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Directed by Peter Glenville
UK/ USA 1964

King Henry II of England has trouble with the Church. When the Archbishop of Canterbury dies, he has a brilliant idea. Rather than appoint another pious cleric loyal to Rome and the Church, he will appoint his old drinking and wenching buddy, Thomas Becket, technically a deacon of the church, to the post. Unfortunately, Becket takes the job seriously and provides abler opposition to Henry than his predecessors were able to do.

This leads to the famous "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

***

In a year when the big winners were "My Fair Lady" and "Mary Poppins," the only award "Becket" took was for Edward Anhalt's adaptation of Jean Anouilh's Tony-winning play. There were nominations for both Burton and O'Toole (Rex Harrison sneaked in between them to win), as well as for costar John Gielgud, best picture, director, cinematography, art direction and score.

While peripheral elements of "Becket" do show their age, the core of the film's appeal remains incandescent, and that is the on-screen collaboration between Burton and O'Toole, two of the English-speaking world's greatest actors working in the vibrant prime of their careers.

In part this collaboration is so successful because the subject matter is compelling and, frankly, so far from what any studio would put into production today. Set in 12th century England and based on the historical record, "Becket" involves not only questions of honor and loyalty but also a savage split between best friends, one of whom happens to be England's king, over the conflicting rights of church and state. Not exactly an MTV-friendly subject, but there you have it.

Excerpt from Kenneth Turan's review at the L.A. Times located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: March 11th, 1964

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Comparison:

MPI Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC vs. MPI Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 Box Cover

   

 

Distribution MPI Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC MPI Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:28:05  2:28:20 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.67 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

2.35:1

Feature: 29.6 Gig

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: MPI (Blu-ray)

NO BITRATE GRAPH FOR Blu-ray YET!

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), DUBs: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)  English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (PCM lossless 2.0 Stereo), DUBs: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) 
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: MPI Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by: Peter O'Toole
• Theatrical trailer
• Still gallery
• Interviews with editor Anne V. Coats and composer Laurence Rosenthal
• Two Archival interviews with Richard Burton
• TV spot

DVD Release Date: May 15th, 2007

Keep Case inside cardboard box
Chapters: 17

Release Information:
Studio: MPI Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Feature: 29.6 Gig

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Edition Details:

• Commentary by: Peter O'Toole
• Still gallery
• Interviews with editor Anne V. Coats and composer Laurence Rosenthal
• Trailer
• TV spot

Blu-ray Release Date: November 25th, 2008
Standard Blu-ray case
Chapters: 17
 

 

Comments:
NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: MPI Blu-ray November 08' - It doesn't appear that too much was done to this excepting bump it to 1080P - and this improves in all the expected areas with detail and skin tones looking vastly tighter (I despise the orangey skin color consistently notable in SD.). I appreciated that all colors look far more true - a softer, more realistic palette - and without the SD bleeding. There is a touch more information in the frame in the Blu-ray. This appears to be a true HD transfer and with the transfer being dual-layered - the film is looking as good as it ever has for home theatre distribution.

The Blu-ray bumps the (original?) 2.0 channel to a lossless PCM track that I found marginally cleaner and crisper - most notable in the lead's voices.

In the extras we retain the commentary and Coats/Rosenthal interviews - but lose the archival Burton ones, which I quite enjoyed in the SD release.

We are talking about a $10 upgrade here and it probably depends most on your system's ability to differentiate and your love of the film. The Blu-ray is surely superior but let's remember the film is almost 45 years old and doesn't have as demonstrative depth as most modern transfers. Saying that though - this is still the best way to see this classic. The Blu-ray best supports the majestic aura of the performances. 

****

ON THE SD-DVD: The MPI DVD image looks quite acceptable for its SD limitations. Anamorphic and progressive in the impressive 2.35 widescreen ratio. It is not especially sharp but I feel like it is probably a good representation of the original theatrical presentation although colors seem a bit extravagant and border0 on bleeding. Good news is that I don't see excessive manipulation (possibly some boosted blacks and marginal brightening) and the image is fairly clean with no excessive damage marks. There is an original stereo track, a bumped 5.1 and two DUBs (French and Spanish in 2.0).

In the commentary Peter O'Toole informs us of the high level of historical inaccuracy of the film and even its variance from Jean Anouilh's play. The rest of the commentary (with a chap named Mark Kermode) is very good - O'Toole is quite lucid, his memory is excellent and he imparts a lot of interesting information. He is a pleasure to listen to and he is quite frank about preparation of the performances. There are some interviews included - modern ones with editor Anne V. Coats and composer Laurence Rosenthal and two archival ones with Richard Burton. They total just over an hour and I was most keen on the Burton ones but all contribute something valid. There are also a theatrical trailer, stills gallery and a short TV spot. 

Great film - and a nicely appointed DVD at a fair price. We give a healthy recommendation.

Gary W. Tooze

 

 



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Distribution MPI Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC MPI Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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