Brilliant! One of the great Shakespeare movies!
Kirk Petersen | Eldorado Spgs, Colo. | 04/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am an avid Shakespeare fan. I have read all his plays and seen many film productions. Overall, I have enjoyed reading the plays as much as seeing them. But I have always had trouble with Falstaff. I could never fathom his appeal and popularity. For me, Falstaff comes off as petty and vile; his humor, stale. But I realize now that my negative reaction was a result of reading Falstaff on the page.
What a change of opinion after watching this movie! I now feel that you cannot fully appreciate Falstaff until you see him personified in a great actor, such as Welles. Those mischievous darting eyes, that hearty smile, those wittily delivered punch lines, how all the other characters are captivated by him. Falstaff has charisma, and Welles brings that charisma to life.
Welles has also surrounded himself with great Shakespearean actors. Everyone is excellent (although Jeanne Moreau is a little too sultry, and Margaret Rutherford a little too schoolmarmish.)
The movie's essential qualities can be split in two: the visual, stunning; the audio, disappointing. Welles is a master at framing beautiful, entrancing scenes. The shots of the towering gallows with the dead men hanging below are unforgettable. But the audio is, in a word, poor. All the dialogue was dubbed, and the dubbing is obvious. But the problem is worse than that: words and whole phrases are sometimes inaudible, and noise is a regular problem. Other reviewers have expressed the wish for a Criterion version, and improvement could best be made on the audio track. If that were done (and closed captioning added), Chimes at Midnight would become one of the great movies for teaching Shakespeare.
It is often said that a great actor can make Shakespeare understandable to an audience. I agree--but not in this movie. Because of the poor audio, this is one movie for which you need to read the plays first. Reading both parts of Henry IV should cover 95% of the movie. Reading just the scenes with Falstaff should cover well over 50%. There is also a book available with a "complete continuity script" of the movie.
I watched a DVD version marked "Nostalgia Family Video" on the back, and the audio seemed in synch to me. Although other reviewers have commented on the poor quality of the disc itself, there are unfortunately no other good options available. My understanding is that the audio is out of synch in the VHS version.
Near the end of the movie are some lines taken from Henry V. The King says,
"Enlarge the man committed yesterday,
That rail'd against our person: we consider
It was excess of wine that set him on."
The film version expressly adds that the man is "Falstaff" (which is not in the original text). My first reaction was that Welles was taking too large a liberty here. But then I went back and looked at Henry V again. In the written version, the prior scene had ended with Falstaff's being "shaked of a burning quotidian tertian"; and in the next scene (following the enlargement) Falstaff is dead. Welles is right: the King's lines are an allusion to Falstaff, especially given the wine. The King's act can be seen as a final parting, enlarging Falstaff from the bands of life.
What a great movie! In an interview done in 1982, Welles commented: "If I wanted to get into heaven on the basis of one movie, that's the one I'd offer up." In my opinion, he'd get in."
NOT a commercially produced DVD
Olga | 03/27/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"NOT a commercially produced DVD. Purly made artwork and DVD-R put inside
insted of commercially coated DVD. You can tell just looking at dvd's working surface, even can see CMDR engraving on the outer ring.Clearly NOT Manufactory pressing.
Why amazon allows selling home produced dvd?"
Magnificent in Every Respect!
Richard Masloski | New Windsor, New York USA | 02/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Until Criterion hopefully does a deluxe job on this little-known-by-the-world-at-large unmitigated masterpiece, this DVD version must suffice. And having watched it with a touch of trepidation as to its ultimate quality, I must say that this transfer simply bowled me over! Sharp images and audible sound and letterbox format: a great transfer of a great film. And so economical in these trying times!
If one does not know the story, it is advisable to read the film script first which is available through the Rutgers Films-in-Print Series. I say this because Shakespeare spoken (in any film or play version) often comes at us so rapidly that whilst savoring the first line said we miss the full import and impact of the second and so on and so forth. Once a viewer knows even the gist of the film's story, then bask in the glory of Welles' answer to anyone who ever thought he'd lost the sand since KANE. This film is 100% the product of pure genius: every scene a picture, every actor perfect for their part, every scene rich with thorough atmosphere and ambience. The music score fits each scene to pure perfection and stands magnificently on its own - and is also available on CD! I can't say enough about this movie: you feel it in a way you feel so few movies. It takes you from your seat and into each scene. It will move you to laughter and tears. It is what movies should be! It is a triumph and a tragedy: a triumph because it is a complete masterwork - and a tragedy because so few in the world realize it or even care."
DVD quality better than expected
John R. Sullivan | Havre de Grace, MD USA | 08/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is definitely a public-domain copy, though I don't think it's a DVD-R. It plays perfectly on my Panasonic HD player, though I echo a previous review that there are faint white vertical bars visible (at least on a hi-def TV) in the black areas of the screen. However, I can also declare that until this is given the full treatment, this version is the best, and it plays on American players. Purchase it through Movies Unlimited.com (sorry Amazon). I got mine through them for $21, including shipping."