I have four versions of Lear on DVD and only bought this out of curiosity - I was not disappointed. Brian Blessed has, in my view, an unjustified reputation for always shouting but having seen him in Branagh`s Henry V and Much Ado I knew that could not be right. Most actors do `overdo` Lear on the heath but Blessed`s "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! You cataracts and hurricanes, spout" Is revalatory. It is softly spoken as the reflections of a man that has been badly let down by life. Even if you watch it only once it is well worth buying. I can almost guarantee that you will want to keep the DVD in your bookcase - my Shakespeare comes out on cold, dark, winter evenings or at Christmas when there is only rubbish on the box.
This is Peter Brook's classic black-and-white production of Shakespeare's King Lear with Paul Scofield playing Lear. I bought it to replace my ageing VHS (video tape) version of the film and have been looking for a DVD version of this beautiful film without a ridiculous price tag ... this fits the bill nicely and would appear to be a new issue! It's exactly the same as my old video, but the only slight gripe I have with it (but it might well be my DVD / TV set up), is that the sound track seems a little quieter than it should be. I must have watched this film around a dozen times in the last 15 years, but true to the genius of Shakespeare, one seems to get something new or more out of it every time one sees it.
p.s. You also get the screenplay of this Shakespearean tragedy.
Brian Blessed as Lear seems to ring alarm bells, but if you can set aside the bunptious, not-so-subtle nature of his performance, you get to to see how interesting it really is. Traditional actors like Olivier might put in a sublime and consumate performance, but Blessed has an bold and fleshed out appeal. I think Hildegard Neil as Fool has to be considered one of the most interesting choices for this role. She gives it an edge and level of cleverness which is not always so apparent.
The other performers contribute succesfully too. i think however, regardless of what I say, Brian Blessed's 'King Lear' is an essential part of any decent Shakespeare DVD library.
Terrible acting (with the exception of Brian Blessed of course - but even he did not shine as Lear), cheesy music, and really really horrible cinematography. I think someone must have made it over an afternoon! It was so bad it's almost worth seeing, just for the laughs. (But when will someone do a *really good* Lear??)