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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 19 February 2014
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.

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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 December 2011
Welles again demonstrates his consummate creativity, merging a number of scenes from Shakespeare's plays to carve the finest portraits of both the young Henry IV and his muse and drinking companion, Falstaff. It is a timeless relationship between rebellious youth - so in need of a break from the burden of responsibility that presses on him - and his antithesis, an old drunkard merrymaker who bumbles through life with wit, laughter, and in the worst disorder. In a grainy production that makes no shortcuts in language, It is acted to perfection by the unbeatable ensemble of Wells, Baxter, Gielgud, and Moreau, to mention only a few.

At the center is prince Hal, whose father disapproves of his adolescent partying. He needs the corpulent Falstaff, who loves him and hopes to use him once he gains power, as a courtier. Gielgud (the perpetual old man) is the King, defending himself and Hal from a series of deadly challengers from family and friends. All of these relationships evolve, so close to life that only Shakespeare could write it. It make me weep at the mystery of life.

The film is extremely ambitious, a hallmark of Welles. The sets are wonderfully realistic, including the horrific civil war battle between the Henries, when Henry IV must at last prove his mettle to his father. Nothing romantic and glorious, just mud, mayhem, and fear. It is one of the best portrayals of organized violence on film. But there is the wider milieu as well, from the court to brothels and pubs. It is beautiful and raw.

I saw this 30 years ago in English with subtitles on French television and remembered it so vividly that I have looked for a good version of it ever since. This version is good, but the sound is primitive and somewhat low. The formatting is also inset rather than full screen, hence the print somewhat inferior. But these are minor gripes. This is a great film that can be viewed over and over. Now I will watch it with my children, for whom I am nurturing an interest in SHakespeare - this is the perfect vehicle.

Warmly recommended.
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on 23 November 2013
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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on 22 September 2013
As my heading says I feel that Orson Welles was the Laurence Olivier of the American acting profession. Chimes at Midnight is a good film well acted by Welles and the other supporting cast. Welles also did a film of Macbeth which I have purchased recently and that is also very good once again a brilliant performance by Orson Welles. I think he also did a film of Othello which I may buy later on from Amazon. Welles was a maverick regarding his approach to the films he made and not always in vogue with the film industry and critics during his lifetime. But I like his acting and the films he made he was a all rounder acting directing and sometimes producing his films and plays which mostly he appeared in. I listened to a recording of his War of the Worlds broadcast in the 1930's on Youtube recently this really put the cat amongst the Pigeons and caused panic in some quarters as the American public really thought the aliens had landed typical Welles in my opinion.
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on 26 November 2017
I'm sure Mr Shakespeare had Orson Welles in mind when he created Falstaff. He is remarkable throughout and it's certainly his best film after Kane. I couldn't recommend it more highly.
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on 9 November 2012
I have been searching for this on DVD for a long time.
I previously purchased a Korean DVD with Korean Subtitles - it worked, because it gave me the chance to see it, but it was very unclear.
This is Mr. Bongo's version and it rocks - still not HD but it is soooo much better. It is the best copy out there.
If you love Shakespeare and the language of his plays, add to that Orson Welles' skillful direction, you will not be disappointed.
No Subtitles or Special Features.
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on 30 August 2017
A look at a classic story from a different angle..Beautifully filmed...Interesting cast..A rare chance to see Margaret Rutherford in a straight [well almost] role..
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on 15 February 2017
Absolutely delighted with this reissue and important Orson Welles actor/producer/ etc important film.
a must for his fans.
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on 13 November 2010
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on 22 August 2014
This film has so many pluses: The editing down of the best of two Shakespeare plays into one concise film, an outstanding battle scene, John Gielgud as an old king tormented by his past and an enjoyable performance by Orson Welles.
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