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Henry V

Actor-director-producer Olivier’s popular 1944 Shakespearean warhorse has an indelible place on the honours board of British cinema, as a colourful, clarion call for a war-weary nation presented with a dash of Hollywood-style glitz. But its reputation – as a martial propaganda piece typified by the horsebacked Henry’s ‘Once more unto the breach’ speech – is misleading. Cinematographer Robert Krasker’s first essay into Technicolor certainly caparisoned the production with a bright, heraldic palette, but the art direction (by Paul Sheriff) is closer to the artificial Hollywood fantasyworld of Fleming’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’ than ‘Book of Hours’ medievalism, its supposed dynamic Eisenstein-ian editing only evident in a rearing horseface in the otherwise leadenly directed Agincourt battle waged comically – sometimes intentionally so – by a corps of dear, ageing theatrical knights. If it has power now, it’s for Larry’s commanding soldier-king and for his audacious sub-Brechtian adapatation, which scythes the text to reveal the heart –  notably in the extraordinary, moving, pre-battle ‘A little touch of Harry’ exposing cold fear’s contempt for ‘the ceremony’ of rank.

Release details

Rated: U
Release date: Friday August 10 2007
Duration: 137 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Laurence Olivier
Screenwriter: Laurence Olivier, Alan Dent
Cast: Laurence Olivier
Renée Asherson
Robert Newton
Leslie Banks
George Robey
Esmond Knight
Leo Genn
Felix Aylmer
Max Adrian
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