"True, you have to get past the blackface make-up, the bright red lips, the false eyelashes; but once that surface is accepted, a great performance is there to be appreciated. Olivier is the blackest Othello I've ever seen, the most 'African', in his movements, the wilds of his emotion, the warrior-like curses and threats as he beats his chest and curses his fate. Many thought it was a ham acting, excruciatingly over the top; for me it was a courageous, dangerous performance, walking the line between terror and pity throughout. His voice is astonishing and his delivery unique and musical and frightening and tender. I thought it was his bravest, and greatest, performance. I'm glad it was recorded as a filmed play and not 'opened up' as a movie, which would have diluted the intensity of the performance. Highly recommended, with the above caveats about the makeup."
The Moor Of Venice
Marlina | Wisconsin | 08/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wrote my AP English essay junior year in high school about the Moor of Venice. I have seen every version of this play that has ever been committed to film, which is no small feat for a woman who adores the Bard as I do. I am an African American woman and I have heard about the fact that some think that his portrayal of the moor to be stereotypical, well, I don't think so. I think that there is nothing so sweeping as the way that he brings this play to life, Othello is not my favorite Shakespeare play, possibly the third favorite but there is something in the truth of Othello that I think is deeply stirring, it is the truth of self-esteem. He thinks himself a lowly creature, despite the fact that he is a great general and is acclaimed by many even the trials that he has been through in his life. Olivier makes you feel that, he wrung tears from me the frist time that I saw him in this performance, like a floodgate, I wanted to hold this wounded man to my heart, he was flawless and seamless, I lost Olivier in this movie, he was purely the character. I think that if I were trying to get someone to understand the subtle nature of Othello this would be the performance that I would suggest, I am so glad that I saw it one night on cable when I could sleep. He outshines all others who have attempted this part, ALL OTHERS. I mean I have seen the Laurence Fishburne portrayal and its good and it has its moments but this one is amazing. I didn't notice his lips being red really, but when you are that dark, the inner part of your lips are redder by contrast. When I saw it I was floored, his voice,the sheer emotion, glorious. I am going to buy this version because I think it belongs on the shelf with my four and a half hour version of Hamlet."
Magnificent Pinnacle of Drama
blockhed | UK | 07/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is Olivier's finest performance, although Archie Rice runs it close. Anyone even minimally familiar with Shakespeare criticism knows that, as the play is written, the Moor's tragic flaw is not that he is prone to jealousy, but that he over-dramatizes his self-image. He exaggerates his role in life as a great military commander, with excessive rhetorical relish, and sees himself as a man for whom personal honour and glory are of greater intrinsic importance than anything else, including love, loyalty and forgiveness. This is why and how Iago succeeds in making such a fool of him.
The role itself is therefore ideally suited to Olivier's over-the-top theatrical style. To complain that this is a filmed stage play is idiotic, since it never pretends to be anything else. That is exactly what it sets out to be: a permanent record on film of a stage production. It is also idiotic to protest that Olivier is a white man playing the part in black make-up: that is how Shakespeare wrote it, 400 years ago, and there is nothing that can now be done to alter it, like it or not.
Olivier's performance is utterly compelling. Only the semi-literate, or those with the aesthetic sensitivity of a rhinoceros, can fail to be gripped and transfixed by this superb interpretation of one of the most diabolically well-written masterpieces of European theatre. It is interesting to note that such is Shakespeare's genius for stage-craft that even modern ten-year-old American kids (of normal intelligence) can easily follow the development of the drama, in spite of the apparently archaic language.
Finlay's Iago and Redman's Emilia match Olivier. Maggie Smith's Desdemona is very fine, although I see the role played by someone just a touch more delicate and vulnerable. The stage direction is masterly, and the few simple sets are also excellently conceived. Shakespeare's tragedies are, by their very nature, overpowering works: Olivier understands the timing and significance of every word, and delivers the lines in a manner entirely appropriate to their original creation. I haven't seen all the other Othellos by the many other actors, but can only suspect that their performances, whether by white players or black, must fade and pale by comparison.
These comments relate to the BHE dvd version, digitally remastered by Warner, which also includes a fragmentary interview with Anthony Hopkins, cast profiles, as well as a brief account of Shakespeare's sources for the play, and its theatrical history."
blockhed | 05/19/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Laurence Olivier's interpretation of Othello in this production is outstanding. His black paint, heavily Negroid make-up, careful imitation of West Indian gait & gesture, astonishing vocal inventiveness, and precise accent (not to mention his hilarious laugh) coalesce to create perhaps his best performance. Unlike some other Othellos, Olivier created an essentially narcissistic and very self-dramatizing outsider (you'll be swept away by many of his heightened speeches). Maggie Smith, Fred Finlay, and Joyce Redman were also very good. All Olivier fans and Othello fans, this is a must buy!"
blockhed | 02/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"olivier is simply amazing in the role of othello. i don't think anyone else - not derek jacobi, ian mckelen, not even kenneth branaugh - could have transformed themselves into such a convincing black man. i think olivier's othello is one of the great performances in all of film. my only gripe with this version is that i felt olivier overplayed the part at times. i know that othello is a passionate man caught up in an emotional whirlwind, but the histrionics were a bit much. otherwise, an excellent adaptation of shakespeare's play."