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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Falstaff (Chimes At Midnight) Mr Bongo DVD review
This is purely a review of the new Mr Bongo DVD release of Orson Welles' 1965 film "Falstaff" (aka "Chimes at Midnight") released on the 30th of April 2012. I have bought two previous DVD releases of this superb Welles film only to be bitterly disappointed by the extremely poor quality of both. However, as the saying goes, third time lucky. I took the plunge with this new...
Published on 3 May 2012 by D. Kelly

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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chimes at Last
Many a devotee of Orson Welles has struggled in vain to find a copy of his 1964/5 masterpiece, 'Falstaff', or 'Chimes at Midnight'. Its inaccessibility is an unusual and unjust fate for the preferred film one of the 20th century's finest directors. Speaking in a 1982 BBC interview, Welles cited 'Falstaff' as his favorite film. Despite its flaws, the peerless cinematic...
Published on 1 Jun 2009 by B. Perriello


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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Falstaff (Chimes At Midnight) Mr Bongo DVD review, 3 May 2012
By 
D. Kelly (Third stone from the sun) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight [Definitive Restored Version DVD] [1965] (DVD)
This is purely a review of the new Mr Bongo DVD release of Orson Welles' 1965 film "Falstaff" (aka "Chimes at Midnight") released on the 30th of April 2012. I have bought two previous DVD releases of this superb Welles film only to be bitterly disappointed by the extremely poor quality of both. However, as the saying goes, third time lucky. I took the plunge with this new Mr Bongo version. I have previously bought several DVD releases from Mr Bongo and have been pretty impressed by them all, and now I can add their DVD release of "Falstaff" to that list as its an enormous improvement over the others. The image is anamorphic widescreen (enhanced for widescreen televisions) preserving the original 1.85:1 ratio and the grey tones and contrast are impressive. My only very slight concern is the image can appear a little soft at times, but that may be due to the original print used and may be how the film looked theatrically. There are no extras at all and no subtitles, but as far as bare bones DVDs are concerned, the film is really all you need as its quite excellent. The Mr Bongo release is the one to go for. There is no contest.
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hail to a masterpiece - despite the DVD quality, 21 Jan 2011
By 
Master Jacques (London, England, UK) - See all my reviews
One of the finest of all Shakespeare films, and perhaps Orson Welles's masterpiece too, we have been waiting a very long time for "Chimes at Midnight" to appear on an English-produced DVD. Here it is at last.

Has it been worth the wait? For the film of course, yes. The acting, the cinematic imagination, the multi-layered panorama of Shakespeare's themes from the two "Henry IV" plays (with a little from "Henry V" and elsewhere added) from which Welles collated his script - all these are as wonderfully fresh, vivid and rich as when the film first appeared in 1965. "Chimes at Midnight" captures Welles himself as Falstaff at the height of his powers. John Gielgud was never better on film than here, as the tormented Henry IV; whilst the support from Keith Baxter's cold-fish Hal, Margaret Rutherford, Jeanne Moreau, Fernando Rey (dubbed into English) and the rest of a superb cast rises fully to his game.

This Cornerstone Media release uses the same basic restoration as the Spanish/English release Chimes at Midnight (Campanadas a medianoche) [Spanish Import] [DVD] on Suevia Films, so sound and image are not crystal clear. What's disappointing, is that cornerstone have reduced the contrast so that scenes which looked reasonably bold and vibrant in the Spanish release look pale and washed out here. This is a great pity, and the Suevia Films Chimes at Midnight (Campanadas a medianoche) [Spanish Import] [DVD] release is therefore still first choice, although the newcomer has the virtue of being a little cheaper and easier to find.

This film should be in the collection of everyone who cares about Shakespeare, Welles, or the art of cinema itself.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chimes at Last, 1 Jun 2009
By 
B. Perriello (France) - See all my reviews
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Many a devotee of Orson Welles has struggled in vain to find a copy of his 1964/5 masterpiece, 'Falstaff', or 'Chimes at Midnight'. Its inaccessibility is an unusual and unjust fate for the preferred film one of the 20th century's finest directors. Speaking in a 1982 BBC interview, Welles cited 'Falstaff' as his favorite film. Despite its flaws, the peerless cinematic composition is matched by equally fine acting, and Welles' original adaptation of Shakespeare. Weaving together scenes from four different plays that include or mention Falstaff, the resulting text is a masterful interpretation of the Falstaff character.

This version awards the viewer with a clean, fine print. But it still suffers from the flaws of the original: deteriorated sound and poor subtitles. Viewers beware: many, including native anglophones, may prefer subtitles in English. Native and non-native speakers alike will find themselves out of luck: aside from Spanish subtitles, those in English are dreadful. They are not only inaccurate, but are often longer and more difficult to follow than the dialogue on screen.

The 'extras', such as they are, offer a few short texts in Spanish on the principal actors and the life of William Shakespeare, which are hardly worth the while. A series of interviews may well interest the viewer, provided she or he can follow, as all are conducted in Spanish with no subtitling available. On the whole, one would have hoped for a version of this film accessible to all the world. That might have been done through proper subtitling, and the inclusion of extras that reflect on the work of Welles, rather than an exclusive focus on the film's production in Spain.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welles' often overlooked minor masterpiece, 22 May 2009
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I first saw this film on the BBC back in the early 80's and have been looking out for it ever since. It's Welles' tribute to Merrie England and features his portrayal of Falstaff. It was filmed in Spain with an international cast and had Swiss/Swedish backing.
All of which sounds distinctly odd, but it's a triumph. The fight scenes were filmed in a public park in Madrid and have an immediacy and fascination that many big budget films would struggle to match. A memorable film by a great film-maker, who overcame many obstacles to make it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Chimes of Midnight flashing, 2 Mar 2011
By 
technoguy "jack" (Rugby) - See all my reviews
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I last saw this masterpiece 36 years ago in an art cinema in London,The Electric.Then I remember the print was shakey,the sound out of sync,but I got its essence.This is the film Welles really wanted to make above all others.The film has been out of circulation for 35 years,obtainable in only Brazilian and Spanish prints.The larger-than-life character that flits through various of his plays,Henry IV parts I and II and The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V, based on the real Jack Oldcastle. Welles took the scenes from the different plays Falstaff is in and makes him the hero,he weaved multiple plays together to create a new narrative.Now its been released in this DVD February 2011 as Falstaff Chimes at Midnight.Richardson narrates the film from Holinshed's Chronicles.

The title comes in the elegiac opening.Originally Falstaff said it to his aging friend Justice Shallow. However, there is a degree of tragedy and sadness around this as well: Shallow and his ancient kinsman Silence represent the rural happiness and content with life that Falstaff can never really have, and when Falstaff tells him,"We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow" it becomes nostalgic and almost tragic to think at what all this man's been through and enjoyed.Welles exudes real warmth and humanity.This is the closest Shakespeare ever came to a representation of his early Stratford life on stage.

Henry IV(Gielgud) is a careworn King,troubled by his son's (Prince Hal's) waywardness and his usurper role as Bolingbroke.Unable to expiate his crime by the threat of civil war.Prince Hal beguiles the time in the company of Falstaff,drinking in taverns and plotting practical jokes.Falstaff carouses with his cronies and his mistress, Doll Tearsheet(JeanneMoreau),drinking, kissing, laughing, cavorting,play-acting,gambling,story-telling.The film re-edits the plays of Shakespeare,covering the period from the end of Richard II to the start of Henry V.Falstaff is centre stage with the story of the Kings setting the framework of the plot,relegated to the background.Yet the strength of Gielgud's performance is crucial,guilty,cold,with dignity,reflecting the high stone walls of his castle,which Prince Hal will one day inherit,following his prodigal journey.

There are some soundtrack difficulties(ie either too low or too high and changing from one to the other too quickly),but this should not alter one's enjoyment of this incredible film.Working,due to budget deficits,in Spain and dubbing a lot of the extras.This film is a testament to Welles' genius in the character part he was born to play,Falsaff.He gives us the jolly giant in all his pagan bawdiness,tragic melancholy,part of merrie old England, a dream world of Paradise Lost before Puritanism descended like a swathe to gut its comic heart. Falstaff represents the very core of Shakespearean goodness,an intuitional,natural innocence,a golden time of joyous, anarchic abandon.A pity there is no subtitling, as this would have greatly aided the understanding.

There are deep-focus shots,low -angle close-ups,masterful editing,imbuing the B&W film with a rhythm that complements the narrative drive and organic unity,a masterful music score that keeps it all moving,like the camera work, eternally moving round Falstaff and the sharp cinematography.The tavern is a large low-slung barn,managed by Mistress Quickly(Rutherford).The quick pacing of the Battle of Shrewbury is so energetic it rates as one of the best battles in cinema history,with bodies falling into a sea of mud.Prince Hal saves the day killing Hotspur in single combat,for which Falstaff claims the credit.All the time his cowardly bulk hidden or darting through the trees.The fat vagabond tells a tall story.All the lines are from Shakespeare yet effortlessly flow.

The dying king advises Hal to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels to unite England.Overjoyed to hear of Hal's succession,Falstaff boasts of his future under the new King,but the transformed Henry V spurns him-" I Know thee not old man!"-in public during the coronation procession.The changing relationship between Falstaff and Hal is the heart of the drama.Falstaff is the vital link for the future king between the court and the submerged life of London's back streets.The camera captures the broken-hearted gaze of the cast-aside Falstaff, Shakespeare's most popular,magnificent creation.Keith Baxter is magnificent(Hal) as is Norman Rodway as the heroic Hotspur.But truly Moreau is lively and Rutherford is affectionate.Welles's best film,one of the all time great Shakespeare movies,incarnating the true spirit of the bard's most popular character.
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59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This transfer is a disgrace. Buy the version from Amazon Italy !!!, 26 Jan 2011
This film is a masterpiece. It's my favourite Welles film. I first saw it at the Academy cinema in London in the 60s, and have never forgotten the impact it had on me then.
So why only 1 star ? Well this is an appalling transfer with poor sound and ATROCIOUS image quality.

It's a disgrace that this version is on sale in the UK, and even more of a disgrace that Amazon is taking peoples money for it !

Since writing this review 5 months ago, I've purchased the 'Sinister' version from AMAZON Italy. About 18 euros inc postage. A far better copy than the above, and with the english soundtrack. So please, buy this version !
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Chimes at Midnight - The times that we have seen!, 23 Nov 2011
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
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I was lucky enough to see a recent restoration (BFI I think) of this film in my local cinema. It looked fantastic, and miles better than the print on this disc (although there were still some sound sync problems, and the occasional flaw in the film, inherent to the original film stock I believe). I would recommend waiting to see if that restoration comes out on DVD before purchasing this.

All that aside, this is a great film. Orson Welles excels as Falstaff, comic yet tragic, the blustering knight who manages to befriend the King in waiting. He brings out what, for me, are the essential elements of the character. Condensing Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and ignoring the events of The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Welles has managed to get a clear story together that examines Falstaff rather than Prince Hal, an interesting take on these well known plays.

Welles fits the role of the fat knight perfectly, as he chases after women, or wanders around a battlefield avoiding trouble. His take on the role plays up the comic elements, but at times this serves to heighten the tragedy. Also of note is a great performance from John Gielgud as Henry IV. He delivers his lines with such grace, dignity and clear diction that he really is a joy to watch.

The all important final scene, where Falstaff is rejected by Hal has a huge impact on the viewer, and fair takes the breath away.

All in all a great film for anyone who wants an enetertaining and easy introduction to Shakespeare. It is probably one of the more accessible on screen adaptations of the Bard's work. 5 stars.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The films that we have seen, Master Shallow.. and now this..., 21 May 2010
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I'd always reckoned that AMBERSONS - what we have of it anyway - was Orson's finest work. But now that I've finally seen FALSTAFF properly for the first time (I'd caught it fleetingly on television many years ago) I'm ready to revise my opinion.
Welles' most wise and poignant film begins with two old friends walking in the snow
reminiscing of times gone by and later by flickering firelight - recalling indeed Major Amberson contemplating the end of mortality. It's the most strongly-cast, most humorous and most humanly touching of Orson's pick'n'mix approaches to the Bard, tweaking and reassembling texts to create a freewheeling cinematic vision, eschewing the glamour and formalism of Olivier's films for something starker, edgier, almost primitive, like the muddy grappling of death-throes in the battle of Shrewsbury here. Welles draws from at least five sources to trace the relationship between Shakespeare's corpulent roisterer Sir John Falstaff and the wayward dissolute young Prince Hal as they embrace the low life - drinking, wenching and even indulging in highway robbery while civil war looms over Merrie England. Hal's father King Henry IV uneasily wears a usurper's crown and despairs of his son's irresponsibility as the rival claimants mount a militant challenge. Called to arms Hal and Falstaff go to war together, the old knight running around the battlefield in his outsize armour trying to avoid the fighting while Hal engages and dispatches his opposite number Hotspur. The rebellion is crushed and the eventual death of his father confirms a new sense of duty in Hal. At his coronation as King Henry V he publicly repudiates Falstaff and his old way of life, breaking the old man's heart. As Henry prepares for war against France the dead knight's coffin is trundled away into the distance.. Welles shot the film in Spain, finding locations in Seville hardly changed since medieval days and gathering together an arresting international cast including Keith Baxter as Hal, Jeanne Moreau as Doll Tearsheet, Falstaff's favourite whore, and Margaret Rutherford a delightfully frazzled Mistress Quickly. John Gielgud dominates proceedings as the arid guilt-ridden king and it's amusing when the other actors start imitating his mellifluous tones when play-acting in the tavern and Hal takes on some of his inflections when making proclamations as the new monarch. The lucid visual storytelling is spellbinding while free of technical ostentation. A very human film, intimate and mature, and Welles offers his most moving performance as the tragi-comic old blusterer, on his way out but still unprepared for Hal's betrayal in the cathedral when he looks like he's died inside. After the horror-stories in the past about the production-difficulties experienced by this film it's great to report that the Spanish dvd from Suevia Films is an absolute treat to watch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Banish plump Jack and banish all the world`, 19 Feb 2014
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight [Definitive Restored Version DVD] [1965] (DVD)
This sparkling print courtesy of Mr Bongo in its original evocative black & white allows us to see, despite its minor flaws, a masterpiece, and arguably the greatest Shakespeare film ever made.
Being an Orson Welles film, it was made in Spain, with an unlikely eclectic cast from various countries, makes eloquent use of the means available to him, but displays a remarkably close fidelity to both the letter and spirit of the Shakespeare plays Welles has mined for the golden experience this film offers.
I have never seen a more rounded (pun intended) Falstaff as that of Welles. When he played Rochester in the forties Jane Eyre for example, we only saw one or two aspects of the man, but in Falstaff - particularly as Welles was by 1965 fifty and fat, to put it bluntly - he almost literally becomes the bragging, bibulous, lovable old fraud. His restraint in the heart-wrenching scene of newly-crowned Hal`s dismissal of him - "I know thee not, old man" - speaks volumes.
John Gielgud gives one of his best ever screen performances as Henry IV, a chilly, austere king and father, as unsentimental as he is racked with shame and guilt and concern for the succession. Of course, Gielgud speaks the lines faultlessly, but he seems to be in perfect accord with Welles`s direction and perception of the part. If Welles is the blustering heart of the film, Gielgud`s Henry is the shivering soul.
The sets are wonderful, again the low budget forcing Welles to create magic out of a bare castle or a straw-filled inn-cum-bawdy-house in some Hispanic version of Eastcheap!
That sadly neglected Welsh actor Keith Baxter (still with us at eighty) is brilliant as Hal, both in the tavern scenes and as King Henry V - by the end, you can see him adopting the piety and seriousness of the man we know from history. It is a committed and utterly natural performance. (One minor cavil is that his, and Tony Beckley/Poins`s hair styles look too contemporary.)
The glorious Margaret Rutherford is perhaps a trifle motherly as Mistress Quickly, though her final sublime prose speech recounting Falstaff`s death - one of the most moving passages in Shakespeare - is on the button.
Jeanne Moreau (what a cast!) is superb as a fiery Doll Tearsheet, and Norman Rodway a fine, suitably impetuous Hotspur.
A word too for the late Michael Aldridge (credited wrongly as Aldrich) as Pistol. He was a wonderfully funny and resourceful actor, and he invests his smallish role with an unforgettable vigour and a kind of debauched charm.
That respected, too little seen actor Alan Webb, in his scenes with Falstaff, is a model Justice Shallow, all high voice and endless chatter.
Every now and then you wonder if the whole thing is going to fall apart at the seams, such is the obvious on-the-hoof manner of the film`s production, but this feeling only adds to its overwhelming, and ultimately touching sense of rightness.
The lengthy battle scenes are astonishingly and realistically achieved, and the cinemaphotography of Edmund Richard is a thing of wonder.
There are more `perfect` films from Shakespeare, but none so exciting to look at - no, not even Kurosawa`s Ran - or so moving. The words are audible (at least they are in this new print) and spoken by all both naturally and with full attention to meaning.
This was Welles`s own favourite among his films, and one can easily see why.

Unmissable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chimes at Midnight - Welles improves on Shakespeare, 23 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight [Definitive Restored Version DVD] [1965] (DVD)
Orson Welles's 1966 movie is a magisterial exercise in direction and cinematic storytelling, the work of a genius at the height of his rage and power: a mighty man of art squaring up to Shakespeare and turning the words into movement, music, meaning. A film of wonder in an excellent transcription - at long last. "We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Robert Shallow". Indeed we have. We shall not see Welles's like again - and the supporting cast are all first rate, flying with Welles into regions of magic seldom touched on since. The film was a paean to lost innocence; if it felt lost in 1966, what can we say today, now the media harpies appear to have grabbed all the food and the fun? And do we know it all? No we have lost everything. To look into this film is to look into a lake and see a reflection from the other side, inaccessible, untouchable.
Tobias Churton
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