Portrait of Laurence Olivier as Richard III




First, for the purposes of this review, I scanned through my Japanese laser-disc of Richard the Third, hereafter to be referred to as "R3," which was released by Embassy Home Entertainment, and found that the image was an excessively grainy full screen rendition of this outstanding film, complete with a riot of messy and bleeding colors and a tinny sound-track. (not to mention Japanese subtitles!)

Next, I played extended portions of the Criterion 1994 laserdisc, which I remembered had initially impressed me enormously------ and, I discovered, for good reason, for  as I watched the solid colors and apparently razor-sharp clarity of this great laserdisc I became increasingly convinced that the best Criterion's new R-3 dvd could accomplish would be to hopefully replicate the superb visual quality of that disc.

When I'm wrong I'm wrong. A scant minute after I started playing this dazzling new dvd I knew that all previous releases of this great film, which was, sadly, one of the last major gasps of the British film industry, had instantly become irrelevant. My seven foot screen has a tendency to call attention to even the smallest of flaws, but, except for the slightest variation in quality in some of this discs "restored scenes", I could find none. Indeed, the image quality (1.66:1- enhanced for 16:9) is so astoundingly great, with crystal-clear sharpness, and even the boldest and most potentially problematical colors rendered without any hints of "bleeding", that, as far I'm concerned, this will be the transfer to beat for year-end "best of" lists. It's that good.

The Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural sound is unusually strong and clear, an obvious necessity in a film of this nature. As for the film itself, this is the film to show those who don't care much for Shakespeare (not guilty!), as well those who don't dote on Olivier (guilty!) Olivier never ever falls into the trap of judging one of history's alleged arch-villains, but instead invests the character with such a profound sense of self-satisfaction, as well as a prodigious sense of humor, that when he takes us in his confidence it's difficult, despite the fact that his crimes are heinous indeed, not to root for him. The ravishingly beauteous Claire Bloom, as well as John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson (who practically steals every scene he's in!) head a distinguished British supporting cast, each at the very top of their form.

As you may have gathered by this time, I couldn't possibly be more enthusiastic about every aspect of this luminous Criterion Richard III.



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