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OLIVIER'S SHAKESPEARE

Overview by Michael Jacobson
Individual reviews by Michael Jacobson and Ed Nguyen

Director:  Laurence Olivier
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1, Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Studio:  Criterion
Features:  See Reviews
Length:  438 Minutes
Release Date:  August 1, 2006

Overview:

Recently, my DVD Movie Central colleague Ed Nguyen and I had a discussion:  what director did the best job at bringing William Shakespeare to the big screen?  We discussed the merits of Orson Welles, Kenneth Branagh, Franco Zeffirelli, and even Akira Kurosawa, whose somewhat liberal interpretations of the Bard nonetheless inspired some of the truly awesome visions of the cinema.

But no such discussion would be complete without mentioning Sir Laurence Olivier, arguably the first great Shakespearean film director.  His first three projects from the director's chair would be to bring the works of the Bard to the big screen.  He would use his pedigree as a British actor to bring indelible life to the characters, but his uncanny vision as a director turned works written for the stage into works of art that could only be realized by the motion picture camera.

From his first effort Henry V, where he utilized a very creative way of linking the worlds of stage and cinema, to Hamlet, the definitive portrait of the doubting Dane as a moody, expressionistic vision, through Richard III, where he would bring his unique style to a Shakespearean adaptation for the last time, these films set the bar for all the other directors to follow.  Olivier instinctively knew that though the Bard's words were irascible, there was room in the margins to interpret and visualize the action.  Shakespeare provided the text, but the right director could shape and form it into something uniquely his own.

Olivier's Shakespeare brings these three cinematic and literary classics together in one terrific set.  For students of English literature or film, each one is a treasure trove of rich dialogue, superb performances, and revolutionary direction.

For complete individual reviews, click on the links below!


Henry V
Hamlet
Richard III

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