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Essential Art House: Richard III
Essential Art House Richard III
Actors: Laurence Olivier, Cedric Hardwicke, Nicholas Hannen, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud
Director: Laurence Olivier
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
NR     2009     2hr 41min

Following his triumphant screen versions of Henry V and Hamlet, director, producer, and star Laurence Olivier assembled a stunning cast (including Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, and Claire Bloom) for a grand realization o...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Laurence Olivier, Cedric Hardwicke, Nicholas Hannen, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud
Director: Laurence Olivier
Creators: Laurence Olivier, Otto Heller, Alexander Korda, Colley Cibber, David Garrick, William Shakespeare
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Military & War
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 06/16/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/1955
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1955
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 2hr 41min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 12
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
See Also:

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Movie Reviews

Even More Impressive in the DVD Format
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 02/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Those who criticize Laurence Olivier and Alan Dent -- co-authors of the screenplay -- for taking certain liberties with Shakespeare's play should also criticize Shakespeare for taking certain liberties with the historical material on which he often relied so heavily. In this instance, Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, Vol. 6, and various Tudor Historians. In my opinion, such quibbling is a fool's errand. This much we do know about the historical Richard III. He was born in 1452 in Fotheringay Castle, Northamptonshire, the youngest son of Richard, Duke of York. He was created Duke of Gloucester by his brother, Edward IV, in 1461, accompanied him into exile (1470), and played a key role in his restoration (1471). Rewarded with part of the Neville inheritance, he exercised vice regal powers, and in 1482 re-captured Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Scots. When Edward died (1483) and was succeeded by his under-age son, Edward V, Richard acted first as protector, but within three months, he had overthrown the Woodvilles (relations of Edward IV's queen), arranged for the execution of Lord Hastings (c.1430-83), and had himself proclaimed and crowned as the rightful king. Young Edward and his brother were probably murdered in the Tower on Richard's orders, although not all historians agree. He tried to stabilize his position but failed to win broad-based support. His rival Henry Tudor (later Henry VII), confronted him in battle at Bosworth Field (August 22, 1485), when Richard died fighting bravely against heavy odds. Though ruthless, he was not the absolute monster Tudor historians portrayed him to be, nor is there proof he was a hunchback. Cleverly, this film begins with the final scene of Henry IV, Part III, the coronation of Edward IV (Cedric Hardwicke). Locating himself at a strategic distance from the throne, the Duke of Gloucester (Olivier) carefully observes those around him. He shares with those who see this film or read the play his most private thoughts and feelings, many of which are as deformed as his body. Gloucester's "winter of discontent" will soon end. With a systematic tenacity unsurpassed by any other of Shakespeare's villains, Gloucester's coronation as Richard III (his own "glorious summer") will be the fulfillment of his royal ambition. The acting throughout the cast is outstanding. I do not recall another film in which Olivier, John Gielgud (George. Duke of Clarence), and Ralph Richardson (Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham) all appeared together, joined by Claire Bloom (Lady Anne Neville) and Stanley Baker (Henry Tudor). Special note should also be made of Otto Heller's cinematography which is integrated seamlessly with their performances. It is a pleasure to have this film now available in a DVD format, one which offers much sharper images and much clearer sound. Other special features of this DVD version include high-definition digital transfer; newly discovered footage; a commentary by playwright and stage director Russell Lees and John Wilder, former Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company; 1966 BBC interview with Olivier hosted by Kenneth Tynan; a 12-minute television trailer; a theatrical trailer; and an essay by film historian Bruce Eder."
One of the greatest Shakespeare films...
IA | San Francisco, California United States | 04/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Only two of Orson Welles' Shakespeare films rival "Richard III" for the title of greatest Shakespeare movie ever made. That said, Olivier's film may contain the most sheerly enjoyable performance any actor gave on film. His Duke of Gloucester is the definitive performance. Elia Kazan once said Olivier had a certain girlish quality, and that quality is used in the film: His Richard is seductive--a prancing, charming monster whose voice sounds like "honey mixed with razor blades." But one look into his black eyes, framed by false hawk nose, violently angled eyebrows and fright pageboy wig, will tell you that he's also stone-cold pure evil. Richard enacts all our homicidal, plotting fantasies as he cheerfully knocks off all his stuffy relatives and rivals. Olivier emphasizes the black comedy and wittiness of Shakespeare's play, which he cut and refashioned into a star vehicle for himself. Though Sirs Gielgud, Richardson and Hardwicke co-star, they don't make much of an impression. (Blame that on Shakespeare too) Interestingly, Olivier later regretted not having cast Orson Welles as Buckingham. You experience two major innovations concerning the filming of Shakespeare: the first is Olivier's old custom of using extremely stylized, artificial sets, thereby making Shakespeare's stylized, artificial verse fit in with the settings. The second is the source of Olivier's triumph: he delivers his soliloquys directly to the camera. This daring move destroys the fourth wall and takes true advantage of what the movies offer. He becomes our friend and confidante and we become complicit in his mounting evil. The production values are top-notch: we get deliriously vibrant technicolour, William Walton's pompous, irresistible music of pageantry, and the book-of-hours sets. And through those sets Olivier's camera subtly glides and skulks like the snake Richard himself is. Olivier is still an underrated director, and his grasp of the frame's spatial properties is excellent: he knew how to move the camera into and out of the frame for maximum impact. For an example, look at the moment Richard finally becomes King, and his satanic powers become unbottled: He slides down the bell rope to greet his minions, and expecting to shake his hand they approach, only to fall on their knees when Richard silently demands they kiss it. As they sink downward, the camera flees backward until the awful composition is complete, with half a dozen men in black on their knees as Richard presides all in the center of the frame: on twisted and bent legs as the bells announce the triumph of evil."
"Now is the winter of our discontent" DVD!
Classic Movie watcher | 10/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"On television the other day, I caught part of Al Pacino's close encounters of a Third kind i.e. a Richard III kind. If I recall correctly, someone in the Pacino piece said that Richard III is the most popular of Shakepeare's plays. If so, where is the DVD of the very best film of this play? It just cries out to be produced.Olivier's performance is superb and will probably never be excelled. The play covers the gamut of human emotions from jealousy, deceit, love, loyalty, anger, sadness, etc. There is never a dull moment as the scenes are filmed in such a fluid and beautiful manner. This is a true classic film of one of the bard's greatest works!"
A beautifully restored film about the hideous human nature
Classic Movie watcher | 08/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

No one could rival Laurence Olivier (Hamlet, Henry V, Richard III) as the scheming, ruthless youngest son of the 3rd Duke of York, who stopped at nothing to be King Richard III. His first appearance was deceptive. I noticed only a big nose and recognized him only after he spoke. Burdened with a crooked back, limp and shrunk hand, his ambition for kingship only burnt more feverishly. With disguised humbleness, he made peace with other royalties. His words were sugar-coated and gay. He killed Warwick, the 'KingMaker' who helped enthrone his elder brother as King Edward IV, and wooed Warwick's daughter Anne(the beautiful Claire Bloom) to marry him shortly after killing her husband. His planned murders of his elder brother Duke of Clarence, Lord Hastings, his young nephews (heirs-to-be), his wife Anne made even today's politics pale and unexciting.

Yet the movie about such a dark character was beautiful in VistaColour, set and costumes, cinematography. Scenes of executions, naïve Lord Hastings (Alec Clunes) walking into his death trap, innocent heirs-to-be greeting uncle Richard and Richard's final battle are memorable. All the other characters exuded integraity, royality and humanity. They were handsome in appearance and noble in heart, so different from Richard III. Even the once accomplice Duke of Buckingham (Ralph Richardson), without whose help there would be no Richard III, showed a moment of caution in doing any more evil. Perhaps it's this great contrast between Richard and everyone else that made the movie luring and tragic. In his last battle of Bosworth Field, Laurence Olivier showed a more reflective and human side of Richard III. When nearly everything on his side was lost, he marched, with a handful of supporters including his royal page (Stewart Allen), and fought valiantly.

The movie also succeeded in its clarity and fluidity. The powerplay of an excellent cast of experienced actors with great screen presence made 155 minutes fly without notice. With no prior knowledge of the Wars of Roses (House of York vs House of Lancaster), I am not at all lost in the many characters and relationship. And the crowning of Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond, as Henry VII marked the beginning of the most filmed Tudor dynasty - a perfect prologue of films about the lives of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth.