Peter O’Toole portrayed Henry II twice in the 1960s, in tales of medieval politics and strained relationships.
The other was Becket (1964) and although this later work remains inferior, The Lion in Winter remains a classy affair.
Garnering Oscar nominations, a healthy reception from audiences and critics, it would become one of O’Toole’s signature roles.
Set in 1183 AD, it depicts the dynastic crisis of an ageing King Henry II (O’Toole), as he struggles amidst a nest of intrigue and paranoia.
There is an estranged queen (Katherine Hepburn); an elder son (Anthony Hopkins) and two ambitious brothers, plus the King of France (Timothy Dalton) ready to pounce on any internal strife.
Director Anthony Harvey has an assured grip on proceedings, the lensing by Douglas Slocombe is exceptional and the art direction evokes the appropriate time and place.
There is also a raft of quality acting – not only the screen debut of Hopkins but the chemistry of O’Toole and Hepburn as they feud across emotional and political lines is one of the major highlights.
In retrospect, the tumultuous year of release (1968) seems prescient with America torn apart by the Vietnam war and widespread dissent across Europe.
As a footnote, at that year’s Oscars, Hepburn was tied with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl – the only time this has happened in Academy history.
- New restoration of the film
- New interview with John Castle
- New interview with John Bloom
- Anthony Harvey audio commentary (this is very good)
- O’Toole on Hepburn: 5 min excerpt from TCM interview in 2012
- Original Trailer
- Restoration comparison
The Lion in Winter is out now from Studiocanal UK
> Buy The Lion in Winter on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about The Lion in Winter on IMDb and Wikipedia