Tuesday, November 22, 2016
'Macbeth' BD" Orson Welles Once Again Does the Bard Justice
The Olive Signature division of a cinephile's dream OliveFilms November 15, 2016 Blu-ray release of the 1948 Orson Welles production of the Shakespearean play "Macbeth" (a.k.a. The Scottish Play) exceeds every high expectation regarding this match made in Heaven. The Blu-ray video enhancements help highlight the filmmaking skill of Welles; however, the audio restoration steals the show.
Olive also shows good instincts regarding scheduling this release for a week after the 2016 presidential election. Melania Trump is no Lady Macbeth, but The Donald certainly has a ruthless drive for increasing power that seems destined to be his downfall.
This release also coming in the wake of the vote in Scotland on whether or not to break from the U.K. vote additionally is somewhat timely.
Welles predictably utilizes his expert use of shadows, fog, and other cinematic wizardry to bring this version of that classic tale to the silver screen. It is equally predictable that Welles rocks in his portrayal of the titular not-so-noble nobleman. The trifecta regarding this is that Welles introduces character/voice actress Jeannette Nolan (who provides the unforgettable voice of Norma Bates in the original version of "Psycho") as Lady MacBeth. (Olive aptly notes that having future "Psycho" cinematographer John L. Russell on hand does not hurt things.)
Other perfect casting comes in the form of Welles selecting 20 year-old Roddy McDowall to play true heir to the throne Malcolm. The drama regarding this prince of a guy is that he finds himself caught in the middle of all the turmoil.
It is worth noting as well that this "Macbeth" is a wonderful companion to the highly atmospheric 1953 made-for-TV Welles version of "King Lear," which is available on DVD. Both Shakespearean plays have common themes, and Welles uses many of the same techniques in each. Further, he rocks just as hard in portraying Lear as he does regarding Macbeth,
Producer/director/adapter Welles begins hitting the right notes at the start of the film. The opening scene has Macbeth and his (faithful?) companion come across the three witches of the lore of the play as they are reciting the famous cauldron speech that (partially) informs Macbeth of his destiny. This scene is aptly creepy and powerful.
The action then proceeds to the early events that all Shakespeare lovers know lead to Macbeth becoming King of Scotland. The expert staging includes feeling the full impact of an important beheading without actually seeing any heads roll.
The action begins to really roll after Macbeth seizes power. This not-so-bloodless coup both affects the psyches of the Macbeths and triggers a second prophecy. Plenty of mayhem and an epic battle ensure following that declaration.
Even those with little knowledge of the works of Shakespeare will recognize a few of the soliloquies in the film. These include the out damn spot (which Nolam delivers without the blue language) speech and the soon-to-follow "brief candle" performance by Macbeth. Of course, Welles nails it.
Welles additionally making Shakespeare accessible to a 1948 American movie-going audience while staying very true to the source material supports watching the full 107-minute version in the Olive set. Folks whom that version intimidates have the option of selecting an 85-minute 1950 version. The advice regarding that it you do not know what you will be missing.
The special features extend beyond several documentaries on Welles and/or Shakespeare to include a booklet with an essay by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum on the Welles "Macbeth." This comprehensive analysis is one to not miss.
Anyone with any questions or comments regarding any topic in this review is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.