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Debauched King Henry II installs his longtime court facilitator Thomas Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury, assuming that his old friend will be a compliant and loyal lackey in the King's ongoing battles with the church. But Becket unexpectedly finds his true calling on the ecclesiastical side, and aligns himself against the king's selfish wishes, causing a rift and an eventual showdown not only between the two men, but also the institutions they represent. Written by
Empress Matilda (Maud), King Henry's mother, had been chosen by her father King Henry I to rule after his death; but the ruling Council of England decided it would be inappropriate for a woman to rule, and named her cousin Stephen as king. This set off decades of war, during which Matilda captured much of western England and was proclaimed Lady of England. Though she never became queen, she successfully established her son Henry's claim to the throne. She died in 1167, three years before Becket's murder. See more »
In the excommunication scene, which took place in 1164, the monks are chanting the Dies Irae, a hymn said to have been composed by Thomas of Celano, who lived from 1200-1260. The hymn is also heard in the opening scene as Henry walks through the cathedral, which would have been in 1173. See more »
King Henry II:
Well, Thomas Becket. Are you satisfied? Here I am, stripped, kneeling at your tomb, while those treacherous Saxon monks of yours are getting ready to thrash me. Me - with my delicate skin. I bet you'd never have done the same for me. But - I suppose I have to do this penance and make my peace with you. Hmm. What a strange end to our story. How cold it was when we last met - on the shores of France. Funny, it's nearly always been cold - except at the beginning, when we were friends....
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What p****s me off about this film is that it, like "Metropolis", is a forgotten one. Why? Why is it that everything has to be razzle-dazzle eye candy, instead of a subtle, beautiful, fine piece of craftsmanship and storytelling. "Becket" was tough to watch, because of all the grain and clicks on the neglected print. But past all of the distortion of a neglected print, I found a very remarkable and exquisite achievement that ranks among some of the best films ever made! The craftsmanship is just the beginning! It gets better! Peter O'Toole, who ironically, played Henry II years later in "A Lion in Winter", does a superb job. He's so angry, volatile, and above all, whiny. When I saw the Disney version on "Robin Hood", with Peter Ustinov playing the voice of the whiny Prince John, I felt it was directly inspired by Peter O'Toole's Henry II! He was so good at being a great whiner. And Richard Burton, as Thomas Becket, looks so reserved, strong, and reverent, as a friend of Henry II who's faith and belief in God and serving the people, brings a rift in their friendship. I also felt bad that not only was this a crappy print, but also that the beautiful photography seemed so small on the TV. This is the kind of film that needs to be seen on the big screen in order to fully appreciate it. I hope that this gets some more respect and popularity, because it needs it and it has deserved it for years!
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