This review is for the 50th Anniversary Restored Blu-Ray Edition of The Lion in Winter.
I have waited for a remastered, English-subtitled release of this glorious film for years. First, a few words about this edition. The film has received careful remastering, and the picture and sound put one in mind of a new film, let alone a 50-year-old classic. The picture is glorious and the sound magnificent. And the subtitles! Unlike many subtitles, the English subtitles for this edition follow the script exactly and, in fact, the timing of the subtitles even match the delivery of the lines! I could not ask for more, and I expected a lot.
I suppose it’s not a coincidence, but the play and screenplay of my favorite film (The Lion in Winter) and the book of my favorite Broadway musical (Follies) were both written by the same man – James Goldman. And what writing it is! The Lion in Winter is not so much a script, as it is a celebration of the English language. In reviewing the play, one critic said, “The Lion in Winter has more wit in every speech than most so-called comedies have in an entire evening.”
By the way, for those who don’t get it, The Lion in Winter is a comedy. A comedy about a dysfunctional family. Many people completely miss the point and think that this is simply a period drama. It is not. If sarcasm, wit and amazing use of the English language are your thing, then this film is for you. Of course, no one spoke that way in the late twelfth century. But the fact that it is written in modern language just adds to the humor of the piece. This has been my favorite film since I first saw it, just a few years after its initial release, and even though I have seen it at least forty times, I never tire of the wit, the conflict and the often-subtle humor of the screenplay. As many people know, Katherine Hepburn won her third Academy award for this film, and it won two more (screenplay and original score), besides being nominated for a total of seven Oscars. In addition to the magnificent performances of Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, it’s fun today to see a practically unrecognizable Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton at the dawn of their careers.
It’s possible that someday, another film will come along to usurp The Lion in Winter’s position as my all-time favorite film. But until then, and even then, I will never stop singing its praises. Very, very highly recommended.