In this fifteen-part inventive series based on William Shakespeare's history plays, the turmoil, power, mystery and frailty of the English crown in the medieval ages is laid bare in epic style. This series originally aired... more » as live broadcasts and was recorded on film. Starring Sean Connery, Julian Glover, Eileen Atkins, Robert Hardy, Angela Baddeley, Judi Dench and John Warner.« less
"Our local PBS station ran this series in the early '60s. As I recall, it was shown then on a one-episode-per-day schedule. I looked forward to each new installment. In the nearly fifty years since then, I have never forgotten that experience and, in fact, have kept in my library the small brochure that PBS sent to its viewers. Thanks to the BBC for giving us the opportunity to experience this once again! I am greatly looking forward to it. --------------- Now that I have received the DVD set and viewed a large portion of it, I must say that the series is not as I remember it; it is far better. For the time and technology, it is a wonder. I doubt that anything comparable could be done today on live TV. Not to belabor the point, I would simply say than anyone with the slightest appreciation of Shakspeare will find great enjoyment in this production."
The Ageless Age of Kings
Joe D. Gilliland | Bisbee, AZ USA | 03/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"By any standard I can think of this series stands out in memory as the finest television treatment of Shakespeare that exists. If for nothing else the performances of Connery as Hotspur, Hardy as Hal and Harry in Henry V, and Richard Daneman as Richard III are worth owning this. Robert Hardy's St. Crispin's Day speech rivals Olivier's and Brannagh's, Daneman's Richard III also rivals Olivier's and the great Stratford performance of Antony Sher. At no time in his long career did Sean Connery ever exceed his incomparable interpretation of Hotspur. I have wished for, prayed for, hoped for an opportunity to see this again, and NOW! Thanks to all the gods of drama."
Fifty years later
J. Targove | 03/31/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We were living in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1961 when "Age of Kings" was shown on the local public TV station which, I think, was associated with the University of Nebraska. It was so memorable that I have never forgotten it -- especially Robert Hardy's performance as Prince Hal in Henry IV and as Henry V. He was so young and vigorous that his performance transcended the small screen and the absence of color. I've been a devotee of public TV ever since, but nothing was ever as exciting as those plays at that time. Perhaps it was TV's newness at the time, but since then TV drama has been prettied up and has lost its immediacy."
Indespensable entertainment, and educational too!
Erik Herrmann | Portland, Oregon | 06/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a classically trained actor who has done more than his share of Shakespeare, I can honestly say I've generally found the connecting factors of his history cycle (Richard II to Richard III, with three Henrys in between) somewhat elusive. This series has resolved quite a multitude of misunderstandings I've had about these plays. To see the whole cycle performed chronologically, with all the same actors playing their designated roles throughout, gave me an appreciation for these works that no actor (or basic Bardophile) should be without. Many are familiar with Henry V or Richard III because of their past cinematic incarnations, and some have only a perfunctory knowledge of characters like Hotspur and Falstaff. This series, as dated as it is, serves as a wonderful introduction. And what a treat to see this cast! Many of them were (some still are) legendary performers of the London stage who, because they never carved out a niche for themselves in films (either American or British) are unknown outside the realm. This series may be the only document available of their incredible talents. Others of course, are more well known. To see a pre-James Bond Sean Connery as Hotspur, or Judi Dench in her young ingenue phase as Katherine of France (not to mention character actor stalwarts like Julian Glover, Geoffrey Bayldon, and George A. Cooper) is just so much gravy on an impeccable meal. An additional note for those who may have difficulties in viewing and accepting this material, is the on-screen English subtitle option that allows you to view the Shakespearean text as its being spoken. And any qualms about length are eased by the fact that the series is broken down as originally broadcast - in 15 (mostly) one-hour segments. It's like viewing an episodic Shakespearean historical soap opera. Perfect for students! Highly recommended."
"I've only seen Richard II, Henry IV, and parts of Henry V so far. I just compared parts of 1HenryIV from this black-and-white production (ca. 1960) and the more recent BBC production of 1HIV (an unexpected "pun", what?) from the complete set done a few decades later. The later was quite good, with Anthony Quale a wonderful Falstaff and decent color photography. The Falstaff in this set is just as good. The Prince Hal in the later set has an annoying Beatles haircut, the one in this set has more classical command of his character; pity he wears ballet tights. This Richard II is wonderful, you will feel for this pitiful lead character (historically he was not so pitiful, of course, but that's another story).
While the newer BBC set looks somewhat higher budget, this older one generally displays more gravitas. Perhaps I'm a tad antiquarian, but classical music buffs will understand the difference between a terrific modern recording vs. some of the better older recordings when conductors could put the fear of G-d into the players to deliver an extra "sweep" that is not possible today. In this "Age of Kings" set, the actors convey a long familiarity with their roles and deliver a dramatic "sweep." Here is old-school, flamboyant confidence.
It's a shame the recording technology used was so unnecessarily primitive, but had they done it right you wouldn't be getting 16 hours of fine Bard for $35.
The cuts are well planned, so the stories unfolds quite gracefully. Most of the plays are presented in two 65 minute segments, rather than act-by-act. The sub-titles are very helpful for modern viewers. This set is well worth it even if you never get to the Henry VI plays."