But when Henry next appoints him Archbishop Of Canterbury, Becket shocks the world by openly defying the King with his newfound faith and compassion. Will a desperate ruler now destroy a beloved friend to save his splintering kingdom? John Gielgud co-stars in this stunning epic based on the Broadway sensation and brought to the screen by Hal Wallis, the legendary producer of ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS, TRUE GRIT and CASABLANCA.
The confrontation between Henry and the clergy is set immediately following the old archbishop's death, when Henry informs the assembled bishops that there will only be one head honcho in England, and that is the king. The bishops are not used to having their power abrogated by anyone outside the church; they answer only to the pope and to God. The king and clergy are on collision course, and Henry, to his chagrin, finds that Becket is solidly on the side of the Church his king has appointed him to represent. There will be no compromise here. The stage is thus set for a fateful confrontation.
One has to wonder: when Henry blurted out his petulant rhetorical question "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?", did he really not expect to be taken at his word? He's made it clear over and over again that he is the king, and the king is the law. So it's hard not to feel a sense of disgust at Henry's hypocrisy as he undergoes a ritual flogging in the cathedral crypt to expiate his guilt at having instigated Becket's murder, and immediately afterwards announces on the church steps that Becket will be venerated as a saint. Power-hungry to the last, Henry has abrogated to himself the privilege of an announcement that should have come from the new archbishop, or from the pope who alone has the power of canonization.
The film has everything going for it: a great plot, two excellent performances by Burton and O'Toole, terrific direction and cinematography, and fine historical accuracy. The Gregorian chant running through the scenes in the cathedral transport the viewer 700 years back in time. For two unforgettable hours, we're part of 12th century England.
And finally, let me add my request to those of the other reviewers of this excellent movie: Will someone please hurry up and release this film on DVD? I'll be first in line to buy it.
It looms with history, plays like Shakespeare, and features two of the best performances from two of the greatest international... Read more