King Henry II may have cause to regret his decision to appoint his old boozing buddy to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury against all official advice.
It’s been over forty years since this adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s stirring play bagged Edward Anhalt a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, and he’d win it today, despite less classical leanings. When the brittle, carousing Henry II (Peter O’Toole) becomes desperate to secure the support of the Church, he appoints his friend Thomas Becket (Richard Burton) as Archbishop of Canterbury. Which is fine — until his former drinking/wenching companion starts taking his role seriously, recanting his ways and paying his penance the traditional way: by wearing a coarse sack against his skin at all times; the incandescent King swiftly loses his friend to God. The subject matter is compelling, but the main joy of this recently restored treasure is the verbal duelling of two of our finest actors in their prime.
Compelling story and dialogue but it's the two male leads that steal the show.