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4.2 out of 5 stars54
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 29 November 2003
Dylan Thomas's play/poem makes a surprisingly good film. It's not the kind of thing that could be done anywhere else but Wales and using predominantly Welsh actors. The cast is full of stars (Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O'Toole) and future stars of especially the small screen (most notably David Jason).
To say it is delightful would be misleading, as this deep study of the underbelly of a small fishing village is about a peculiar kind of nationalism that is both celebratory and critical. What makes it such a great experience is how the language grabs you, and you have to listen to every word, so it is intense.
The linking of the text and the imagery is seamless, with the narrator (Burton), seemingly present in the town at the beginning of spring to have carnal knowledge of a former girlfriend, and his companion observing as outsiders and eavesdropping on the town over a twenty-four hour period, dipping into the thoughts, reminiscences and dreams of the townsfolk.
Like the narrator, a retired, blind sea captain (O'Toole) sits at his window, with acute hearing absorbing all the details that escape others with eyes and too busy to notice, divining the motivations of the people around him and living in deep nostalgia for his departed crew and lover, the former town prostitute (Taylor).
So the film is built around a series of vignettes, mostly interchanging between the two, and it flows beautifully, from night to day to night again.
Since Dylan Thomas died in 1953, and this was one of his later works, the world he describes is fifty years old and seems somewhat quaint today. But his rich language on occasions soars with the romance of feeling for the beauty of his nativeland (the vicar's morning address to the town, with nobody listening, is just wonderful), and love of its people.
Nevertheless, in relating the sexual dreams and activities of the town and the world of men and women a touch of gothic intrudes. There are oppositions at play between the open-hearted, sexually generous women and the close-minded wives, the ecstatic Organ Morgan the church organist and his petty wife, "a martyr for music", the mischievious butcher's subversions, numerous attractions and solicitations between adults and the budding sexuality of the young, the unrequited love of Sinbad the barman from the Sailor's Arms, and an unscrupulous postman and his nosey-parker wife.
The portrait Thomas paints of Milk Wood is tainted by his own world-view, resentful of the Church, the lack of ambition and other provincialities. There's an amazing amount of activity in the town, apart from its economy, lots of drinking, fornicating and song, but despite the evidence of bad-blood the community seems to thrive on love and an underlying generosity of heart that allows for the bounty that all life brings.
This may well be Burton's greatest artistic offering in his long career, thanks to the screenplay and direction of Andrew Sinclair.
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on 7 March 2004
This video version of the classic Dylan Thomas play for voices does not do the play complete justice. Richard Burton's first voice is one that will never been outperformed, a first rate performance. A majority of the performers didnt capture the essence needed for this beautiful collection of words. Its worth watching just to get a feel for this play, although live theatre/radio productions capture more of the feelings.
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on 5 September 2012
I have been promising to buy myself this film for many years so it was particularly disappointing that the reality should be so so far adrift of the expectation. Burton's beautifully modulated Welsh voice was still a pleasure as was Peter O'Tool as blind Captain Cat (apart from the seriously disturbing milky white eyes). BUT sound quality was terrible and inevitably seriously detracted from the whole performance. The inclusion of a social misfit second narrator who never spoke was bizarre and was a distraction unrelated to the Dylan Thomas story. It provided padding to a film that struggled to run the allotted time and was visually disjointed. Liz Taylor's brief appearance was presumably to sell more copies; the introduction of a long scene in which the narrators lead a woman who appears to be Burton's girlfriend on a tour of the village before both enjoying the reluctant victim in a local barn again seemed gratuitous sex aimed at compensating the audience for the sparcity of the visual plot. Under Milk Wood is a wonderful play for radio because of the spoken word - this is a film that should not have been made.
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on 15 April 2006
If you find yourself laughing when you view this filmed version of UNDER MILK WOOD then good on ya mate, 'cause that's the response Dylan Thomas was looking for. To be sure, under all the humourous ironies, core qualities of small town Welsh life show through, although the tour group who come to town can't see them from behind their pseudo-sophistication. This is no, "Quick trip Marge", kind of movie. The moving pictures are woven together with poetic imagery and a rich text which will entertain the viewer as much as a Shakespearian play could over a lifetime.the cast displays timeless class. See it. Enjoy it. Savor it.
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on 6 January 2015
It's flawed by some very average Welsh accents which are often a bit Oirish or a bit Scottish (surely there were enough proper Welsh actors around) which means you lose lots of the musicality of the verse (Peter O'Toole's fluting Captain Cat is particularly guilty); it's flawed by the rather too garish colour; it's flawed by the daft and dated and desultory theatricality of its just-post-60s "daring"; it's flawed by the inability of the director to bring it to life visually, except by an overly literal interpretation of the bard's words: cats move over rooftops in the night (we see cats moving over rooftops in the night); we see adamantine horses being etc etc. It's redeemed by moments of mellowed and beautiful images especially at mysterious beginning and end so that you feel a wholly monochrome approach might have sustained the poetry better - been 'truer'. It's redeemed by the moments when Burton gets to roll the verse properly and when Elizabeth Taylor makes you realize Captain Cat's memories of Rosie Probert are heartfelt. In other words, the sad and mournful and contemplative bits work well, the comedic goonish bits remain cinematically unconvincing. But there are the moments of beauty bookending the sometimes tiresome, sometimes less tiresome middle regions.
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on 17 August 2007
If you know the voice-only versions of this play, this is disappointing. The viewer's imagination does it all so much better: I want to imagine Rosie Probert in any way I fancy, not to have an image of Elizabeth Taylor's acting in my head whenever I hear her words.

The film adds quite unnecessary extras to the original, in an attempt to give the text some sort of rational context. When listening to the play we can quite happily accept the narrators (First Voice and Second Voice) as disembodied observers. In the film there are awkward contrivances such as a coachload of sightseers and Burton meeting a girlfriend for a quick bonk in the afternoon to explain the narrators' presence. It's not just that those additions are instrusively out of context, but far worse they waste precious time which could be spent savouring the magnificent words of Dylan Thomas!

Of course, the basics are still there. No amount of sometimes clumsy images will destroy the glory of the original text, or the joy of listening to Burton and many of the other characters. If you love language, don't miss experiencing Under Milkwood in any and every way you can, even this version. But best of all sit back, close your eyes, listen to all the glorious, tumbling, entrancing words of one of the audio versions (both those of Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins are worth owning) and give your imagination free rein.
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on 11 December 2009
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on 30 September 2014
Hi my name is Carole Heath from Wallington Surrey. I am writing a review about under milk wood by Dylan Thomas the famous Welsh bard. I brought this DVD sometime ago from Amazon. I knew who Thomas was but was not really familiar with his work. I first heard some of his poetry some years ago on a TV programme with Anthony Hopkins who was doing a tribute to Laurence Olivier who sadly had just died. Hopkins read one of Thomas's poems do not go gentle into that good night. I thought what a wonderful poem so apt for the subject matter. I think Thomas wrote this poem on the death of his own father.I decided to purchase the DVD of the production with Richard Burton although I found the story quite hard to understand at first I persevered with it and began to understand more Thomas's story such strange people at times but very entertaining I think. I believe that under milk wood was first a radio play for voices and I can understand why. Dylan Thomas as a writer and poet I think was a one off. We keep hearing about his personal life and how he was said to have drunk himself to death at such a young age which was very sad I think as his prowess as a literary person could have reached greater heights. But unfortunately many talented people have been tortured souls perhaps sometimes it just goes with the territory.
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on 27 April 2010
Love the book - sort of like the DVD quite a lot - but I may like it because I love Fishguard which was used as the film set. RB is fantastic ET was less so.
Wonderful portrayal of Capt. Cat worth watching the DVD for that alone - Peter O'toole at his very best.

All in all a somewhat unusual forray into the work of Dylan Thomas - but a bold try all the same. I will watch it again.
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on 12 April 2006
If you enjoyed reading or listening to Dylans play then the film is a must.With an all star cast of Richard Burton,Elizabeth Taylor,Ryan Davies,Victor Spinetti,Ruth Madoc,and a very young looking Sir David Jason as No Good Boyo.I almost forgot Peter Otoole as blind Captain Cat.
All this was filmed in Fishguard West Wales 37yrs ago but it brings Dylans play to life. To really appreciate the meaning of the play you must see this highly entertaining film.
Having read the play seeing the film is a revalation.
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