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Frequently Bought Together
- Orson Welles (Macbeth)
- Jeanette Nolan (Lady Macbeth)
- Dan OHerlihy (Macduff)
- Roddy McDowall (Malcolm)
- Edgar Barrier (Banquo)
- Alan Napier (A Holy Father)
- Erskine Sanford (Duncan)
- John Dierkes (Ross)
- Keene Curtis (Lennox)
- Peggy Webber (Lady Macduff)
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 MulhallSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Here's a brief summary of the movie's history. Welles had mounted his altered version of the play in Salt Lake City after talking Republic Pictures (known for westerns and the occasional quality production like THE QUIET MAN) into financing a film version. The cost was to be around $750,000 and it was shot on Republic soundstages in less than 3 weeks. The Republic executives had it cut from 135 to 107 minutes with Welles' grudging consent and then previewed. The critics hated it, comparing it unfavorably to Olivier's HAMLET which was released the same year. After a brief run it was then cut down to 88 minutes and the dialogue redubbed from the Scots accents into plain English. This really hurt Jeanette Nolan's performance as Lady Macbeth and she got withering reviews.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the best versions of macbeth I have seen this was one of the first Shakespeare storys bought to film, made in 1948 within 21 days this movie by or son welles is... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Valerie Gail bartlett
The best Shakespeare interpretation for screen that I've watched. Welles is at his best in this film which has been re-edited to suit his original vision. Read morePublished 8 months ago by skywalker
I will not pretend that this is the best English ever spoken. not the best set ever seen, but it is a very interesting version of the play and infinitely preferable to either the... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Mr. David Titley
An excellent version of the play. Shame it is not available in Blu-ray.Published 19 months ago by Stephen Sharp
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 24 months ago by Marcus clayson