Action / Biography / Drama / History

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 76%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 89%
IMDb Rating 8 10 12015


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April 15, 2015 at 11:43 PM


Elizabeth Taylor as Village Extra with Blonde Wig
Peter O'Toole as His King / King Henry II
Richard Burton as Becket / Thomas Becket
Siân Phillips as Gwendolen
2.06 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 28 min
P/S 3 / 29

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by martinchorich 4 / 10

Will No One Rid Me of this Picture?

This movie showing its age after 800 years. Visually, it's completely static and claustrophobic. The script is densely wordy, yet no one on this thread has identified any quotable lines.

In terms of plot and story arc, it plays as if Stanley Kramer did the middle ages, with a lot of anachronistic business about ethnic/class differences, separation of church and state, and the corruptions of power. Despite the set piece tension between the supposedly Saxon Becket and the Norman Richard, it turns out that the real, historical Becket, too was a Norman. Never mind!

As for the acting, get ready for some of the most egregious scenery chewing in Hollywood history. Peter O'Toole is particularly guilty of a when-in-doubt-shout performance. When he gazes guiltily up to heavens, he clearly must be thinking of the soul destroying self betrayals required to win an Oscar. I'm sure that's the hidden meaning behind the penance scenes.

Reviewed by Ian 7 / 10

A Battle of Dialog

(Flash Review)

This film showcases the battle of King vs Church with King Henry II back in the 1100's. Henry is at odds with the church who refuses to contribute to his war fund and he is unsettled by their tax-free status. He has a very loyal friend, Becket, who he strategically appoints as an Archbishop to maneuver his viewpoints inside the church. He had not planned on Becket, who is a very honorable man, to take his new role and title as Archbishop extremely seriously. Thus, he and Becket are at odds as he sides with the Church, rather than his close friend the King. Much of the film are sharp linguistic interactions that are more or less soliloquies as the O'Toole and Burton orate with power. The screenplay writers must have had a great time flexing their muscles as well. Will Henry persuade or outfox Becket to drive his agenda or will his impulsive emotions get the better of him? This film has the feel that it could translate easily onto the stage as dialog, rather than action, drove the story. For those in the mood for acting and dialog, this will meet your needs.

Reviewed by clanciai 9 / 10

Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole in clinch for power in a struggle between earthly and spiritual power.

Not everyone likes this film, especially not today, for its overburdened architecture of artificial stylishness, which conveys very little realism from the middle ages, i.e. the 12th century. Others find this to be the very most prominent asset of the film: the towering stylishness, like a Gothic cathedral, and very much of the action is indeed within the cathedral, the Gothic heaviness and solemnity actually recalling the splendour of Eisenstein's 'Ivan the Terrible'.

The real flaw of the film is actually something completely different, and that's not the fault of the film. It is based on Jean Anouilh's play, and Jean Anouilh unfortunately succeeded in ruining many great stories and dramas by adjusting them to his own preferences. His 'Anna Karenina' for example in Julien Duvivier's version with Vivien Leigh is a disaster, turning Tolstoy's great novel into a Zola-kind of naturalistic sordidness concentrating on negative destruction only. Here Anouilh's dramatization departs from reality, almost disfiguring the drama by sensationalization. On the other hand, many writers have dramatized this murder in the cathedral, among others Tennyson and T.S.Eliot, and they have all failed to hit at the truth. In this version at least the true relationship between Henry and Becket and its tragedy is near enough to be convincing.

What saves the film is the splendid acting, above all by Peter O'Toole, seconded by Richard Burton, but also by Donald Wolfit as the angry bishop and the ladies Pamela Brown and Martita Hunt, wife and mother. This is filmed theatre at its very best, and to this comes the splendid staging with glowing impressive colour all the way, leading up to the glorious finale of their last meeting on horseback on the shores of France.

It's a splendid film in spite of its overburdened insistence on being overdone, I saw it now for the third time, and it is better than ever.

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