something of a prequel (Henry IV, its. 1&2) but truly great filmmaking as well
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 May 2013
Why Shakespeare, why Henry V and why this version?

Shakespeare wrote the equivalent for his time of the Plays for Today. This was quality entertainment popular with both the boisterous young apprentices standing in front of the stage and the toffs seated in the balconies. Henry V is his rousing account of the king, his war in France and his victory at Agincourt.

This version was produced during the Second World War. It was high class patriotism rather than base propaganda. It had the best of the British stage at that time and was produced, directed and starred Laurence Olivier. Watch out for John Laurie as a Scottish captain and a very young George Cole. The music was by William Walton and the film was in colour.

It is notable for its beginning, with the camera moving over a model of late Elizabethan London, passing above the Globe and then inside it. We watch the audience assembling and then the performance begins. The first two scenes remain in the Globe and then the film cuts to live action. Outdoors, the battle scenes are filmed in a wide, open landscape. Indoors, the scenes have the aspect of a medieval illuminated manuscript. Right at the end of the film it returns to the Globe.

Though very cheap to buy, this is a very classy film.
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on 13 October 2014
Absolutely outstanding film version of one of Shakespeare's greats. Artistically it is one of the most exceptional films of all time. Sir Larry O. not only gave one of his typically excellent performances, but he directed it. In terms of the 'artistry' I have refered to, he
did this drama in a multi-leveled way. We start out with it as a stage play in the actual Elizabethan age. Later, such as for the Battle of Argincourt it is an outdoor spectacular. And then there are other scenes which are as they would have been represented in a medievil book of illuminations in which the perspectives of people to castles, for example, are in surrealistic proportion, as if standing in a toy castle or fortress, reflective of that age. Even if you are not normally a Shakespeare fan, it is well worth your time seeing it.
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on 20 June 2017
Saw this when it was shown in 1956! the school paid for us to go, good old Shakespeare! So I bought this to enjoy again as I'm now 79!
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on 4 December 2016
I saw this film nearly 70 years ago when it was first issued and anyone wanting to make sense of Shakespeare's words should watch it. A cast made up of the 'greats' of the theatre at the time and innovative film making which has stood the test of time. The great Laurence Olivier was a an icon then and continued to be throughout his life and career.
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