Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom, 1968. Haworth Productions. Screenplay by James Goldman, based on his play. Cinematography by Douglas Slocombe. Produced by Martin Poll. Music by John Barry. Production Design by Peter Murton. Costume Design by Margaret Furse. Film Editing by John Bloom. Academy Awards 1968. Golden Globe Awards 1968. National Board of Review Awards 1968. New York Film Critics Awards 1968.
In 12th century England, King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) sits atop his throne and hesitates to name his successor. Instead, he invites all the rivals to the crown to a Christmas banquet and lets them hash out their schemes and plots to win them to his side. His prime invitee is, of course, his banished wife Eleanor (Katharine Hepburn), followed by his three sons (Anthony Hopkins in his film debut, Nigel Terry, John Castle), his mistress (Jane Merrow) and her brother the King of France (Timothy Dalton). Beautifully written, this film doesn’t ever let you go for a second, rife with breathless drama at every step. O’Toole is brilliantly energetic, and Hepburn brings everything out of her rich role that she can possibly muster. Lush sets and costumes and Anthony Harvey’s intelligent direction make for a very complete, satisfying battle-of-wills drama.