The Hollow Crown: The Complete Series
Currently Airing

The Hollow Crown can currently be seen on PBS' Great Performances.

William Shakespeare's Henriad trilogy of plays recently adapted into television films in the UK now make their way stateside for an anticipated release.  The Hollow Crown: The Complete Series collects some of civilization’s most treasured historical stories and pairs them with a dizzying array of enormously talented British actors - most of whom have a plethora of Shakespeare stage experience.
The first film Richard II tells the tale of King Richard (Ben Whishaw, Skyfall) whose reign is becoming increasingly unpopular due to his extreme vanity and lack of regard for his people.  When a dispute breaks out between the King's cousin Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear, Skyfall) and Thomas Mowbray (James Purefoy, The Following), Richard II dooms his own rule by banishing both men.  David Suchet (Agatha Christie's Poirot), David Morrissey (The Walking Dead), and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) all provide supporting roles.

Henry IV, told in two parts, follows the reign of King Henry (Jeremy Irons, The Lion King) as he deals with both an uprising from Harry Hotspur (Joe Armstrong, Robin Hood) and the behavior of his carefree son Hal (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers).  Later, Hal matures as he begins his ascension to the throne.  Legendary stage actor Simon Russell Beale also appears as Sir John Falstaff.

With Prince Hal now transformed into Henry V, the last film continues his journey.  Shortly into his rule, the King faces a challenge from the French and answers with complete force.  The supporting cast includes John Hurt (The Elephant Man) and Lambert Wilson (The Matrix Reloaded).
As you might imagine given the abundance of talent involved, The Hollow Crown may just be one of the greatest adaptations of Shakespeare's works.  All of the directors and the majority of the actors have prior stage experience and their familiarity with the Henriad shows.  The films are magnificent in both tone and atmosphere, but Richard II earns special recognition for an amazing performance by Ben Whishaw.  As revealed in the special features, Whishaw used both Jesus and Michael Jackson as inspiration for his role.  Equally as amazing is Beale's performance as Falstaff in both Henry IV films.  Falstaff's eventual heartbreak at the loss of his friend can be felt painfully by the audience even though Falstaff is no saint himself.
The only bonus features included are short "making of" videos on each individual film.  Obviously this comes as a little bit of a disappointment, but most of the major actors do participate. For Shakespeare fans and folks who love any of the cast involved, The Hollow Crown is a must-own.  Highly Recommended.

Cody Endres
Review by Cody Endres
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