Da'ud Bob's Movie Review
There are a lot of versions of Shakespeare’s plays out there, ranging from the totally brilliant to the maybe-you-should-be-watching-something-else variety. The sets for these plays can also vary widely, from a very spare let’s-let-artificial-fog-and-judicious-lighting-be-the-set to full-blown sets to on-location shooting. And the range of actors who have played various Shakespearean roles has also ranged as widely, from rank unknowns to veterans who have been knighted for their contributions to the field. This month’s movie falls somewhere in the middle. It was made for TV, and the sets are all indoors and rather minimal. Still, it must be understood that this was filmed in 1953, when television was still finding its feet, and cameras were large, ungainly things that had to be wheeled around the set. The lighting, too, is sometimes a bit harsh, but again, it is a product of its time. And though many of the actors in this production were still comparatively early in their careers, the central character was played by a name which should be familiar to you all. And so it is that this month, Da’ud Bob reviews for you the 1953 Omnibus television production of King Lear.
Starring Orson Welles in the title role, with Natasha Perry as Cordelia, Arnold Moss as the Duke of Albany, Bramwell Fletcher as the Earl of Kent, David J. Stewart as Oswald, Margaret Phillips as Regan, Beatrice Straight as Goneril, Alan Badel as the Fool, Micheál MacLiammóir as Poor Tom, Frederick Worlock as the Earl of Gloucester, Scott Forbes as the Duke of Cornwall, Wesley Addy as the King of France, and Fred Sadoff as the Duke of Burgundy, this is a much-shortened version (75 minutes) of the story based on an old Celtic myth of an aging king who has decided to divide his kingdom into three parts, and to hand over the responsibilities of ruling to his three daughters. The two oldest daughters, Goneril and Regan, flatter their father insincerely, and are rewarded. Cordelia, the youngest, sincerely loves her father, but she cannot match her sisters' skill at false adulation С so Lear takes away her portion of the kingdom, despite the pleadings of some of his most loyal nobles. It is not long before Goneril and Regan reveal their deep ingratitude, and soon the old king finds himself in a confusing and desperate position. Only the parts that apply directly to the main storyline remain; the subplot involving Edmund, Edgar, and their father, the Earl of Gloucester, has been axed in the interests of adhering to the time limits imposed by the television broadcast schedule.
Good points: It’s Shakespeare’s language. The polearms.
Bad points: The Shakespearean English is sometimes a little stilted. The costuming is pretty much pseudo-Tudor, pseudo-Elizabethan, and Errol Flynn Robin Hood. The collars of office. The model windmill with the fast-spinning sails. Many of the shots are limited by the requirements of the TV sound stage of the era. The sound is a bit raspy (again, a product of its time). The model pavilions really looked like models. Poor Tom’s beard reminded me (again) of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. The 1950's women’s eyebrows.
Zero breasts. 1/8 gallon of blood. Seven dead bodies. Dagger fu. Sword fu. Thumb fu. Noose fu. Cane fu. Riding crop fu. Map rolls. Knight rolls. Gratuitous ripping up a map. Gratuitous drawbridge. Gratuitous eye-gouging. Gratuitous starfish. Gratuitous fishnet and seaweed “cloak.” Academy Award nomination to Orson Welles who, as he usually does, really “chews the scenery,” and does madness so very well. A 32 on the Vomit Meter. 2½ stars. Da’ud Bob says, “It’s worth watching just to see the young Alistair Cooke’s introduction to this play. Check it out!”
Upcoming movies and miniseries to watch for!
The Name of the Rose
2019 (in Italy)
"A monk investigates a series of mysterious deaths at an abbey. Television adaptation (eight episodes) of Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose." John Turturro in the Sean Connery role, Michael Emerson, Rupert Everett, Damian Hardung, Claudio Bigagli.
Really? Yet another remake? Can no one write any original scripts anymore?
No official website yet.
All Is Well
“A look at the final days in the life of renowned playwright William Shakespeare.” Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen.
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