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Henry V: The Criterion Collection

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks, Felix Aylmer, Robert Helpmann
  • Directors: Laurence Olivier
  • Writers: Laurence Olivier, Dallas Bower, Alan Dent, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Dallas Bower, Filippo Del Giudice, Herbert Smith
  • Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Special Edition, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: June 22 1999
  • Run Time: 137 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • ASIN: 0780021320
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #40,867 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

Olivier mustered out of the navy to film this adaptation of Shakespeare's history. Embroiled in World War II, Britons took courage from this tale of a king who surmounts overwhelming odds and emerges victorious. This sumptuous Technicolor® rendering features a thrilling recreation of the battle of Agincourt, and Sir Laurence in his prime as director and actor.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This is a brilliantly conceived movie-within-a-play-within-a-movie that showcases the genius of Laurence Olivier. Today's audiences are exposed mainly to Olivier the movie star. But if you want to see a purer form of acting, see Olivier the stage actor. This is possible by watching his Shakespeare plays on film. And these films are by Olivier the "auteur," long before the title was coined. Olivier's is the legacy to which Branaugh, the darling of the current generation, fancies himself the pretender.
And lest you're expecting a camera pointed at a stage, don't worry. Olivier, who produced and directed most of his Shakespeare films, has actually used the film medium to enlarge his plays' visual scope, while maintaining the intimacy that is the essence of live theatre. Moreover, Olivier is mindful of how daunting the language of Shakespeare is for modern audiences and has modified much of the original script to be more comprehensible, while preserving the feel of Elizabethan English.
Olivier's "Henry V" was to England what Eisentein's "Ivan the Terrible" was to Russia - a familiar history rendered as a national epic, for morale purposes, while audiences were fighting off the Germans during World War II. There are other parallels. For example, both use static, formalized composition, in Henry V's case, meant to resemble the images in medieval illuminated manuscripts and books of Hours. (In Ivan's case, according to Kael, like Japanese Kabuki.) Thus, a soundstage "exterior" backdrop becomes a tableau that serves to enhance, with its flat perspective and subjective scale, the view we have of that fabulous Age of Chivalry, for which the play's Battle of Agincourt was the closing act.
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By A Customer on April 12 2004
Format: DVD
When I first saw this film, in about 1948, I only really enjoyed the battle scenes, and then mainly the first flight of arrows streaking into the French cavalry. Since then I have revisited it countless times, most recently just now, and my admiration for it steadily grows. I sympathise with those reviewers who couldn't understand the circumstances of the film's production, were disappointed, or thought the actors foppish. It is true the English stage of the day was somewhat overloaded with old queans, some of whom appear here. But these things are basically irrelevant. Olivier's delivery, his perception of the significance of every word that Shakespeare wrote, is impeccable. Appreciation of it sinks in deeper every time his performance is re-savoured, and the bits I was bored with 50 years ago --- eg the opening, the death of Falstaff, the discussion of "nationhood", and the courtship scenes --- grow more and more enjoyable and interesting. By comparison, Branagh is almost totally insensitive to the rhythms and latent meanings of the text. Both versions are heavily edited: Branagh wallows more in the brutality, but Olivier is infinitely more subtle and perceptive. Branagh tries to be different, but several of Olivier's speeches and scenic exchanges are just so fine and powerful that all Branagh can do is produce pale copies of them. Not everyone will agree. Time will tell. I know the arrows were just scratched into the celluloid.
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Format: DVD
The first succesful Shakespeare film adaptation, Laurence Olivier's HENRY V dazzles. He took many liberties with the original text, many to move the story along, and some to excise entire elements. Olivier begins the film in a re-creation of the Globe Theatre in a 1600s production of Henry's story. We stay watching the play for the first 25 minutes or so (with Olivier taking extreme liberties with the Shakespeare work). The on film audience responds to the stage work in realistic reactions. Literally, it helps the movie viewer appreciate the language barrier and highlight the humor so often overlooked. The film eventually breaks from the Globe stage environment but, the setting remain beautifully painted colorful set backdrops. The music by Wiliam Walton is grand although it does not resemble modern film music. The story leads to the Battle of Agincourt in France. Much has been noted of this huge element. However, by today's film standards, the battle is very confusing and looks more like a crowded city square then a fight to the death. Still, its the Bards words that drive the story and they are well presented here. The film culminates with a brief return to The Globe theatre production, a nice bookend to a classic film. The Criterion DVD has a couple interactive text offerings as well as a caring Commentary done by a scholar. Henry V was re-imagined again by Kenneth Branagh in 1989, a brilliant film itself. Both take many liberties with the work. If you have never seen Henry V, I would watch the Branagh version as it has a greater visual splendor and reality.
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Format: DVD
It's impossible to say anything bad about Lawrence Olivier. For many years this movie represented the best that Shakespeare had to offer the silver screen. It was beautifully staged. Unfortunately, the movie was a victim to its time.
During WWII, Olivier was told to make Henry V into a propaganda film that would boost English spirits during their darkest days. So, there was a little creative editing.
Gone are any lines (in fact a whole scene) that refer to Henry's "English Traitors"...one of which was his first cousin! Gone is the six-month long seige of Hafleur (including Henry's violent but empty threat of doing awful things to old men, women and babies if the town didn't surrender). Gone is any doubt about the struggle and massive odds the English faced at Agincourt. The message is "Rule Britainia" from the start.
I wish Olivier could have made this movie in another time. It would have been one of the greatest movies ever made. However, taking it as it is...it's a great film. But I would take Kenneth Branagh's epic and true version of Henry V first.
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