Hollow Crown, The: The Wars of the Roses (Blu-ray) (2016)

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Released 8-Mar-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Drama Series Deleted Scenes-x 5
Featurette-Making of The Hollow Crown (28:12)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2016
Running Time 378:53 (Case: 363)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Dominic Cooke
ViaVision Starring Benedict Cumberbatch
Hugh Bonneville
Tom Sturridge
Stanley Townsend
Sophie Okonedo
Adrian Dunbar
Stanley Townsend
Ben Miles
Judi Dench
Jason Watkins
Anton Lesser
Geoffrey Streatfeild
Sam Troughton
Case ?
RPI ? Music Dan Jones

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Hollow Crown is the BBC’s newest adaptations of Shakespeare’s English history plays in chronological (although not the order in which they were written) from Richard II through to Richard III with exceptional production values and impressive cast lists. The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses follows on from The Hollow Crown and consists of Henry VI (Parts I & II – condensed from the three Henry VI plays written by Shakespeare) on one Blu-ray and Richard III on another. All three films are directed by Dominic Cooke, music by Dan Jones and cinematography by Zac Nicholson.

Henry VI Part I (116:19)

     King Henry V has died, leaving his uncle Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, (Hugh Bonneville) as Lord Protector of England and Henry’s infant son, Henry VI. Almost immediately the French had repudiated the treaty with England forced on them by Henry V and hostilities resume. Seventeen years later, a young, weak and pious Henry VI (Tom Sturridge) is on the throne, seeming relying on prayer and kind words to heal the rifts and infighting between the Dukes and Earls of England. Under the white rose of York is Richard Plantagenet (Adrian Dunbar), who as a direct descendant of Richard II believes he has a better right to the throne than the current King and he is supported by the powerful Warwick (Stanley Townsend); the red rose opposition is led by Somerset (Ben Miles) and Suffolk (Jason Watkins) with Exeter (Anton Lesser) and the Bishop of Winchester (Samuel West) also in the mix.

     Henry forces the two sides to reconcile so that he can return to France to reclaim his lands. The English land in France but their initial attempt to capture the city of Rouen fails due to Joan of Arc (Laura Morgan) inspiring the defenders and the failure of Somerset to support the English attack. A second attack succeeds and Joan is captured, to be burnt at the stake. Also inside the city is Margaret of Anjou (Sophie Okonedo) who is captured by Somerset; the attraction between the two is immediate but Somerset resolves to marry Margaret to Henry. Henry agrees, overriding Gloucester’s objections, and Margaret becomes queen but brings no dowry, angering the English lords. Margaret as Queen proves to be very strong-willed, easily dominating her dull and pious husband; she chafes at the control of Gloucester and with Somerset as her lover plots to have Gloucester dismissed and later charged with treason via his wife Eleanor (Sally Hawkins), who Margaret resents. Realising that Henry does not believe that his uncle Gloucester is guilty, Margaret, Somerset, Winchester and Suffolk agree to have him murdered in the tower. When Henry will not take action over the murder York and Warwick break with the King; the Wars of the Roses are about to begin.

     This version of Henry VI Part I is a composite of the first two of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays and deals with England’s loss of her French territories under a weak King Henry and the political machinations between the rival English nobles that will lead to the armed conflict of the Wars of the Roses. The focus of this adaption is primarily on the splits within the English court where Henry VI, not unlike the weak Richard II, did not have the strength of character to control the nobles. Indeed, as the plays make clear, the genesis of the Wars of the Roses was to be found in the reign of Richard II when Henry Bolingbrook deposed Richard and became Henry IV, but his grandson Henry VI has something to contend with that Richard never did; an aggressive, dominating, strong willed queen. Indeed Queen Margaret is the most dominant female character in The Hollow Crown and Sophie Okonedo gives her full voice.

Henry VI Part II (128:14)

     Henry VI Part II covers a huge amount of time, ground and characters with battles, abrupt changes of fortune, switched allegiances, marriages, deaths and alliances, all at a bewildering pace. Part II commences with a battle fought five years after the events that concluded Part I, a battle in which the leading Lancastrians, Somerset and Suffolk, are killed and Warwick and Richard Plantagenet of York are victorious. The victors follow Henry and Margaret to London where Richard intends to claim the throne. To avoid further bloodshed the pious Henry VI proposes a resolution; he will remain King while he lives but will proclaim Richard his heir and Richard’s sons his successors. Richard agrees and a truce is declared, but Queen Margaret will not accept that her young son Edward (called Ned) will be disinherited. She joins with Suffolk’s son Clifford (Kyle Soller) and launches a surprise attack upon Plantagenet’s house; he is captured, mocked by Margaret before being killed and his head is put on a pole. Henry is forced by Margaret to reinstate his own son as his heir but he knows that this will not end the conflict.

    Richard Plantagenet had four sons. The youngest was killed with his father but three adult sons survive; the eldest Edward (Geoffrey Streatfeild), George (Sam Troughton) and the misshapen Richard (Benedict Cumberbatch) who combine with Warwick and attack the Lancastrians. They are successful; Richard kills Clifford and Henry disappears into the wilderness, later to be captured and held in the Tower. Margaret and her son flee to France and Edward is crowned King Edward IV.

    Ten years pass. In an attempt to gain lasting peace with France, Warwick visits King Louis (Andrew Scott) in Paris with the proposal that Edward marry Louis’ sister. Louis agrees but as the pact is about to be settled news arrives from England that Edward has instead married Elizabeth (Keeley Hawes), an English widow. Both Louis and Warwick consider that their honour has been slighted; Warwick pledges allegiance to Queen Margaret and her son Ned (Barney Harris), cementing the alliance by offering his daughter Anne (Phoebe Fox) in marriage to Ned. With French troops they invade England, where they are joined by George, who has deserted his brother. However, before battle is joined, George again changes sides; Warwick and Ned are killed, Margaret captured and Edward confirmed on the throne when Queen Elizabeth gives birth to a son. All seems well in England, except that Edward’s brother Richard discloses in a soliloquy his designs on the throne.

     Henry VI Part II is very episodic but is held together by three strong performances. Sophie Okonedo carries over her warrior queen from Part I and is the strength of the Lancastrian cause. Tom Sturridge is the most un-warrior like Henry VI, a pious and saintly man who was born a king but who would have been happier in a monastery; the sequence where he witnesses the result of a divided kingdom in which sons and fathers are on different sides and kill each other is truly tragic. But of course hovering over the events is Richard of Gloucester; in the hands of a stunning Benedict Cumberbatch he is a man who does not lack courage on the battlefield and a man who knows what he is, and what he desires.

Richard III (134:20)

     King Edward IV has ruled for ten years; England is at peace and Edward and Queen Elizabeth have two young sons, seemingly cementing the succession. But Richard of Gloucester, the king’s misshapen brother, has been hatching conspiracies. He first manages to charm and marry Anne, daughter of Warwick and widow of Ned, both of whom Richard had killed. His first new victim is his brother George, consigned to the Tower and there murdered on Richard’s orders. Shortly after Edward IV dies, leaving Richard as Lord Protector of England and the two young Princes. Richard moves quickly; the brother and adult son of Queen Elizabeth by her first marriage are arrested and executed and the two Princes moved to the Tower. With the help of Buckingham (Ben Daniels) and Stanley (Jo Stone-Fewings) Richard has the two Princes declared b******s, and subsequently killed, and Richard becomes King Richard III.

     However, Richard’s evil continues to flourish and his wife Anne is poisoned on his orders. The last Lancastrian claimant to the throne, Henry of Richmond (Luke Treadaway), invades England with French support. Richard goes back on his promise to grant lands to Buckingham, who deserts Richard and goes to Henry. Richard gathers his army and on the way to battle is cursed by Queen Elizabeth, Queen Margaret and his own mother, Cecily, Duchess of York (Judi Dench). On the night before the Battle of Bosworth Field Richard has nightmares and is visited by all those he has had murdered; during the battle Stanley and his men desert Richard; he loses and is killed by Richmond. Richmond is crowned Henry VII and takes Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth as Queen, thus combining the houses of York and Lancaster and ending the Wars of the Roses.

     While these English history plays by Shakespeare all take the name of a King as their title, King Henry IV and King Henry VI are really bit players in their own plays with others, such as Prince Hal or Queen Margaret, being more prominent. That is not the case with Richard III where Richard is centre stage and drives the action. Although historians now can show that Richard III was not an evil monster and not badly deformed, as the finding of his remains showed, his portrayal by Shakespeare, writing during the reign of Elizabeth I, Henry of Richmond’s granddaughter, as a humpbacked man of pure evil, reviled and cursed by everyone including his mother, is an actor’s delight and Benedict Cumberbatch revels in the character. He is superb, delivering malevolent soliloquies directly to the camera so that we always know his mind and intentions for the throne, his family and his wife. In Cumberbatch’s mouth, well known speeches such as the “winter of discontent” are powerful and memorable Shakespeare, his acting a fitting climax to this magnificent series of adaptations.

     While the plays / films in the first season of The Hollow Crown juxtaposed the lofty, drafty palaces of the nobility with the dirty streets and taverns of the East London of the masses, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses remains focussed on the machinations of the nobility and lords and these are much more serious films, with little or no comic relief. There is however mud, blood, shifting alliances and death, a towering performance by Benedict Cumberbatch and the power and beauty of Shakespeare’s language.

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Transfer Quality


     The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The colour palate throughout the films is generally drab, as befits the English “winter of discontent” and becomes even darker during most of Richard III, corresponding to his black heart. Many scenes also take place in tall, cavernous palaces or churches with grey stone prominent, in forests or muddy fields. Costumes are also predominately dark, with browns and greys, the steel grey of armour, mud and blood, but there are occasional splashes of colour, such as Elizabeth’s green gown when she first meets Edward IV, that stand out. Skin tones are fine, blacks were deep, shadow detail good and contrast and brightness consistent.

     I did not notice marks or artefacts.

     For this second series, English subtitles for the Hearing Impaired are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     For this season the audio changes to English DTS-HD MA 5.1.

     The dialogue of Shakespeare is clear and centred. The surrounds are used for ambient sound; rain and thunder, horses’ hooves, battle cries, the clash of steel, plus music. The sub-woofer added appropriate bass to the battles, charging horses and the thunder.

     The scores, all by Dan Jones, are appropriately epic, adding support to the visuals.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues except for one brief one involving Phoebe Fox towards the end of Richard III.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Disc 1

Deleted Scenes

Disc 2

Deleted Scenes (2:19) (14:06)

     Two deleted scenes: Richmond receives a message and rallies the troops / Richard sets up camp before the battle.

Making of The Hollow Crown (28:12)

     A fairly superficial “making of” covering the three films in this cycle with footage from the films, on set footage and lots of talking heads. Items covered include adapting Shakespeare for a modern audience, the language, locations, casting Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard’s hump, mannerisms and costumes, the various colour schemes, the fights and the input of stage director Dominic Cooke. Comments are by the director Dominic Cooke, the adaptor / writer Ben Power, the producers, the make-up, set and production designers, armourer, stunt co-ordinator and horse master plus thirteen cast members including Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Sturridge, Sophie Okonedo, Paterson Joseph, Hugh Bonneville and Judy Dench.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    All versions of The Hollow Crown: Wars of the Roses are the same.


     The Hollow Crown is a magnificent achievement, with this second season being even more compelling than the first culminating in the powerful Richard III with the tour-de-force performance by Benedict Cumberbatch, although Hugh Bonneville, Tom Sturridge and Sophie Okonedo are all excellent. All the adaptations look expensive with fantastic sets and costumes and Shakespeare’s dialogue is beautifully spoken bringing out the power of the English language.

     The video and audio are very good. The extras are fairly minor.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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