Henry VIII - Press Archive - Henry: portrait of a serial killer
13 Oct 2003
Henry: portrait of a serial killer
Ray Winstone played Henry VIII (ITV1, Sunday) like an East End gangster.
Something about his voice was disturbingly familiar. The flatness, the way
words were hammered home like nails. Of course, Alfred Hitchcock. Both
Winstone and Hitchcock are true East Enders, from Plaistow and Leytonstone.
Professor Higgins would have spotted it sooner.
Henry was, naturally, an England supporter. He had three lions on his shirt
and celebrated a winning joust with a triumphant bellow: "Yessss!" The effect
was like a bull in a china shop. Delicate figurines such as Helena Bonham
Carter ("Report fer duty in the Queen's arseold tomorrer") shattered around
him. Childlike, beefy and brutal, you would be looking at Winstone for some
time before you were reminded of a polished Renaissance prince. He seemed
like something that had swaggered in from the street. For all that, he radiated
reality and ferocity and was the one thing on screen you couldn't take your
eyes off. The interesting thing would have been to treat the whole production
as a 16th-century Sopranos. That is not what we got.
This was an American co-production and it showed. Captions spelled it out
for the confused "Henry followed his father's wish and married the Spanish
princess, Katherine of Aragon. After 15 years on the throne, Henry is one of
the most popular kings in history but..."
"Get on with it, man!" as bluff King George V was apt to shout when films
got to the kissy bit.
Henry frequently told us who he was: "I can do anything I want, I'm the
King of England" ... "I am the King of England, I can have what I want." And,
if he forgot, Wolsey was always there to remind him: "You are the King of
A smallish mob of malcontents hung around shouting "Boo!", "Yah!" and,
enterprisingly, "Shame on you!" at public executions. I was particularly pleased,
when the papal legate swept in saying, "I have just received a letter from my
master His Holiness the Pope", to hear one of the rhubarbers cry "Oh no!"
As for the sodomy scene, we were literally bumping along the bottom there.
When you remember the kind of film Granada used to make, you could weep.
I thought it might cheer you up to know that one of the costume assistants
was called Candy Arbuckle.
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