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Richard III [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

richard-iii-criterion-blu-ray-coverU.S. Release

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English LPCM 1.0  
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: None
  • Running Time: 158 minutes
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 23, 2013
  • List Price: $39.95

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

 

 

 

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

title

William Shakespeare’s Richard III is based on historic accounts of this monarch’s brief reign (1483-1485). Earlier this year, King Richard received  posthumous attention when an excavation in Leicester revealed a skeleton confirmed to be his by carbon dating and genetic comparison with his living descendants.

This 1955 film, produced and directed by lead actor Laurence Olivier as Richard, opens with the coronation of Edward IV (Cedric Hardwicke). Soon, we behold Richard already contemplating the crown in the  monolog, “now is the winter of my discontent.”  Richard pursues and eventually wins Lady Anne (Claire Bloom) whose husband and father he has slain during a War of the Roses battle. Duke Richard convinces King Edward that Richard’s brother, George, the Duke of Clarence (John Gielgud) is plotting regicide.  Later, Richard has his brother drowned in a wine cask, thus removing another obstacle in his path to the throne. After King Edward dies, and his son (Paul Huson) briefly becomes King Edward V, Richard has him and his younger brother detained in the Tower of London.  Richard next has Lord Hasting (Alec Clunes), the protector of the princes, beheaded. Aided by the Duke of Buckingham (Ralph Richardson),  Richard becomes king and has the two princes murdered.  His reign becomes marked by rebellions and, his ally, Buckingham, deserts him to join the opposition forces.  In a final effort to secure his throne, Richard assembles his York forces against those of the Lancaster supporters. The Battle of Bosworth Field ensues. Before dying in battle, Richard delivers his famous quote “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.” At the film’s conclusion, Lord Stanley (Laurence Naismith) finds Richard’s bloody crown in a thorny bush.

throne

This is among the most successful screen adaptations of a Shakespeare play, following on the heels of Olivier’s Henry V and Hamlet. While heavily cut and interpolating dialogue from other sources, Richard III is an impressive translation of stagecraft to the silver screen, aided by the kind of cast that is virtually impossible to assemble today.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

rich1

Restoration was a collaborative effort involving The Film Foundation, Janus Films, the BFI National Archive, ITV Studios Global Entertainment Ltd., the Museum of Modern Art and Romulus Films. The original VistaVision negative underwent 4K scanning at Cineric, Inc with digital picture restoration by MTI Film. Color Correction was also performed in 4K at Sony Pictures Colorworks. Given the age of this film, the recovery of detail and color palette is frequently quite striking with a modest amount of grain and blurriness. However, such painstaking detail also lays bare some of the artificial backgrounds painted in the scenes leading up to the great battle.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

prince

Soundtrack restoration was performed by Chace Audio and rendered in listenable if somewhat boxy LPCM mono. Dialogue is very clear, critical to a filmed theater piece.  Unfortunately, the remastering fails to do justice to William Walton’s superb score.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

two

We get some really nice extras:

  • Audio commentary by playwright and stage director Russell Lees and John Wilders, former governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • Interviews with Olivier from a 1966 BBC series, Great Acting, hosted by theater critic Kenneth Tynan.
  • Gallery of behind-the-scenes and production stills and posters, accompanied by excerpts from Olivier’s autobiography, On Acting.
  • Twelve-minute television trailer featuring footage of Olivier, producer Alexander Korda, and other cast and crew from the film.
  • Trailer
  • Souvenir booklet with an essay by film critic, Amy Taubin.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

kneel

The magic of Shakespeare’s best dramas, and Richard III certainly deserves to be on that list, is that they still speak effectively to today’s audiences. The advantage afforded by the big screen over the theater stage is that viewers get a much better sense of place, be it large (battlefield) or small (castle chamber). The potential disadvantage of screen adaptations is that they can lose the intimacy that stage plays bring to theatergoers. This film avoids that trap by its spot-on cinematography and an unerring sense of direction by Sir Laurence himself. I remember seeing this film on television in glorious black and white (we did not have a color set in 1956!) and was mesmerized by the Olivier’s capture of Richard’s evil persona. Of course, Laurence Olivier was generally regarded as the greatest actor of the 20th century who made a most successful transition from stage to screen. Like fine wine, this film has aged extremely well, and, even if you have seen it before, Richard III, in its restored glory, demands another watch. If you have not seen this film, then my only caveat is that it will make much of today’s film fare look even lamer than it is.

 Additional Screen Captures

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BestBuy.com:
Richard III - Fullscreen - Blu-ray Disc

Purchase Richard III [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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crown

ghost

boys

head

sword

bloom

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BestBuy.com:
Richard III - Fullscreen - Blu-ray Disc

Purchase Richard III [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

 Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

 

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