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Fred Zinnemann
Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, Robert Shaw, Orson Welles, Susannah York, Nigel Davenport, John Hurt
Writing Credits:
Robert Bolt (and play)

... a motion picture for all times!

Adaptation of Robert Bolt's play about Sir Thomas More, a Catholic statesman in England who rebelled against Henry VIII's self-proclaimed status as the head of the Church of England and paid for his religious beliefs by having his head exhibited on London Bridge.

Box Office:
$2 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Monaural

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 2/2/1999

• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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A Man For All Seasons (1966)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 8, 2007)

Poor Henry the Eighth - he had a rough time in the Sixties. First Herman's Hermits released that atrocious song, "I'm Henry VIII, I Am". Technically, it wasn't about the monarch - it played on his name by association with some dork who was the eighth guy named Henry (or "Enery", as Peter Noone called him) to marry the same woman.

If that blight on popular music weren't enough, we then find 1966's A Man For All Seasons, a film that involved Henry's kingdom. Unlike the song, the man himself plays an important role in the picture, though the story concerns the conscience of Sir Thomas More, a one-time chancellor of England who falls far and fast due to his refusal to neglect his beliefs to serve political means.

This is the kind of tale that could make for an epic saga, but Seasons is not the film to offer a grand, dramatic telling. In fact, this movie seems almost unbelievably dull considering the subject matter. How could such high drama become so bland and listless?

Seasons was adapted by Robert Bolt from his own play. Therein lies some of the answer to my question. By necessity, stagework tends to be much more driven by dialogue and less visceral than are films, for obvious reasons. Different scenarios and settings can be displayed much more realistic and literally in a movie, whereas plays have to suggest these things in more subtle ways. This means lots of talk, as dialogue is the most logical way to advance the story on a stage.

And that's why so many screen adaptations of plays seem so dull. Not enough liberty is taken with the original material to truly modify it for film. Such is the case with Seasons; the subject matter seems rendered impotent by the dry treatment. Although the movie does go outdoors, most of the "action" limits itself to some interior sets, and almost nothing happens that isn't spoken. Most things are told to us, not shown.

Some may accuse my bias against dialogue-laden films as being anti-intellectual or whatnot, but I disagree. I'm not saying that every movie has to be as visual as Armageddon or some other project that could never exist on a stage. I simply don't see the point of adapting films from plays if the advantages of the medium will not be used.

Seasons definitely does not do anything that makes it interesting as a film, and the whole piece appears flat and drab. This is the kind of movie that makes people avoid historical dramas. Plenty of pictures have dealt with similar subjects well and have made them visually compelling; Elizabeth provided an excellent example of that category. None of that movie's flair or drama appear in Seasons, however, as it seems so bound to the printed page that any possible life is driven out of it.

As with another play adapted into a movie – Driving Miss Daisy - I can't find any real faults with the technical aspects of the film other than its inherent stiffness. Otherwise, the piece was well-crafted. The plot moves slowly but keeps on an acceptable pace, and most of the performances are adequate. I don't think Paul Scofield deserved an Oscar for his portrayal of More, but he provides decent work in the role and certainly isn't the reason for the movie's problems.

Ironically, the only "large" performance in Seasons is actually its worst. Robert Shaw plays Henry VIII and does so in an absurdly bold manner. I generally like Shaw's work. He provided terrific acting in Jaws and Force 10 From Navarone, but he simply tries too hard here. He makes Henry a silly caricature and a buffoon. He provides a laugh or two but renders the character too goofy for us to take seriously, something that negatively affects the story.

I can't say I really disliked A Man For All Seasons, if just because it taught me a little about a subject that is largely unknown to me. However, it proceeds in such a bland and stiff manner that I could muster no affection or excitement for it. It stands as a perfect representation of the dull, serious dramas that have often won Best Picture Academy Awards, and that's not meant as a compliment.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C/ Bonus D-

A Man for All Season appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer seemed better than adequate but less than stellar.

Some mild to moderate edge enhancement created a few problems related to sharpness. At times the movie boasted terrific delineation and could look great. However, more frequent were the instances when it seemed a bit soft and ill-defined. The flick never appeared particularly weak, but I thought it seemed just a little “off” during more than a few shots. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws remained minor. Occasional specks and marks cropped up but these didn’t create many distractions. The movie could be somewhat grainy, though.

Colors tended to look somewhat bland. Some of this resulted from production design; after all, Seasons wasn’t a film with a subject or setting that demanded vivid hues. Even when I considered that, though, I thought the tones tended to be a bit lackluster. They weren’t weak, but they weren’t memorable either. Blacks were fine, as they seemed appropriately dense, and shadows looked reasonably clear. A few shots appeared slightly dark, but those were exceptions to the rule. This was a serviceable transfer but one with too many issues to merit anything above a “B-“.

The film's monaural sound seemed acceptable given the flick’s age and ambitions. Seasons offered a tremendously subdued movie in regard to its audio. We heard little other than dialogue. Speech seemed clear and intelligible, though it occasionally betrayed a little edginess during Shaw's bellowing. I thought the lines were a bit stiff as well; they stayed distinctive but lacked natural qualities.

Music appeared infrequently but seemed adequately crisp and bright when it did. Effects were very mellow as well, and they sounded clear and acceptably realistic. Since it's a chatty movie, the speech was the most important aspect of this soundtrack. This left Seasons with a “C” since it reproduced the dialogue in a mediocre way.

Less positive are the negligible supplemental features on this DVD. We find the movie's trailer, and not even the original one. This preview came in support of a reissue of the film offered to capitalize on its Academy Award victories. <> Unfortunately, it's only the status of A Man For All Seasons accorded it as a Best Picture winner that makes me regret its paucity of goodies, as the movie itself is a long-winded bore. This is the kind of film that gives historical pictures a bad name. The DVD itself provides decent picture and sound in addition to the nearly non-existent extras. A Man For All Seasons warrants a look only by completists who want to see all the Oscar winning films from over the years; everyone else should give this yawner a pass.

To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

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