On the brink of Civil War, King Henry IV (John Gielgud) attempts to consolidate his reign while fretting with unease over his son s seeming neglect of his royal duties. Hal (Keith Baxter), the young Prince, openly consorts with Sir John Falstaff (Orson Welles) and his company. Hal’s friendship with the knight substitutes for his estrangement from his father. Both Falstaff and the King are old and tired; both rely on Hal for comfort in their final years, while the young Prince, the future Henry V, nurtures his own ambitions.
Welles gives a mesmerising performance as Falstaff, in a role that he was born to play, and stars alongside a fantastic cast including John Gielgud, Keith Baxter, Jeanne Moreau, Fernando Rey, Margaret Rutherfordand Ralph Richardson as the narrator. The film’s harrowing war scenes have proven especially influential, cited in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.
Certificate: PG Comedy | Drama | History
Dir. Orson Welles, France/Spain/Switzerland, 1965, 115 mins, BW
Cast: Orson Welles, John Geilgud, Jeanne Moreau, Margartet Rutherford