Customer Review

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard III, 1955. Network 2006 release. Finally, this classic film has been given the treatment it deserves., 3 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Richard III (Special Edition) [DVD] (DVD)
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!
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Location: Hull, England

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