Appellate Judge James A. Stewart likes gratuitous shots of old radios.
"The Duke used the word 'Hell' to describe how he felt when he gave a speech."
The recent movie The King's Speech emphasized a couple of key moments in the struggles of King George VI, his coronation after his brother's abdication and the speech he gave at the start of war with Germany.
However, King George VI's battle with stuttering and hesitation during public speeches was a lifelong problem. It was in 1926 that Bertie first encountered Lionel Logue, the actor and veteran who helped him in the war on words. The King Speaks, a documentary originally broadcast as The Real King's Speech on Britain's Channel 4, takes a look at the long haul, from his first public speech to the end of World War II.
The King Speaks has two things going for it. The first is plenty of newsreel footage of King George VI speaking, so you can see all those hesitations for yourself and understand his problem. The second is interviews with other Logue patients, which provide insight into Logue's therapy techniques and, since they're not doing too badly, shows Logue's effectiveness.
One of the best parts combines the documentary's twin advantages, letting the former Logue patients see the raw footage of a 1938 speech for the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow that was edited for a newsreel. Even though it's years later, they're watching as if the speech were on Sky News this afternoon, visibly fretting for King George VI and even giving him speaking advice.
Between narration and comments from biographers including The King's Speech co-author Peter Conradi, the facts of King George VI's life are present; historical context is inserted skillfully and subtly through newsreel footage from the '30s and '40s. You also get lots of shots of vintage radios, which aren't particularly helpful with the history but are interesting.
Picture quality is variable, since the newsreel footage, especially the raw stuff, has deteriorated. The new interviews look good. A timeline or other extras would have been helpful, but this DVD only has the documentary with no extras.
If you watched The King's Speech and were left wanting to know more, The King Speaks fills in the blanks well. Since the price is nearly twenty bucks, Netflix would be a good choice for those only casually interested in King George VI's story, but it's worth a look.
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