CLASSIC WESTERN DRAMA WITH ITS ROOTS IN SHAKESPEARE
D. McAllister | Somewhere in the Field | 11/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If the immortal Bard could only have imagined the adaptations that his work would inspire! There have been numerous modernizations of Shakespeare's work. From WEST SIDE STORY to TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU. There have also been various different stagings for practically all of Shakespeare's stories. So why not a Western?
We get just that in KING OF TEXAS, King Lear set in post-Alamo Texas. The story adaptations flows marvelously with Patrick Stewart starring as John Lear, a Texas patriot turned cattle baron. As with the Shakespeare original, Lear here has built an empire, complete with the pride and ego that attend it. He determines to leave his massive ranch to his daughters, Susannah (Academy Award winner, Marcia Gay Harden), Rebecca (Lauren Holly) and Claudia (Julie Cox). In a show of pseudo-love, the two older daughters charm the aging Lear, get the ranch for themselves and set in motion a chain reaction of drama and tragedy that Old William would have heartily approved of.
Some wonderful twists in the story include the part of the fool from the original play becoming a faithful black servant, Rip, played wonderfully by David Alan Grier (JUMANJI, RETURN TO ME). Keeping with the timeframe involved, it's the only natural solution. His playful banter with John Lear is wonderful and warmly draws the audience in.
The movie's depiction of the tense interplay between the Republic of Texas and Mexico is also a terrific twist as, historically, these two opponents continued to spar with each other for decades following the events that led to Texas independence.
One minor disappointment for me was the resolution of the original relationship of the two brothers, Edmund and Edgar, replaced in the Western drama with Emmett (Matt Letscher) and Thomas (Liam Waite) Westover. Just as in the original play, the scheming and corrupt Emmett works to disinherit his brother, Thomas, the rightful heir. When their father, Henry (Roy Scheider) continues his allegiance to Claudia and goes to warn her of pending trouble, he is blinded (just as with Gloucester in the original play). But in the original play the faithful son returns incognito and plays his father's servant, working carefully back into his father's good graces while waiting for the chance to avenge himself on his brother. Still in disguise, he then confronts his brother in a classic Shakespearean standoff. For the sake of not giving the story away here, let's just say it doesn't happen quite that way in this version.
I also very much missed a corresponding character in KING OF TEXAS for King Lear's faithful friend and advisor, Kent.
But, as mentioned, these are very minor issues at the very worst.
This is a classic Western with all the drama of its roots in Shakespeare with the spectacular setting of Texan grandeur. Not one that you will want to miss.
King Lear Meets the Wild West
Laura | 01/24/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The story begins around the same time frame as the Battle of the Alamo. Star Trek captain Patrick Stewart, plays the famous Lear whose downfall comes when tries to make his daughters prove their love to him in return for their share of his land. His first two daughters have no problem lying to their father but Claudia refuses to appease her father's pride. Lear, outraged by this, banishes her from his sight. She retreats to her father's enemy, Menchaca. After this first mistake, Lear's life crumbles beneath him. He is turned away by his two remaining daughters and eventually begins to lose his mind.
The King of Texas is the story of Shakespeare's famous play, King Lear, with a western twist. It reunites all of the characters from the play and though the names have been changed, it is easy to decipher who is who. One of the best aspects of this movie is that you don't have to have read the play to understand or enjoy the movie nor do you have to be a fan of Shakespeare. Unlike other adaptations of Shakespearean plays, the language used has been changed to more of a western dialect then the often hard to understand Shakespearean style enabling a more broad audience to enjoy this classic play. I think it's safe to say that this made for TV movie will be sought after by many to better understand this famous Shakespearean play."
King Lear turned Cowboy
C. McLean | Butte, MT | 01/24/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The story line followed closely with the concept of King Lear. The adaptation from a B.C. English setting into a more recent, western setting, was portrayed well. That is a very difficult transition and the setting worked. It wasn't the best western movie, but the story line from King Lear was transformed the best way it could be.
Overall the plot followed Shakespeare's play the best it could have, with the new setting in mind. The storm scene was very closely related to the storm in Act III scene ii of King Lear. John Lear was portrayed closely to King Lear, the emotions were there; and the viewer could really feel for him. The situation his daughters put him in was unbearable for a man of his caliber. The Shakespearian version portrayed Lear as a crazy man, while in the movie I felt Lear suffered from dementia. Lear's character showed a weakness-- a great and powerful man who feels that there is nothing that can bring him down, nothing that can knock him out of his saddle, but in truth is due to age and his sickness his daughters see a ... in his armor, much like when he falls off his horse in the storm, and take advantage of the moment.
The only disappointment in Lear was that he was more stubborn than proud in the movie. The two oldest daughters disappointed me, compared to the play; their characters were not harsh enough. Goneril and Regan were bitter and wicked, compared to the daughters in the movie who despite what they did to there father still felt sympathy for him.
I felt the movie was closely related to the originated play, and worked with what it had to show the weakened Lear, and which characters truly loved him and not his wealth and power."
King Lear Goes Out West
Wilson Rupert | Butte, Montana | 01/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The movie King of Texas is William Shakespear's play King Lear set in Texas. Patrick Stewart plays King Lear and does a great job of it. He is joined by a wonderful supporting cast that only make the movie better. Having read King Lear myself and feeling very lost and confused this movie helped greatly to put the words from the play to images in a movie. I didn't care for the play written in Shakespearean language because I couldn't follow it but once it was put into a movie like this Shakespear's plot and great story line is really brought to life. This movie helped me really appreciate Shakespear's greatness as a playwright. Although the movie was very good a few parts were done slightly different than in the original play. The main difference was in the end which involved everyones deaths. The characters were not killed in similar fashions to how they were in the play. Because of this the whole play seemed to wrap a little to short and sweet. Overall though this movie is worth while watching whether you like Shakespear or don't at all. As long as one likes a movie with a interesting plot and lessons to be tough it will be enjoyable."
Shakespeare - The King of Human Truths
Andrew Atcheson | Butte, MT USA | 01/22/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although the story may be hundreds of years old, another timeless Shakespearian tale finds its way to the silver screen in "King of Texas." Patrick Stewart plays the leading role as John Lear, a cattle baron who built his empire in south Texas on years of hard work... and blood. His on-going battle with Manchaca, a Mexican ranch owner just south of Lear's ranch, parallels King Lear's feud with the French. Keeping with the story, Claudia, who represents Cordelia from the Shakespearian work, runs off with the enemy after she is turned out by her father. Her two sisters, Susanne and Rebecca, representing Goneril and Reagan, inherit their father's land through deceitful speeches of how great their love is for him. Lear goes mad after both these daughters send him away, while Rip (Davis Alen Grier), representing the fool, provides some comedy relief. This movie is quite accurate to the original work, and the western setting and dialogue create a more tangible atmosphere for some than "King Lear" might offer. Even Henry Westover (Roy Scheider), representing the Earl of Gloucester, meets the same horrific torture as in the original work. I would recommend this movie to everyone, even if westerns or Shakespeare aren't your favorite choice of entertainment. 4 stars for "King of Texas.""