An Age of Kings: BBC, DVD (2013)
An Age of Kings (1960)
An Age of Kings is BBC Television's compelling production of William Shakespeare s great national pageant of eight History plays.
Running time: 960 minutes
Region: 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe)
Number of Discs: 5
Back in 1960 the series marked a significant television moment when its fifteen live episodes were broadcast fortnightly on Thursday evenings throughout the summer and autumn.
Each play from Richard II to Richard III was allotted two episodes, roughly an hour in length, excepting only Henry VI Part One which was cut back to a single programme.
The episodes were regularly watched by more than three million viewers, but in making An Age of Kings, the BBC was not principally in the hunt for ratings. Rather,this was Britain's public service broadcaster demonstrating to and for the nation its unique strengths and abilities. Even so, An Age of Kings was repeated by the BBC only once, between January and April 1962.
For more than fifty years this television landmark has been entirely unavailable in Britain. Watching it today, although certain allowances need to be made for its 405-line monochrome images, the drama of power politics, betrayals, deceptions and deadly rivalries is as alive as ever. So too is the beauty of some of Shakespeare's greatest poetry and prose. An Age of Kings is distinguished by a rigorous approach to the text, by Michael Hayes frequently inventive direction and by numerous performances of the highest achievement.
Here are Frank Pettingell and Angela Baddeley at a late stage in their successful stage and film careers, alongside Robert Hardy, Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench and Sean Connery, among many others, at the beginning of theirs. An Age of Kings was the first production in Britain, whether in the theatre or on the screen, of all eight Histories as a coherent single story. Its production remains the only occasion when a single company and production team has taken on all of the plays for television. More than five decades after it was first seen, the series is a vivid and vibrant drama, with an unparalleled clarity and immediacy, sense of scale and poetic depth. The Making of An Age of Kings features an interview with Tony Garnett filmed at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith where the series was originally broadcast live. He speaks about his experiences of being involved in such a ground-breaking project and of the technical challenges encountered in producing one of the most ambitious Shakespeare projects ever filmed.
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