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As the story opens, King Henry II, who ruled England from 1154 to 1189 has entered Canterbury Cathedral to do penance at the tomb of his former friend, Thomas Becket. Bare to the waist, the king kneels to receive a flogging from Saxon monks. He begins to reminisce, recalling at first the carefree, promiscuous adventures with Becket, then his favorite drinking and wenching companion. A violently emotional drama that probes the changing relationship between two young men - between two close friends bound together by similar pride of flesh and spirit who become deadly enemies as they pursue their separate destinies . . . that of king . . . and saint. Written by
The closeness between King Henry and Becket is depicted as being a purely platonic one. Homosexuality was still illegal in the UK when the film was made in 1963, and any suggestion of that would have fallen foul of the censor. See more »
Although the story takes place in the late 12th century, the armored helmets that King Henry's children play in are right out of the 15th century, the same as one might see in films about Joan of Arc, or Henry the IVth and Vth. This choice by the costumers must have been purely aesthetic because the armor of the last 100 years of medieval times was by far the most splendid visually. 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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Towering performances by 2 actors at the zenith of their powers.
My comments here tend to be Misremembrances of things past. I know I saw "Becket" decades ago while I must have been suffering from a periodic bout of reviling Richard Burton. Having recently seen "Cleopatra" again, I will forgive myself. Still, there are movies that I've enjoyed - "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" and "The Night of the Iguana", to name 2 - so I thought I'd give "Becket" another try.
Historical movies are among my favorites, although the IMDB parameter of not spoiling restricts me from discussing plot. But this is a movie that made me click on here to see who directed it...since directing Burton and O'Toole must have been like being a meterologist tracking a tornado and a hurricane. Their synergy is astounding...but whereas O'Toole launches himself on occassion into a thespian stratosphere it is Burton's performance that is incandescent. There are scenes..."inner monologues" - queries to God, where the ribald Burton is transformed into a man illuminated by a spiritual puzzle - he cannot believe that he is becoming who he is becoming - and it is Burton's challenge to share that bewilderment with us.
Well, I'm comforted that I can now stretch the glory days of historical film-making at least to "Becket." Any film in which John Gielgud, Martita Hunt, Felix Aylmer and Pamela Brown are "supporting" - how do I put it, "supporting" performances such as these are most other actors' triumphs. The costumes and sets are sumptous. Finis.
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