Few television series have attracted as much critical and public acclaim as these six triumphant plays, now preserved on video. Written by six different authors, each play is a lavish and authentic dramatisation, produced ... more »with style and quality. Binding them together with his magnetic and dignified performance as the mighty monarch is Keith Michell--the definitive Henry VIII.« less
L. Shirley | fountain valley, ca United States | 11/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This review refers to DVD Complete Set(BBC/BFS Video) of "The Six Wives of Henry VIII"(3 discs).....
This classic BBC television series from 1970 is an outstanding production of 6 plays, all by different authors, depiciting the relationship Henry VIII had with each of his 6 wives.It's an entertaining and enlighting look at the monarch, played exquisitely from his youth to his sickly old age by Keith Michell.The six very different women, most of whom meet with a tragic ending are also portrayed brillantly by the actresses and will draw you into their joys and fears at being the Queen of England.
Catherine of Aragon(Annette Crosbie), Ann Boleyn(Dorothy Tutin), Jane Seymour(Anne Stallybrass), Anne of Cleves(Elvi Hale),Catherine Howard(Anglea Pleasence) and Catherine Parr(Rosalie Crutchley),were all picked to serve a purpose for the Royal Court. Some served useful in forming political alliances, and some in gaining favors for social climbers in the court. But to Henry....They were there to provide him with sons..heirs to the throne..and God help them if they didn't.
The production is wonderful. The costumes, make up, each play beautifully written, and the majestic performances will have you enthralled with each story and hanging on every word.The authentic look at this Royal soap opera is one any student of European history, or anyone who loves stories about Kings and Queens would be thrilled with.It is a five star performance.
The DVD did not get the kingly treatment it deserved.Although there is nothing about it that will interfere with your enjoyment of this treasure, it is very dated. The costumes and magnificent jewelry need to be brightned up, the outdoor scenes are a bit grainy, and the sound(although clear and distinguishable) is a very low recording.The price is a little high considering what this could look and sound like on DVD with a restoration.So 4 stars for the package.
It is absolutly worth the view and worth owning though.Unless a new edition comes along(this edition was released July, 2000), I would suggest to check with the sellers here, the prices seem much more reasonable.(I got a great deal at about half the price).
You may lose your head over this one.....enjoy...Laurie
also recommended: Edward the Seventh(PAL edition) or Edward the King(region 1)"
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 05/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a series of six individual plays that focuses upon each of the six wives of King Henry VIII of England. Written by six different playwrights, they are uniformly excellent. While the production values are not high, that is because these plays were part of a televised series for which there were budgetary constraints. Although the makeup is noticable, the sets are uninspired, and the lighting is harsh, the costumes, however, are gorgeous. More important, the acting is superb.
King Henry VIII is played to perfection by Keith Michell. He has set the standard by which all others in the part will be judged, and he is the linchpin around whom the entire series revolves. He plays the young, athletic, erudite, golden king in the first tape, and the viewer watches him age and deteriorate throughout the entire series, until he finally becomes the sore riddled, morbidly obese, self absorbed, tyrannical hulk of his later years.
Each one of the six wives has her own unique story. The plays tell that story, each a first rate drama unto itself that segues into the next one seamlessly. All the queens are portrayed by very talented thespians, and the supporting cast is superlative. All in all, this series provides a fully absorbing historical drama that should not be missed. It is through the story of each of the wives that one is able to see England transform itself from a catholic country to a protestant one. It also provides a birdseye view of the political intrigues that fueled the Reformation."
An Excellent Production, But DVD Quality Is Sorely Lacking
Jana L. Perskie | New York, NY USA | 08/06/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
""The Six Wives of Henry VIII" is the original BBC series of six 90 minute plays chronicling the reign and marriages of England's King Henry VIII. Each of the six plays or segments, "Katherine Aragon", "Anne Boleyn", "Jane Seymour", "Anne Of Cleves", "Catherine Howard" and "Catherine Parr," is written by a different author. The series was released to great popular and critical acclaim in 1971 and televised on PBS' Masterpiece Theater. This is a three-disc DVD boxed set, with two 90-minute teleplays per disc (one per spouse). Keith Michell is outstanding as the multiple-married monarch. From a boisterous, athletic, handsome Hal, at the time of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, (Annette Crosbie), the superb Michell, and make-up, transform the king before our eyes to a porcine, tyrannical, and sickly ruler. Although each drama is limited in scope due to time restrictions, the monarch's personal and political reasons for selecting and/or rejecting, (or beheading), his spouses are depicted to some extent.
"My, you ought to seen old Henry the Eight when he was in bloom. He was a blossom. He used to marry a new wife every day, and chop off her head next morning. And he would do it just as indifferent as if he was ordering up eggs." Thus Mark Twain describes our protagonist in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." As this series demonstrates, Henry was not quite the womanizer he is reputed to be. He was married to Katharine of Aragon for over twenty years and had just a few mistresses before this - unusual for a prince. He waited years to physically consummate his relationship with Anne Boleyn, and remained faithful to her until marriage.
Each of the actresses who play Henry's wives was able to find the core of her historical character, her queen, and lend the woman an air of dignity and individuality. Annette Crosbie is magnificent as Katherine of Aragon, the first wife. Her role is the largest as her relationship with Henry VIII was the longest. Dorothy Tutin is a most credible Anne Boleyn, but little time is spent on her very romantic courtship by the king. Most of Anne's story is focused on the role her marriage played in Henry's divorce and the split with the Catholic Church, which sets the stage for the English Reformation. Anne Stallybrass is Jane Seymour, who is extremely important in Tudor history because she is the only wife who gives Henry a male heir. He always said he loved Jane the best and was buried beside her. I wonder if she was so favored because she played such a small part in her husband's life, not only time-wise - she died from puerperal fever after only seventeen months of marriage - but because she was a sort of "homebody." After some minor political meddling, Jane was warned by the king to stay away from politics, and reminded of her predecessor's fate. She learned her lesson and no longer interfered in the monarch's affairs. Elvie Hale is Anne of Cleves, the most politically astute of Henry's wives, and certainly the one with the best survival skills. She was glad, ultimately, to be cast-off and allowed to keep her head. Catherine Howard, Henry's "blushing rose without a thorn," is played to the hilt by Angela Pleasence, and her's is a terribly tragic tale. And Rosalie Cruthley plays the part of the brilliant and intellectual Catherine Parr extremely well. She was fortunate to become aware of a plot against her before she met the same end as Queens Anne and Katherine. The supporting cast is also noteworthy, especially Bernard Hepton as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Wolfe Morris as Thomas Cromwell, and Verina Greenlaw as Princess Mary.
I think, overall, that this is an excellent production, although not perfect. There are some silly errors that could have been prevented with more attention to detail, like visible microphones. It is also evident the quality of technology we take for granted today was not available in the early 1970's. Thus, the DVDs are not very good. In fact, I would recommend that you purchase the VHS edition, if you have a DVD/VHS player. The DVD set is much more expensive and the options one usually expects with DVD, like the scene index, are not offered. JANA"
Keith Mitchell is a fantastic Henry VIII
Jana L. Perskie | 08/03/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm surprised that none of the reviews prior to this one mentioned Keith Mitchell's exceptional performance as Henry VIII. You saw him portray Henry from his youth when was a handsome, athletic, scholarly and pious prince to his later years as an obese, repugnant, evil and diseased monarch. You cannot believe that this is the same person, as his evolution goes from one extreme to the other. This transition could not have been carried out by a lesser actor. I subtract only one star for the low quality of the production itself, but the acting was superb by Mitchell and the ladies that portrayed his six queens. Many of these actors are famous within the British theatre but unfortunately not as well known as some of our Hollywood stars. They should be recognized for their fine efforts, including Dorothy Tutin. She gave the most haunting performance of Henry's second wife, Anne Bolyen, who was executed on trumped up charges of adultery so Henry could marry Jane Seymour, his third queen. This series truly succeeds in showing what a sick and evil monster that Henry VIII was. He executed so many for such minor offenses and he committed so much evil to beget a male heir. You can almost breathe a sigh of relief when he dies, almost as if you, yourself are spared from the executioner's block. I must also highly recommend the companion series, "Elizabeth R", about the life of Queen Elizabeth I. She was the only child he had with Anne Boleyn and her reign was the most illustrious in English history. This six part series is also available from Amazon.com."
Poor quality ruins the "Six Wives of Henry VIII".
Jana L. Perskie | 08/01/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Six Wifes of Henry VIII, while showing some substantial acting capabilities, must be view in poor video and audio quality. It is as if the DVD was made from a poor VHS. Technical difficulties arise if you wish to start or stop the DVD from any particular point. This is simply not possible. Even finding a particular Queen/wife is difficult. The technical production of this series of DVD's is poor at best. Knowing the the lack of video/audio quality in this production, I would not have spent the monies in this direction although I did enjoy seeing this series once again."