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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: July ::
Re: Macbeth on Video
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0649  Tuesday, 14 July 1998.

[1]     From:   Michael Cohen <
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        Date:   Monday, 13 Jul 98 10:49:58 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0647  Q: Macbeth on Video

[2]     From:   David P. Hurd <
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        Date:   Monday, 13 Jul 1998 16:09:00 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0647  Q: Macbeth on Video

[3]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Monday, 13 Jul 1998 20:26:40 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0647  Q: Macbeth on Video

[4]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Jul 98 1:09:21 EDT
        Subj:   Re Macbeth on Video


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Cohen <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Jul 98 10:49:58 -0000
Subject: 9.0647  Q: Macbeth on Video
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0647  Q: Macbeth on Video

Thelma English asked
>I would appreciate list members' comments on the 1948 Orson
>Welles, the 1988 Thames Television (Michael Jayston & Barbara Leigh
>Hunt), the 1979 Trevor Nunn (with some RSC members), and the Shakespeare
>Video Society version with Jeremy Brett & Piper Laurie.

In the course of producing the Voyager Macbeth CD-ROM, I viewed as many
Macbeths as I could lay my hands on. We chose for our "copy text" the
Trevor Nunn production (actually, I believe it was shot in 1977, not
1979). The Welles Macbeth made an appearance as a clip on the CD...while
an interesting movie (Welles made few movies that weren't interesting,
although he made few movies that were unalloyed triumphs, either), it
played pretty fast and loose with the received text and contains scenes
that I can only describe as unintentionally comic. The Jayston/Hunt
production was not very memorable (I know I saw it, but I can't remember
much about it after five years). The Jeremy Brett one was...well, I
laughed and laughed watching it, so I guess I would say that it was
laughable (I have enjoyed Brett in other productions, but his was among
the silliest Macbeths I ever saw).

If you want a cinematic Macbeth, I recommend the 1968 Polanski, which
manages to create a darker vision than Shakespeare's (and teens will
love the bare tushie in 5.1, I'm sure <*grin*>).

Naturally, I'm biased toward the Nunn production. Spare but effective
sets, reasonably close adherence to the text, and superb performances
(Ian M. still gives me chills in a number of scenes and Judy D. is
grand).

Michael E. Cohen

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David P. Hurd <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Jul 1998 16:09:00 EDT
Subject: 9.0647  Q: Macbeth on Video
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0647  Q: Macbeth on Video

I loved the 1948 Orson Welles version of Macbeth,  the Black and White
helped set the dark, dismal tone and Welles performance was BRILLIANT.
I taped it from a showing on the local PBS channel here in NJ and I
watch it about once every other month!

dave

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Jul 1998 20:26:40 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0647  Q: Macbeth on Video
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0647  Q: Macbeth on Video

The Orson Welles Macbeth is an abortion, about which the less said the
better.  The Jayston version is a cheap, shabby production,
distinguished only by Barbara Leigh-Hunt's quasi-psychopathic, genuinely
frightening Lady Macbeth (one truly believes that she's a murderess).
The Brett production is a disgrace, due to the total incompetence of
Piper Laurie and the supporting cast.  Brett, a fine Shakespearean in
romantic parts, is here out of his depth; but he works hard and grows in
stature as the play progresses, achieving some impressive moments near
the end.  The production values are unpardonably poor, however; and the
whole misbegotten enterprise is depressing rather than purgative.  The
only real production of quality in your list  is the Trevor Nunn
version, and this despite the  mush-mouthed diction of the neurotic,
salivating McKellen and the sweetly inappropriate childishness of Dench
(a perfect ingenue, a hopeless villainess).  Nunn's production was
better on stage, where I saw it in 1976, but the video captures some
(not all) of its intensity; and it's the only one of your listed
versions with a mind behind it.  And the supporting cast is beyond
praise-I have never seen a better Banquo than John Woodvine, a better
Malcolm than Roger Rees or a better Ross than Ian MacDiarmid.  Bob
Peck's Macduff was overwhelming on stage; it's rather less so on tape,
but still a fine job.  An important production, and definitely the one
to get.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 Jul 98 1:09:21 EDT
Subject:        Re Macbeth on Video

Macbeth on video

Hi, the Welles' version is usually considered a bit of a disaster. (I'm
sure
there will be disagreement there.) Not nearly as good as his Othello.

* The Polansky version appeals to teens. It's very violent but that
stimulates a lot of class discussion as he made it soon after the Manson
gang killed his wife. It's also good for discussing how many liberties a
director should take with the text. There are good and bad things he did
in that respect.

* I believe there is a version with Nicol Williamson that is quite good.
I have not seen it but some of my students rented it and preferred it to
Polansky's.

* And if the Maurice Evans - Judith Anderson version is still around, I
would not recommend it. High school students in times past found the
main players a bit old for the parts. (Ageism?)

John Ramsay
Welland Ontario
Canada
 

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