136 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on 7 April 2006
Those of us who have been maddened by poor prints of this film can rejoice in this nicely restored edition. The picture quality is good (suitably dark Technicolor), the format is slightly wide screen (VistaVision), and the sound is clear.
Shakespeare's Richard 111 may not be historically accurate, but dramatically it is spot on! Olivier fielded a wonderful team of supporting players for this: Cedric Hardwicke, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Claire Bloom and so on. Even the smallest roles were well played.
The film has been a personal favourite for half a century. I think it's wonderful and I'll fight any man who says it isn't.
On the bonus disc is a 1980s television production, lasting three and a half hours, in which a mock trial of Richard was staged - a jury was asked to decide whether he really had been responsible for the murder of two young princes in the tower (an incident in the play/film).
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Richard the Third has always been one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and Laurence Olivier's magnificent film has always been one of my favourite interpretations.
The film is a thrilling look at the Machiavellian machinations of England's most reviled King. Olivier, in the central role, presents us with an entertaining villain, almost in the pantomime tradition, chewing up any scenery that comes to hand. He remains quite charming however, and you soon get swept along with his evil schemes and at times are almost rooting for him. It's a masterly performance, never descending into absurdity, as so many actors make the mistake of doing.
There are great performances form a host of famous actors, including Gielgud as the tragic Clarence and Ralph Richardson as Richard's co-conspirator Buckingham. Special plaudits go to Clare Bloom as the doomed Anne, who manages to portray both revulsion and pity for Richard as he woos her, in a subtle performance that is not overwhelmed by Olivier's frenzied acting in those scenes.
Olivier also adapted the text and directed the film, both of which he has managed exceptionally well. The text has been very much slimmed down, a few scenes added from Henry VI pt 3, and the order of several scenes rearranged. Purists may be shocked at this treatment of the Bard's sacred texts, but personally I think it makes the narrative flow much better, and allows the play to be seen in isolation from Henry VI, which sets much of the scene for Richard III. The direction is very nicely done, with imaginative use of shadows. Most of the underhanded dealing is shown as shadows on walls, and not explicitly presented on screen. And there is the classic shot where Richard kicks open the door to Anne's chamber and his shadow falls across her, from which time on she is doomed. It's reminiscent of F.W. Murneau's direction on Nosferatu at times. The film is rather stage bound at first, but culminates in a beautifully shot battle of Bosworth, filmed on location. Olivier really excels here, both acting and directing. His final scene is one of the best cinema deaths filmed!
The film has been released many times before, usually with pretty poor prints that have never done the film justice. Network, who have a well deserved reputation for remastering and restoring have done a magnificent job with this release. For the first time the magnificent technicolour really shines through, all the horrible scratches and jumps in the film have been removed, the sound cleaned up and the film restored to its proper 1.66:1 aspect ratio. There are also a few scenes in the battle of Bosworth that I'm sure I haven't seen on previous releases. Having made do with a third rate release for many years, I was delighted at the quality of this presentation, which finally does the film justice. Well done Network, keep up the good work.
The only extra is a special 4 hour `trial' of Richard III in a modern court, this is a fascinating re-appraisal of the man and his deeds, stripping away much of Shakespeare's rather unsubtle propaganda. It's worth getting the set for this alone; it really is the icing on the cake.
In summary, this is a highly accessible version of Shakespeare's greatest play, which does what Shakespeare intended - entertains the audience. A good place for getting novices interested in the Bard. Finally, this is the definitive release of the film, and it's worth spending those few extra pounds to get this rather than a budget release. Get it, you won't be disappointed!
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2007
This has been on my `To-Get' list for a long long time, but I've never been happy with the offerings to date. That all changed when I picked up this gem - an excellent package and fully deserving the five stars I've awarded it. The bonus `Trial' documentary is invaluable as it's been years since I've seen that aired on TV. It's a definite must-have - so much so, that I bought a second copy for my father! Well-recommended.
66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
Finally, it is good to see this film get the special edition DVD treatment it deserves. Top quality for a top film. I first saw this when I was 15 and struggling with Shakspeare alot. Finally I understood due to the performances in this film. This for me is Oliviers Magnum Opus. Even more so than Henry V. The greatest performance from arguably the greatest acting talent this fair isle has ever produced. The set's are a bit crude yes and look very early cinema rather than 1950's but if you've seen Shakespeare on the stage you will know that is par for the course. The point is the acting. Because when a great actor is giving a great performance, as everyone does here not just Olivier, all else is mere cosmetics. Buy it, watch it and be mesmerised by the greatest performance you are ever likely to see. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The perfect gift for all movie buffs is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
Laurence Olivier, produces and directs Shakespeare's tale set in 15th Century England about the tragic account of King Richard III, a man doomed to the treachery of his own deadly ambitions of power.
Filmed as a spectacle and with a very ambitious scope which accentuates during the final act that takes place at the battle scene of Bosworth Fields, excellently acted by the entire ensemble with all of the most relevant plot's intricacies almost perfectly summarized into celluloid, and with a shockingly accurate performance by Olivier himself.
Richard III consolidates it's position as one of the most important literature pieces in the film world, which theatrical staging matches its grandeur with hard-to-beat excellence.
Note that this is not your typical Hollywood production both in terms of pacing and delivery. This almost scoreless project should resonate more strongly than it does today. The fusion of film and literature rarely reaches such beloved cohesion...
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2007
I know this version is no longer available from Amazon, but it is possible that someone might buy it from the Marketplace like myself. This is a terrible edition! Despite the description there are NO special features. The special features mentioned belong to the Criterion Edition of the film which is by far the best available. However because the aforementioned non-existent special features were mentioned I thought that this was the long awaited PAL version but I was fooled I'm afraid.
The worst aspect is the film itself though. The colours are washed out and it has obviously been copied from an nth generation cinema print (you even see the circles coming up in the corner to alert the projectionist to change the reel). The film is panned and scanned to 4:3 though it was filmed at 1:66:1, such that some of the credits and titles are lost on the left side of the screen. The soundtrack is mono and as noisy as one would expect. I did not watch enough to see how complete the cut was but I can guess that is unrestored like the first British release.
There is a new UK release which is much better than this in every way, but the best and most complete is still easily the Criterion edition.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2010
I've entitled this review "Classic Quality". Classic because it's shot in the old style - long cuts, some lasting several minutes, as if shooting a stage production instead of today's shorter jump cuts. Quality because you can hear every word. This is an improvement on the mumbling later versions.
Olivier's technique is interesting since Olivier often speaks directly to camera like Michael Caine did in Alfie a quarter of a century later - a Brechtian technique in a Shakespeare play.
I'd first seen this production as a child in 1955 and was just as thrilled when I saw this DVD. The score, plot,action, costumes and cinematography bring Shakespeare to life. Every schoolboy should see this film if he can't see it on stage as the script in the classroom is really a working document for actors.
Is Shakespeare's portayal of Richard III accurate? Watch Disc Two - the second disc supplied - entitled "The Trial of Richard" and make up your mind.
I was as entranced by this film on DVD as when I first saw it. Quality never becomes old-fashioned. Recommended.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2008
Stylistic, quite lavish, fantastically directed and photographed, this is a very charismatic version of the great Shakespeare tragedy that not everyone likes because of its so called politicisation of history. Well, if that is the case, then even that holds some historical value now, as it was done even before the young writer picked up the story. And this very traditional version is the one given by the great Olivier here, having a wail of a time hamming it up as evil Richard Crookback, machiavelian usurper of the English crown. It's wonderful, it's great to look at while being a treat for the ears as well, as one of the great theatrical orators rolls out those perfect decasyllables in that loud declamatory voice of his, while his eyes roll about just as much as his tongue, and his arms occasionally flap up and down. This is one of my two favourite Shakespeare movies, it beats both Olivier's Hamlet and Henry V for me, for being so well contained and narrated. The text of course is second only to Hamlet in the whole of the Shakespeare canon, so what we get is line after line of powerful stuff.
Now is the winter of my discontent
Made glorious summer by this DVD.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Those who criticize Laurence Olivier and Alan Dent -- co-authors of the screenplay -- for taking certain liberties with Shakespeare's play should also criticize Shakespeare for taking certain liberties with the historical material on which he often relied so heavily. In this instance, Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, Vol. 6, and various Tudor Historians. In my opinion, such quibbling is a fool's errand. This much we do know about the historical Richard III. He was born in 1452 in Fotheringay Castle, Northamptonshire, the youngest son of Richard, Duke of York. He was created Duke of Gloucester by his brother, Edward IV, in 1461, accompanied him into exile (1470), and played a key role in his restoration (1471). Rewarded with part of the Neville inheritance, he exercised vice regal powers, and in 1482 re-captured Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Scots. When Edward died (1483) and was succeeded by his under-age son, Edward V, Richard acted first as protector, but within three months, he had overthrown the Woodvilles (relations of Edward IV's queen), arranged for the execution of Lord Hastings (c.1430-83), and had himself proclaimed and crowned as the rightful king. Young Edward and his brother were probably murdered in the Tower on Richard's orders, although not all historians agree. He tried to stabilize his position but failed to win broad-based support. His rival Henry Tudor (later Henry VII), confronted him in battle at Bosworth Field (August 22, 1485), when Richard died fighting bravely against heavy odds. Though ruthless, he was not the absolute monster Tudor historians portrayed him to be, nor is there proof he was a hunchback.
Cleverly, this film begins with the final scene of Henry IV, Part III, the coronation of Edward IV (Cedric Hardwicke). Locating himself at a strategic distance from the throne, the Duke of Gloucester (Olivier) carefully observes those around him. He shares with those who see this film or read the play his most private thoughts and feelings, many of which are as deformed as his body. Gloucester's "winter of discontent" will soon end. With a systematic tenacity unsurpassed by any other of Shakespeare's villains, Gloucester's coronation as Richard III (his own "glorious summer") will be the fulfillment of his royal ambition. The acting throughout the cast is outstanding. I do not recall another film in which Olivier, John Gielgud (George. Duke of Clarence), and Ralph Richardson (Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham) all appeared together, joined by Claire Bloom (Lady Anne Neville) and Stanley Baker (Henry Tudor). Special note should also be made of Otto Heller's cinematography which is integrated seamlessly with their performances. It is a pleasure to have this film now available in a DVD format, one which offers much sharper images and much clearer sound. Other special features of this DVD version include high-definition digital transfer; newly discovered footage; a commentary by playwright and stage director Russell Lees and John Wilder, former Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company; 1966 BBC interview with Olivier hosted by Kenneth Tynan; a 12-minute television trailer; a theatrical trailer; and an essay by film historian Bruce Eder.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2013
The 1955 movie is a classic, and well worth watching. But what makes this product so good is the second disc, where two decades ago, various historians mounted a "trial" of Richard III, to see if he is guilty of the murders of the Princes in the Tower. After the recent exhumation of Richard's body from a Leicester car park, proving that the king did indeed have scoliosis of the spine, Shakespeare is partly vindicated. He was writing in the age of the Tudors, descendants of Henry VI (Stanley Baker in the movie) and the propaganda against Richard demonised him. But historians had argued that the story of his hunched back was a myth. The exhumation showed it to be true - only Richard's scoliosis of the spine went sideways, and could be disguised under clothing and armour. Only at death, when he was stripped naked and tied to a horse, did anyone see that he was "deformed". So part of Shakepeare's myth was true. Richard should be a hero for the disabled - he fought better than many of his peers. See the fiction on the main disc, enjoy the historical discussion on the second disc (featuring a vey young and very arrogant David Starkey). For me - the second disc elucidated the characters and actions of the brilliantly-acted play. Fantastic purchase for anyone interested in the manufacture of legends.