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Macbeth [Import]

Orson Welles , Jeanette Nolan , Orson Welles    Unrated   VHS Tape
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Orson Welles's 1948 Macbeth is an expressionist masterpiece about a doomed man of ordinary ambition who believes an evil prophecy that he will become king. As depicted by Welles, the title character is not a warrior king or a conscience-stricken, poetic soul on a par with Hamlet; rather, he is a facile, superstitious man consigned to fate even as the character does not trust 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. Welles has also created some new scenes here, conflating several characters into a "Holy Father" (Alan Napier) while eliciting strong supporting turns from Dan O'Herlihy (Macduff) and Roddy McDowall (Malcolm). 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. --Kevin Mulhall

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Returning were as tedious as go o'er." April 30 2004
Format:VHS Tape
The good news? For his last Hollywood film of the 1940s, Orson Welles delivered a low-budget, inventive, expressionist Shakespeare adaptation that served as a template for his experimental European films. The bad news? Welles perhaps captures the eerie mood of "The Scottish Play" all too well; the film is an unrelentingly dark and often uncomfortable experience. The lugubrious pacing and indifferent acting offer little respite from the play's fatalism.
A little background helps one better appreciate this film. After a string of box office failures (including "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "The Lady from Shanghai"), Welles signed on with Republic Pictures to do a low-budget "Macbeth," hoping that he could popularize Shakespeare on film as he had done on radio and in the theatre. His actors rehearsed the play on tour, and painstakingly pre-recorded their dialogue in Scottish brogues. Welles then shot the film in 23 days, some kind of record for him. Well, you can guess what happened: The studio hated it. They forced Welles to cut 20 minutes from the film, and made the actors re-dub their dialogue with "normal" accents - wasting all that time they spent in pre-production. The film bombed on release and Welles spent the next 10 years working in Europe.
Years later, the original prints were found and released as another "Lost Welles Classic." Unfortunately, time has devalued that label; "Macbeth" doesn't quite meet the standard set by "Othello" or "Touch of Evil," two other films that were restored after Welles' death. While the Scottish accents are a nice touch, the extra running time actually robs the film of some momentum.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great From the Master April 25 2004
By D. Pope
Format:VHS Tape
I own this film on VHS and on Laserdisc and I am hoping that it will soon come out on DVD. Certainly there are some technical problems with the production, but it is a 1948 film so some of that can be excused.
Welles vision of MacBeth has the texture and feel of a nightmare. The backdrops are unfinished, muddy charicatures of the objects and places they represent. Scotland is an eerie, nightmarish landscape that is constantly misty and partially unformed. The use of the b&w medium superbly creates a feeling of dread and foreboding in the audience who is drawn ever deeper into the madness of the story. This is vintage Welles, who loved to make the tone, timbre, hue and texture of every part of the movie relate to and support the story he was filming. Certainly the work of a genius.
Most people know the basic story. MacBeth (Which literally means "Son of Life"), is given a prophesy that he will become king of Scotland and tells his wife of the prophesy. Lady MacBeth then uses MacBeth's insecurities to manipulate him into murdering the true king and assuming his throne. Guilt-ridden and paranoid, MacBeth begins a reign of tyranny and sinks into madness. Finally, the English invade and end his reign of terror. MacBeth, who is shown as no more than a pawn in this story, finally gains a measure of grace and dignity when he faces MacDuff in combat. We finally see in death the couragous man MacBeth could have been - indeed was before he allowed his and his wife's greed to corrupt him - MacBeth rises above his fate and becomes master of his own destiny by crying-out the infamous phrase "Lead on MacDuff, and damn the man who first cries hold - enough".
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5.0 out of 5 stars SHAKESPEARE AS EXPRESSIONIST NIGHTMARE Sept. 17 2002
By K. Jump
Format:VHS Tape
Many have cited "Macbeth" as a horror story, and whether or not that's exactly true, Orson Welles' superior production is certainly an excursion into nightmare that even a Murnau would have envied. The sets and camerawork create a world of wet, windswept badlands and dark stone mazes in which it is difficult not to believe in witches and omens and where bloodletting indeed seems the order of the day. Though a low-budget production, Welles' movie never looks cheap and his mileu never less than convincing. Welles' own portrayal of the doomed protagonist is dead-on, and while Jeanette Nolan's performance as the scheming, hard-hearted Lady Macbeth is often harshly criticized, in many ways her vampiric interpretation of the character is unsurpassed. Likewise Roddy McDowall (Malcolm) and Dan O'Herlihy (Macduff) are definitive in their roles, and Alan Napier is strong as a "Holy Friar" who is the movie's conscience. An enrapturing cinematic experience from the Weird Sisters' mesmerizing invocation to the climactic siege of Macbeth's castle (featuring a great sword fight between Welles and O'Herlihy), Welles' "Macbeth" is classic moviemaking that will endure as long as darkness moves the hearts of men and women.
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Format:VHS Tape
This production is not without some virtues, such as the eerie realism with which it presents the primitive, brutal, and pious texture of life in medieval Scotland. The sheer quietness that pervades most of the film evokes the isolation at the heart of this cruel drama. Unfortunately, these virtues are eclipsed by the arrogant stupidity with which Welles approaches the text. The most obvious fault is that he seems to find it necessary -- or at least justifiable -- to cut a passage from this scene and paste it in that scene. Never mind that this is presumptuous; if these transpositions worked better than the original, that would be one thing. But they don't. There's also no sense of real tension or focus; if you didn't know the story going in, you'd have a hard time following the action. The portrayal of Lady Macbeth makes her uninteresting, and merely hysterial, thus annoying. The Scottish accent is annoying, too; it just gets in the way. The whole thing is a colossal waste of 112 minutes, an exercise in self-indulgence for Welles, who apparently thinks he's even more of a genius than the author of Macbeth.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Orson Welles was an egomaniac
Yes Orson Welles was one of the most influential filmmakers in the United States, but he was also an egomaniac. Orson takes on William in his adaptation of 'Macbeth'. Read more
Published on June 25 2003 by Dhaval Vyas
5.0 out of 5 stars His Shakespeare was the greatest of them all....
People talk about Citizen Kane, but they forget that Orson
Welles "wowwed them on Broadway" with his West Indies style
Macbeth, and then did it again with a... Read more
Published on Dec 17 2001 by SF Fan
3.0 out of 5 stars Out, Brief Candle...
Orson Welles tackles one of Shakespeares most bizarre tragedies. Filled with blood, hallucinations, revenge, villainy and three prophesizing witches, MACBETH borders on the... Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2001 by GLENN WHELAN
3.0 out of 5 stars Welles does Will, Sort of
Can't say I really cared for this, though it did evoke plenty of atmosphere. I was reminded of G.K. Hunter's remark that Welles "set the play (evidently) in the sartorial reign of... Read more
Published on Aug. 3 2001 by James R. Mccall
2.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but interesting
I love this play, and I usually love Welles, but this film doesn't do it for me. The loooong dramatic pauses and sing-song treatment of lines turn it into a reverent Recital Of... Read more
Published on March 28 2001 by Teacher
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
My only complaint about this movie is that some important scenes like the march of 8 kings followed by Banquo's ghost are deleted. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2000 by Sean Ares Hirsch
5.0 out of 5 stars Orson Welles And Shakespeare At Their Best
Without a doubt Orson Welles is the perfect American compliment for William Shakespeare. Superbly directed and acted on a melancholy stage in haunting black and white, the poetic... Read more
Published on July 23 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING FILM
I SAW THE FILM AT THE FINE ARTS MUSEUM (BS.AS.)AND IT CAUGHT ME. IT'S THE BEST VERSION I'VE EVER SEEN (BLACK AND WHITE ARE THE BEST COLORS FOR DRAMA). Read more
Published on May 5 2000 by "ospirin"
5.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't get any better....
If you hated "Citizen Kane" or "Vertigo", and thought "Jurassic Park 2" or "Titanic" the height of modern cinema... Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2000 by Willy
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