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The Lion in Winter


dir: Anthony Harvey

script by: James Goldman (from his play)

with: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Terry, John Castle

Let's get the negatives out of the way first: Any physical resemblance to the twelfth century is mostly coincidental. Cleavage, lurex, fantasy armor, egregious studs and lacings ... a topiary Christmas tree ... royal apartments with unplastered, unpainted walls ... furniture from multiple centuries (or none)... castles sadly decayed from their twelfth-century condition ... paper ... fresh grapes in December ... and as one of our viewers commented, "a royal court in Viking squalor."

We were a little depressed by the visuals when we started our screening, but after a while we realized that we could wear ourselves out listing the defects. Once resolved to ignore all that, we remembered why we love this movie so much!

The reasons to watch are the meaty, pungent script, and the over-the-top performances that deliver it with relish, wit, and total abandonment to the psychodrama.

Even those who hadn't seen the movie in a while could quote big swatches of dialogue. How can you help but love a movie like this:

Eleanor: I made Louis take me on Crusade. I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn... but the troops were dazzled.

Geoffrey [to Eleanor]: I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it. We're a knowledgeable family.

Eleanor: Well... what family doesn't have its ups and downs?

Henry: Your oaths are all profanities. Your word's a curse. Your name on paper's a waste of pulp... I'm vilifying you, for God's sake -- pay attention!

Eleanor: In a world where carpenters are resurrected, anything is possible.

John: Poor John. Who says poor John? Don't everybody sob at once! My God, if I went up in flames there's not a living soul who'd pee on me to put the fire out!
Richard: Let's strike a flint and see.

Eleanor: What would you have me do? Give out? Give up? Give in?
Henry: Give me a little peace.
Eleanor: A little? Why so modest? How about eternal peace? Now there's a thought.

Eleanor [to jewelry]: I'd hang you from the nipples, but you'd shock the children.

Henry: The day those stout hearts band together is the day that pigs get wings.
Eleanor: There'll be pork in the treetops come morning.

Eleanor: I could peel you like a pear and God himself would call it justice!

Eleanor: What would you have me do? Give out? give in? give up?
Henry II: Give me a little peace.
Eleanor: A little? Why so modest? How about eternal peace? There's a thought...

Richard: If you're a prince, there's hope for every ape in Africa.

Eleanor: Hush dear, Mummy's fighting.

And of course ...

John: He's got a knife!
Eleanor: Of course he's got a knife. You've got a knife. I've got a knife. We've all got knives. It's 1183 and we're barbarians.