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Macbeth (1979)   Romeo and Juliet (1976)

Twelfth Night (1988)      King Lear (1976)

Some of the finest actors in a generation perform 4 of the bard's greatest plays in specially filmed adaptations by the Royal Shakespeare Company for Thames Television.

Macbeth: Trevor Nunn's highly acclaimed production of the classic tale of the Scots nobleman whose ambition, spurred on by his alluring wife and an evil prophecy, leads him to treachery, murder and damnation. Starring Sir Ian Mckellen and Judi Dench together with the original RSC cast.

Romeo & Juliet: The Montagues and Capulets are bitter enemies, sworn to hatred. Yet when their children Romeo (Christopher Neame) and Juliet (Ann Hasson) fall in love, their happiness is doomed to failure in this brilliant interpretation of the classic tale of love and loss.

Twelfth Night: Performing one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies, the Renaissance Theatre Company, starring Richard Briers and directed by Kenneth Branagh, deliver one of the most highly acclaimed adaptations of all time.

King Lear: Shakespeare's tragic masterpiece is brought to life in this superb production starring Patrick Magee as the titular king who descends to madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery.


(aka "A Performance of Macbeth by William Shakespeare" )

 

directed by Philip Casson
UK 1979

 

Disc 1 of THE SHAKESPEARE COLLECTION presents Trevor Nunn's television production - with technical direction by Philip Casson - of MACBETH performed by The Royal Shakespeare Company.

Shot on a circular stage, Nunn's avant-garde conception dispenses with all sets and utilizes only a bare minimum of props. Costumes are anachronistic (black leather, dinner jackets, military tunics), the music sometimes psychedelic, and sweaty and dirty flesh lit with chiaroscuro lighting (and sickly green gels to suggest the otherworldly). Compared to the sets on some other TV adaptations, the lack of sets here heightens attention on the performances (the asides towards the camera seem more naturalistic without the semblance of realism provided by brightly lit period sets); that said, the production fails to capture the atmosphere and ferocity of Roman Polanski's film adaptation. Ian McKellan (SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION) essays the title role, and his asides to the audience early on provoke strange reactions and remarks from the other characters (long before he starts seeing ghostly apparitions). He is very convincing in his mental deterioration, particularly during his second visit to the witches late in the story. For those more familiar with Judi Dench through her 007 film appearances and the BBC series AS TIME GOES BY (on PBS stateside), it is interesting to see her in a not-so-squeaky-clean role; but she's more convincing when guilt-ridden and paranoid than ruthless. The cast also features an early appearance by Roger Rees (recognizable to American TV viewers as Robin Colcord on the sitcom CHEERS) as Duncan's son Malcolm.

Eric Cotenas

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DVD Review: Fremantle Media - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Fremantle Media

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 2:25:35
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.67 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.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Fremantle Media

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: 16 July 2012

Chapters 29

 

Comments

Freemantle's THE SHAKESPEARE COLLECTION combines four television adaptations previously issued separately on DVD by Fremantle Media in 2004. The same titles are also available in an R1 boxed set from A&E (B000G1R3ZS).

Given the stark stage lighting and TV video camera photography, the image is understandably softish and sometimes streaky despite the dual-layer encoding. The green tinge of some scenes come from the lighting's conceptual design. The mono audio track capably conveys the dialogue and music, but it is a filmed stage performance so there is of course an echoey quality to some of the more loudly delivered dialogue. Optional English subtitles would have been nice, but you can always dust off your copy of the play. There are no extras, but the scene menu is divided up into acts, and the chaptering is encoded by scene.

The R1 DVD from A&E features an introduction and featurette on the play with Ian McKellan.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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directed by Joan Kemp-Welch
UK 1976

 

Escalus (Peter Dyneley, THE MANSTER), Prince of Verona, has had enough of the public disruptions caused by the long-standing rift between the Montague and Capulet family, and has declared that they will make peace on pain of death. When Romeo (Christopher Neame, DRACULA A.D. 1972) - only son of Montague (radio producer Michael Macowan) - sneaks into a party given by Capulet (Laurence Payne, VAMPIRE CIRCUS) in order to woo the fair Rosaline, he is instead struck by the appearance of young Juliet (Ann Hasson, FOUR DAYS IN JULY), who is promised to Paris (Simon MacCorkindale, JAWS 3), kinsman of the Prince. He is recognized by Capulet's nephew Tybalt (David Robb, THE SWORDSMAN), but is prevented from causing a scene; but Tybalt's hatred will figure into the chain of events that turns Romeo and Juliet's love story into a tragedy.

Yet another adaptation of the perennial high school Shakespeare favorite, this version of ROMEO AND JULIET mounted by television director Joan Kemp-Welch (wife of director Peter Moffatt [the series ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL]). While disc 1 of this set (MACBETH) used no sets, anachronistic costumes, and a bare minimum of props, ROMEO AND JULIET goes the opposite path with meticulously-designed costumes and attractive period sets (although they are just about as convincing as historic Earth-like alien worlds of a DOCTOR WHO episode. The film sticks laboriously to the source play - although the resulting film is a whole hour longer than the promised "two hours traffic" and may be more interesting to Shakespeare scholars and students than average viewers more interested in a tear-jerker. Viewers who have seen Hammer's DRACULA A.D. 1972 may find it hard to get past the idea of "Johnny Alucard" as Romeo - although Neame is more restrained here - and Hasson does look a bit too "not yet fourteen" to be courted by Neame or MacCorkindale (young as they are here). Supporting performances due fair better, particularly Payne as Capulet, Robin Nedwell as Mercutio, Patsy Byrne (LES MISERABLES) as the comic relief nurse, and Christopher Biggins (THE SEX THIEF) as the illiterate servant who unwittingly tells Romeo and Mercutio about Capulet's party. The cast also features Clive Swift (known to PBS viewers as the long-suffering husband on KEEPING UP APPEARANCES) as Friar Lawrence.

Eric Cotenas

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DVD Review: Fremantle Media (The Shakespeare Collection) - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

Distribution

Fremantle Media

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 3:06:42
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.23 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.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Fremantle Media

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date:

Chapters 27

 

Comments

Fremantle's dual-layer disc looks soft, but this is expected given the seventies videography and the compression of a three-hour production onto a single disc (I imagine it still looks better than the PAL-NTSC-converted R1 disc). The mono audio fares much better. The film has been encoded with twenty-seven chapters, but they are labeled by act, scene, and setting; so they only be of use to people familiar with the play (as well as, perhaps, students viewing it in concert with the text). There are absolutely no extras. This edition is likely identical to Fremantle's 2004 solo disc.

The R1 disc from A&E features a retrospective featurette with actors Christopher Neame and David Robb.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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directed by Paul Kafno (technical) / Kenneth Branagh (stage)
UK 1988

 

Disc 3 of THE SHAKESPEARE COLLECTION features a 1988 televised adaptation of TWELFTH NIGHT as staged by Kenneth Branagh - with his Renaissance Theatre Company (founded the previous year) - and directed for television by Paul Kafno.

Castaway Viola (Frances Barber, EVILENKO) is rescued from a shipwreck and - believing her win brother Sebastian to be dead - is taken to Illyria where her sea captain rescuer (Tim Barker, A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY) arranges for her to pose as a page named Cesario and serve the Duke of Orsino (Christopher Ravenscroft, later in Branagh's HENRY V). Although she grows to love Orsino, she cannot reveal her identity and so reluctantly assists in his unsuccessful attempts to woo the Lady Olivia (Caroline Langrishe, HAWKS) who has just lost both her father and brother. Lady Olivia will have nothing to do with Orsino, but she finds herself falling for Cesario. Viola realizes this quickly and attempts to steer the lady's affection back towards her lord; but she will soon have more trouble on her hands from Lady Olivia's cousin Sir Toby (James Saxon, A PRAYER FOR THE DYING) who intends her for easily-manipulated Sir Andrew (James Simmons, EMPIRE STATE). Sir Toby, Lady Olivia's maid Maria (Abigail McKern, CHILDREN OF THE LAKE), and Sir Toby's servant Fabian (Shaun Prendergast, of Branagh's FRANKENSTEIN) plot to get rid of her head steward Malvolio (Richard Briers, of TV's THE GOOD LIFE/GOOD NEIGHBORS), and have a reluctant Sir Andrew challenge Cesario to a duel. None of the parties are prepared for the extra complications that occur when Viola's brother Sebastian (Christopher Hollis) - also posing in service to Orsino under the name Curio - shows up and is mistaken by all for Cesario (seeming to be in several places at the same time and confusing Lady Olivia with his bewildering positive responses to her advances). Barker also assumes a dual role as the sea captain who rescues Viola and Antonio, the pirate who rescues Sebastian. Anton Lesser (THE MISSIONARY) plays Feste the fool, and provides vocals to some musical interludes (including "Come Away Death" which is based on Paul McCartney's "Once Upon a Long Ago").

Early on, there is subtle disconnect between the Kafno's camera staging and Branagh's staging, so there are times when it feels like the camera is just recording a play rather than staging it. Later Branagh collaborator Patrick Doyle's incidental music adds little to the scene transitions. The sets are intentionally artificial, and the costumes are period but about two hundred years later than when the play was written (circa 1600). As if the performance was shot in sequence, the technical aspect and the performances fall into sync about half-way through. The performances do not make much of an impression for much of the first half of the film - even the broadly comic antics of the supporting characters - but suddenly everyone seems to spring to life when the always-delightful Briers starts exercising his comic muscles (Longshire's facial reactions to his bizarre behavior are particularly noteworthy), and the Cesario-Viola-Curio-Sebastian mistaken identity antics latch on to that momentum during the extended period in which Malvolio is offscreen.

Eric Cotenas

Reviews        More Reviews       DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Fremantle Media (The Shakespeare Collection) - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

Distribution

Fremantle Media

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 2:35:05
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.29 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.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Fremantle Media

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date:

Chapters 18

 

Comments

Fremantle's dual-layer DVD looks soft as expected for a videotaped late eighties production. The music and dialogue are well-rendered by the Dolby Digital mono audio (one or two mumbled lines are the fault of the original live audio recording). Once again, the scene selection menu is arranged by act and scene (although this play has fewer and longer scenes than the others in this set).

The Region 1 DVD from A&E features a twenty-minute interview with Kenneth Branagh.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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directed by Tony Davenall
UK 1976

 

Disc 4 of THE SHAKESPEARE COLLECTION features Patrick Magee (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE) - who had played Cornwall in Peter Brook's film adaptation - in the title role of KING LEAR.

Aged King Lear divides his kingdom in three and plans to give the largest portion to the daughter that loves him most. Eldest daughter Goneril (Beth Harris, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS) - married to the Duke of Albany (Philip Brack, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS) - and middle child Regan (Ann Lynn, THE BLACK TORMENT) - married to the Duke of Cornwall (Peter Jeffrey, COUNTESS DRACULA) - make eloquent proclamations of love, while youngest daughter Cordelia (Wendy Allnutt, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE) offends with her honesty. Lear disinherits Cordelia - and also banishes the Earl of Kent (Ray Smith, OPERATION: DAYBREAK) when he protests this treatment - but the King of France is impressed with her honesty and marries her. Lear divides his kingdom in two and leaves it to his two favored daughters and their husbands. Edmund (Patrick Mower, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT) - illegitimate son to the Earl of Gloucester (Ronald Radd, THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE) - would also like to usurp his father's position and plots against his brother Edgar (Robert Coleby, THE PLUMBER), who is banished from the kingdom as a traitor. When Goneril and Regan show their true contemptuous feelings to Lear, he gives into his madness and rushes out into the storm with only his Fool and attendant Caius - actually Kent in disguise - where he meets Edgar, who is masquerading as a madman. Gloucester writes to the King of France, Cordelia's husband, asking for help in light of Goneril's and Regan's treatment of the king, but he is betrayed by Edmund, who is also betraying the Duke of Albany and the Duke of Cornwall with both sisters. Meanwhile, Cordelia and the King of France are leading an army into Britain.

This Thames Television adaptation features attractive sets, costumes, and overall good performances. Magee would seem like the ideal scenery-chewing choice for King Lear, but his performance is just odd for the first two-thirds of the production; he only becomes the Patrick Magee we're more familiar with at the eighty-five minute mark when Lear finally goes completely off-the-rails. Of the three sisters, Harris is most impressive as the duplicitous Goneril; and Mower entertainingly vile. Judicious pruning of the text results in the best-paced adaptation in the set.

Eric Cotenas

Reviews        More Reviews       DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Fremantle Media (The Shakespeare Collection) - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

Distribution

Fremantle Media

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:59:44
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.47 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.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Fremantle Media

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date:

Chapters 21

 

Comments

Fremantle's dual-layer disc is subject to the limitations of the original video shooting. Swords occasionally catch blown-out highlights and the fine detail of crowns and especially chain mail. The Dolby Digital mono audio fares better. The production was originally screened in six parts, but it is presented on this disc without interruption. There are no extras.

The R1 DVD from A&E features an interview with actor Patrick Mower.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


DVD Menus
 

 


Screen Captures

 

 


 

 


 

 


Chroma

 

 


 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Fremantle Media

Region 0 - PAL

 



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