It's Christmas 1183, and the Royal Family gathers for the holiday. King Henry II (O'Toole) is 50, a ripe age for the Middle Ages, so he's thinking about choosing a successor from his three sons for his sizable kingdom, which stretches from Britain far into France. But he and his detested wife Eleanor of Acquitaine (Hepburn) have fought all their lives, and they predictably disagree on the most deserving successor: the oldest, Richard the Lionhearted (Hopkins), whom the queen favors; the youngest, pathetic and foolish John (Terry), whom the king adores; or the middle boy, Geoffrey (Castle), a plotter whom neither of his parents likes? A further complication is that King Philip of France (Dalton) is in attendance with his sister Princess Alais (Jane Merrow), whom Henry has promised to marry off to the next British king but whom he has taken as his own mistress. James Goldman adapted this 1968 film from his own play, so it's pretty talky and short on action, but the dialogue is bitterly snappy and the acting volcanic. The movie does a good job of showing how uncomfortable and dirty medieval life was, even for the royals, though it plays a bit fast and loose with history (Alais is a fictitious character, for instance). It was the film debut for both 22-year-old Dalton and 30-year-old Hopkins, who had to get permission from Laurence Olivier to be in the movie (and that entailed flying home from location shoots in Ireland, Wales, and France most evenings to play his roles in productions of "As You Like It" and "Much Ado About Nothing"!). Hepburn, reportedly a descendant of the character she played, took home her third of four Oscars for this role.
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The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus