Film Review – Henry VIII (1979)

Let’s face it, fair reader, when it comes to The Complete Dramatic Works of Shakespeare series, I have given up on watching the complete films. It’s just not happening anymore. So I’ve switched to a new approach any time I have to sit through another one of these. I’m now just picking one of the acts that I most want to see and watching that one. So for Henry VIII, I watched Act IV because it had a lot of Katharine in it. It also happens to be the shortest act in the play. Although I swear that wasn’t a motivating factor.

The act opens with Anne looking at herself in a mirror (probably a transition from the prior act). We then get to spend some time hanging out with the two random dudes on a streetcorner. Although for the film, they’ve put them on a small set of stairs rather than a street corner. One of the random dudes is a foodie apparently because he eats for the entire scene. The other random dude is Barty Crouch Senior from Harry Potter (David Tennant’s dad in Goblet of Fire, if the character reference is too obscure for you). The random dudes are intercut with actual on location footage of the procession leaving Anne’s coronation. Anne looks cold but pretty. The costumes for this one are actually really great. We get some overlong and silent shots of Anne being crowned and Henry sitting on his throne. Not once do either Anne or Henry speak in this entire act. Yay me for picking an act where the titular character is barely in it and doesn’t speak.

Katharine, Henry VIII

Katharine early in the play. She looks sicklier later on.

The rest of act is Katharine being sick prior to her eventual death. But I am so impressed because there are real sets! Not just wooden stilt thingies on a soundstage but actual sets that look like real rooms and actual furniture that looks… not that comfortable really. Anyway, the actress playing Katharine is pretty decent. At least she looks convincingly sick. During the part of the scene where Katharine has her vision (I may have skipped this in my play recap, it’s just girls dancing near Katharine with a garland that’s symbolic of death) there’s a weird bleed through effect that I’m sure was cutting edge in 1979. Now it’s just… underwhelming. Katharine progressively sicker over the course of the scene and we then are treated to an overlong shot of Katharine’s corpse laid out in state on her bed. And that’s the end of the act. See how painless that was? My one act approach is totally the best plan ever.

With that, we’re done with the English histories! Huzzah! Sunday (possibly Monday, it is a long weekend) I will be diving into the ancient histories with Troilus and Cressida. Until then, fair reader.

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