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Macbeth [Import]

3.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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  • Number of discs: 1
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
  • ASIN: 6302484502
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #186,931 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: VHS Tape
My only complaint about this movie is that some important scenes like the march of 8 kings followed by Banquo's ghost are deleted. But that is the only negative thing I can say about this. Welles is phenomenal as Macbeth. Macbeth (like Claudius from "Hamlet") is one of the most difficult roles to perform. He is bloody and ambitious. BUT, it is clear that he DOES have a conscience. It is also clear that Macbeth honestly regrets his actions and suffers for them. Nolan is OVER THE TOP as the evil and later remorseful Lady Macbeth. Edgar Barrier could have done better as King James' ancestor Banquo, but he does a fairly good job. O' Leary is excellent as Macduff. Duncan, Malcolm, and Siward are done fairly well. It is interesting that this movie portrays Lennox as a priest. (This provides an interesting insertion of good to contrast with the witches' evil.) The scenery, effects, and music are excellent (especially considering limited resources back then). Also, Welles does an excellent job of shifting scenes around to make more sense. Also interesting (one thing Shakespeare did not do) is the fact that Macbeth is haunted by Banquo's voice before he is confronted by his ghost. One thing I must personally commend Welles on is that rather than having Lady Macbeth's suicide reported by a very biased enemy, we actually see it, and we can feel sympathy for her remorseful character. While I feel some important scenes are deleted, Welles actually makes some improvements. I will say that the book and this movie are about equal.
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