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Right up front let me say that THE LION IN WINTER ($20) it is one of my favorite movies, although I acknowledge that it may not be to everyone's taste. It is very talky and its stage origins are rather obvious, however THE LION IN WINTER is a character rich drama that give its marvelous cast juicy dialogue, which they use to dazzle audiences, while practicing their craft. In fact, the performances are so good that Katharine Hepburn took home her forth Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in THE LION IN WINTER.

Set in England during the Christmas season of 1183, THE LION IN WINTER is the story of King Henry II (Peter O'Toole), his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hepburn) and their three adult sons, all of who are vying to be their father's successor on the English throne. Henry wants his youngest son John (Nigel Terry) to follow him, while Eleanor favors the eldest son Richard (Anthony Hopkins). While Henry and Eleanor scheme and counter scheme against one another, the forgotten middle son Geoffrey (John Castle) plays both ends against the middle hoping to come out on top. Adding to the political machinations is the visiting King of France (Timothy Dalton), who demands that his sister Alais (Jane Merrow) be married to the next King of England as promised in a treaty with Henry.

MGM Home Entertainment has made THE LION IN WINTER available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that is also enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. While the presentation isn't perfect, this is absolute best that THE LION IN WINTER has ever looked in the home venue. THE LION IN WINTER is from the recently acquire Embassy library, and the film elements don't appear to be as carefully preserved as are major studio films from the same era. This isn't to say that THE LION IN WINTER looks bad, only that there are a few more blemishes on the elements than one would find on a better-preserved film from 1968. The image is quite crisp and displays far more detail than I ever remember seeing, even in the wide screen Laserdisc release from a few years back. Colors also seem somewhat better saturated than on remember, although some of the exteriors are a bit subdued when compared to the carefully lit interiors. Flesh tones seem accurate enough, but then again, how healthy did people in the twelfth century look? None of the more strongly saturated hues betray any signs of chroma noise or smearing. Blacks appear solid and inky, although shadow detail is a bit lacking in some of the darker interiors. Mild film grain is present during much of the movie, although it never becomes obtrusive. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts at bay.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is fairly clean and free from distortion. The actors' voices come across in a crisp and completely intelligible manner, so one never misses a single word of James Goldman's marvelous dialogue. I've always been partial to John Barry's wonderful score for THE LION IN WINTER and even with the limited fidelity of this monaural rendering it still sounds pretty good. Subtitles have been provided on the DVD in French and Spanish.

The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. Director Anthony Harvey is featured on a running audio commentary. Although his comments are sparse at times, Harvey has a good memory and fills in a lot of production detail from more than thirty years ago. A theatrical trailer is also included on the DVD.

THE LION IN WINTER is a marvelously written and acted film that movie buffs will love. MGM has done a fine job with the DVD edition of THE LION IN WINTER, making this a disc that fans and fans to be will want to own.


The Lion in Winter


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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