Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Criterion on FilmStruck: The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) - Directed by Alexander Korda; Written by Lajos Biro, Arthur Wimperis; Starring Charles Laughton, Robert Donat, Franklin Dyall.

By Kenny Howell

The first British film to gain commercial success in the United States, this is Korda's somewhat comedic examination of the boisterous king.

We enter Henry VIII's life right as he is about to have Anne Boleyn executed. He already has his next marriage to Jane Seymour lined up, and is just waiting for Boleyn's head to fall to go ahead with the ceremony.

From there, we go through Henry VIII's life til his later years when his health started to fail because of weight issues.


Korda tries to create a balanced dramatic and comedic tone, with great actor Charles Laughton (The Night of the Hunter) taking over the screen. It only moderately succeeds, but in that it makes for an unique overall feeling that keeps you hooked in its own weird way. Like the balance of Henry bouncing around the castle childishly excited for his next wedding, while his wife is about to lose her head. He is oblivious to the horrible incidents going on outside. It's odd, but compelling, which is an achievement in its own right.

The Private Life of Henry VIII is now streaming on FilmStruck as a part of the Criterion Collection.

Rating: ***

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