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Macbeth [DVD]

Orson Welles , Jeanette Nolan , Orson Welles    Parental Guidance   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: 6.70 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Orson Welles, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O'Herlihy, Roddy McDowall, Edgar Barrier
  • Directors: Orson Welles
  • Writers: Orson Welles, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Orson Welles, Charles K. Feldman, Richard Wilson
  • Format: Full Screen, PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Second Sight
  • DVD Release Date: 17 July 2000
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004U400
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,778 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Orson Welles' Macbeth is an expressionist masterpiece about a doomed man of ordinary ambition who believes an evil prophecy that he will become King. The shortest of Shakespeare's tragedies, Welles long considered Macbeth to be the most filmable of the Bard's work. Produced on a slim budget over a mere 32 days, the results are consistently impressive. As depicted by Welles, the title character is not a warrior king or conscience-stricken, poetic soul on a par with Hamlet; rather, he is revealed to be a facile, superstitious man consigned to fate even as the character does not trust to fate. For her part, Lady Macbeth (Jeanette Nolan) is merely obsessed with the unimpeded exercise of her will to power, viewing her husband's life as a tale told by an idiot (she is particularly effective during the "out, damned spot" scene from Act V). Welles has also created some new scenes here, conflating several characters into a "Holy Father" (Alan Napier) while eliciting strong supporting turns from actors such as Dan O'Herlihy (Macduff) and Roddy McDowall (Malcolm). All of this unfolds within a highly disordered state in which nature itself is on the rant ("Fair is foul and foul is fair"). Though the technically poor soundtrack and the occasional indecipherable Scottish brogue make the film seem a trifle compromised at times, each moment feels preternaturally alive. There is an almost Brechtian quality here, with Welles giving us splendid pieces then leaving it to us to fit them into a theatrically coherent puzzle. Refusing to believe that Birnham Wood could ever travel to Dunsinane, Macbeth is finally exposed as a man of insufficient character. As such, some might suggest that this Macbeth is more accurately described as the story of how Malcolm became King. --Kevin Mulhall

Product Description

This fully restored Macbeth is the original version produced and directed by Orson Wells. In a bid commercially, the studio later trimmed the film by twenty minutes and redubbed the Scottish accents employed by Welles and his cast. This tampering with his work would come as no surprise to a director growing disillusioned with a Hollywood that tampered with all his films after Citizen Kane. Wells shot the film in just 21 days in the summer of 1947, at the small 'B' movie studio Republic. Here he believed was the perfect environment in which to undertake his first Shakespearean project for the screen. The result was powerful, intense and distinctively Welles. From the ominous encounter with the witches to the fateful marching of Birnam wood to Dunsinane, Welles the director captured the very essence of this, Shakespeare's darkest play. With typically expressive use of camera, lighting and sets bordering on the surreal, he conjured up a claustrophobic world, where Welles the actor portrayed an increasingly deranged Macbeth. One of Well's filmmaking experiments in Macbeth was a ten minute take, subsequently edited when Republic shortened the film for general release. In 1980, a film archivist in America discovered half the reels of the original version on a high grade stock, among which was this 'one take' reel. After sourcing the missing footage from elsewhere, he was able to create a high quality, restored version of Macbeth, as Welles has intended it to be seen. In this complete form, it remains one of the most powerful and atmospheric of the many screen adaptations of Shakespeare.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Orson 24 Jan 2003
Prior to this 1948 film adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth", Orson Welles had already tackled the play twice: A theater production, the so-called "Voodoo Macbeth" (set in Tahiti with an all black cast!) and a recorded production with the Mercury Theatre on the Air (though the recording was never broadcast). So it is fair to say that Welles knew this play better than most, and it shows in this film, his ultimate version of the play. Welles' vision of "Macbeth" is very, very dark and introspective. Visually stunning, every frame is foreboding and sinister (especially the images with the three witches - a genuinely creepy visualization) , heavily inspired by the German expressionist directors such as Murnau and Lang. The nightmarish images add greatly to the play, and I think Welles managed to bring forth the central emotions that Shakespeare was trying to convey.
Welles delivers one of the finest performances of his career. I've never quite been able to determine whether his acting abilities were equal to his genius as a director, but they come pretty close. Welles had perhaps the most expressive voice in all of Hollywood, and it is perfectly suited to the Bard's work. Every soliloquy is magnificently delivered, despite the bit too frequent use of voice-over (I prefer the actors to actually speak the lines). The rest of the cast is good, but nothing remarkable. Welles as Macbeth is really the star of the show, at least for me.
The only real downside to the production is a very mediocre score by Jaques Ibert. I cannot help but think how much more engrossing the film could have been with an effective score - too bad Bernard Herrmann wasn't available! But other than the music and a somewhat battered soundtrack, this film is simply superb.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Braceless butcher complements 16 Nov 2005
If you are using this for educational purposes, be aware the text is hacked about quite a bit. If your budget doesn't extend beyond one DVD and you want as full a text as possible, then the BBC Shakespeare version may suit you better, despite Nicol Williamson's overblown performance.

But this DVD is a wonderful complement to other ostensibly more faithful productions because it really has been conceived as a movie, not a glorified record of a stage presentation (which the BBC version feels like, and which the Judi Dench/Ian McKellen RSC one palpably is). The liberties Welles takes with the text make sense because the visuals are doing the work of much of the language so why duplicate the effort? (And this more usual belt-and-braces approach, incidentally, helps to explain why most full-text Shakespeare films never quite come off.)

That said, it does show its B movie budget roots - the biscuit tin crown isn't overly impressive and the accents are dodgy - but there is a real sense of darkness which feels more faithful to the spirit of the original than most other film or TV versions. Welles as Lear - now there would have been a thing ...

Postscript Jan 2011: Re Welles as Lear, you can now buy a Region 1 DVD of Peter Brook's 1953 cut down version of the play, cutting the Gloucester subplot, for US TV's Omnibus series - a restored version from a kinescope copy, the quality is perfectly acceptable, and it comes with related extras from the series. The company is Koch vision. I cannot speak for the quality of other DVD issues.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece with a cracked face 8 Mar 2006
Welles lost Agnes Moorehead (he owed her money), had a very tight budget, had his soundtrack scrapped when the US studio objected to the brogues, in other words this was a typical Welles production post RKO. All the same, he gets at the dark heart of the play and the character by flashes of crude dark shadows and brilliant moments that are seldom touched in any production. His relatively crude face and heavy voice are actually well suited to MacBeth. The witches and magic, played for real, ground the film in the mud, which is where it belongs. Those who can only appreciate the more ethereal style of Shakespeare will be disappointed. This is the blood and guts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE macbeth 28 Oct 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
the sets are surreal, absolutely perfect, welles gets to grips fully with shakes masterpeice, to me this is easily welles greatest acting, to me no other macbeth film comes even close, probably the one with john finch is a reasonable apprentice. the horror and evil are given full reign,some of the greatest ever moments of film,the camerawork is a work of art in itself,. i cannot understand some reveiwers moaning about the restoration it seems perfect. i have almost worn out my copy i have watched it so many times
casio Mcsmith
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Restored (ish) 1 Oct 2003
I got this for my wife who is taking GSCE English (she's Romanian so doesn't have such a qualification).
Firstly it says its restored, well if it is its not a good job. The sound in places is still muffled or silent and there are still pops and bubbles on the B/W film.
HOWEVER the film itself is excellent and Orson Welles (looking remarkably like Darren Clarke the golfer) plays and directs the film in a very traditional manner and anyone who enjoys Shakespear will enjoy this. The feigned Scottish accents on occassion get to your nerves, and apart from the unrestoredness of the "restored" film, it is a classic, much like a classic novel.
Don't expect light entertainment or a Brannaghesque Film. Expect a bigger Stage Play and thats what you get.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars although dated and the quality of the image is poor, but well worth a...
Astonishing - even the accents do not grate. A real masterpiece, although dated and the quality of the image is poor, but well worth a look.
Published 20 days ago by Marcus clayson
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable.
Orson Welles is excellent in this. It is a film and not a stage play and is quite a good rendition of Shakespeare's original play. Read more
Published 7 months ago by C. E. Francis
5.0 out of 5 stars the laurence olivier of the American acting profession
I really enjoyed this DVD. One thing I would have liked is subtitles the Chimes at midnight DVD did have those but none the less the Macbeth with Orson Welles was brilliant acting... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mr. J. A. Heath
5.0 out of 5 stars historical classic
considering the era and technology available this was certainly a great presentation of what is probably Shakespeare best known masterpiece. Read more
Published 15 months ago by John Hetherington
4.0 out of 5 stars All's Well That Ends Welles.
Unfortunately that was the studio attitude toward Welles' career in Hollywood and pretty much how it went after this fascinating but ill-fated production. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Chip Kaufmann
5.0 out of 5 stars SSSSHHHHH
Published on 2 Sep 2011 by A. Hussain
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much trilling
An astonishing obsession with an attempt to mimic a scottish accent spells disaster for any english native for this incarnation of the play. Read more
Published on 24 Oct 2010 by ndb_master
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Film... Not so great DVD.
If this movie is restored then I'm Santa Claus. The print is quite rough so I have no clue how they can claim it's restored unless it was restored by a blind person. Read more
Published on 13 Nov 2006 by Orson99
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