directed by Various
UK / USA / Italy  1899 - 1911


The seven films in this unique collection – from Britain, Italy and the USA – are created from the only known surviving materials, nitrate prints preserved by the British Film Institute's National Film and Television Archive. They have survived for almost a century, and include beautiful examples of hand stenciling and tinted prints. There is a magical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream containing some remarkable special effects, a charming five-minute film of The Tempest, and the very first Shakespeare film ever made, King John, in 1899. This unique and fascinating record shows us the exuberance, invention and conviction of these early filmmakers and demonstrates the possibility of the Shakespearean text.

The complete collection, accompanied by a specially commissioned score by award-winning young composer Laura Rossi, contains: King John (UK, 1899), The Tempest (UK, 1908), A Midsummer Night's Dream (USA, 1909), King Lear (Italy, 1910), Twelfth Night (USA, 1910) The Merchant of Venice (Italy, 1910) and Richard III (UK, 1911)

DVD extras include filmed introduction and commentary by Judith Buchanan, lecturer in Film Studies at the University of York

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL

DVD Box Cover


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Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:28:24 (in total)
Video Aspect Ratio - various from pillar boxed to 1.33
Average Bitrate: 7.89 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Silent (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby) , Commentary in (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby)
Subtitles English, None( on Commentary and Introduction)

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio various

Edition Details:

• Introduction by Judith Buchanan (4;3 - 11:01)
• Commentary by Judith Buchanan
• Music Credits and Ackowledgements
• 2 page liner notes by Nicci Gerrard

DVD Release Date: October 25th, 2004

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 1 + 4+ 5 + 4 + 4 + 7 = 25 Chapters in total




BFI has done it again - bringing a totally unique and eccentric treat for DVD connoisseurs. Transferred from the original black and white prints, color tinted at times, damage is visible but acceptable. The overall resolution is very good even considering it was taken from a non-HD source ('combing in 'auto weave mode' is prevalent). BFI produced and released Silent Shakespeare several years ago - first as a VHS and then Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC used their PAL master to bring out the Milestone Collection DVD in North America. Hopefully, they'll also be coming out with a long-planned Dickens collection in the coming year.

The initial King John short was actually from the last century! It is pretty fascinating once you start to delve in to it all and the commentary is very helpful in gaining some perspective on what we are witnessing (ditto for Introduction). It is another one of those cool "watch-when-you-can't-think-of-anything else" DVDs. out of     

Gary W. Tooze


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Gary Tooze