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Olivier's Shakespeare Collection (1955)

Cast: Laurence Olivier, Cedric Hardwicke, John Gielgud, more...
Director: Laurence Olivier
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Classics, Classic Drama, British Drama, Classic Drama, Shakespeare, Criterion Collection

Synopsis
Henry V (Criterion Collection) (1944)

Laurence Olivier's adaptation of Henry V is one of the finest Shakespeare films ever made, full of rousing action, beautiful colors and passionate performances. Henry V is the story of the newly crowned king of England who fights the French for possession of Normandy. Olivier's direction is inventive, beginning the film as if it were a performance at the Globe Theatre, and having it slowly expand so the final battle scenes take place in realistic settings. Released in 1944 during the height of World War II, Henry V didn't receive an American release until 1946, upon which Olivier won a special Academy Award for "his outstanding achievement as actor, producer and director in bringing Henry V to the screen." ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Movie Guide

Hamlet (Criterion Collection) (1948)

Although criticized by Shakespeare devotees upon its release because of director, producer, and star Laurence Olivier's decision to excise large portions of the text, his cinematic version of Hamlet is widely considered the best out of several dozens (and counting). Hamlet (Olivier) is a medieval Danish prince who's still melancholy over the sudden death of his father and the quick, subsequent remarriage of his mother, Queen Gertrude (Eileen Herlie) to his uncle, Claudius (Basil Sydney). Informed by the ghost of his father that Claudius murdered him, Hamlet schemes to take revenge. Unsure how best to proceed, his delays and the horrible secret burdening him eventually lead to the violent snuffing out of several lives in both his family and that of courtier Polonius (Felix Aylmer), whose daughter Ophelia (Jean Simmons) is in love with Hamlet. Greatly influenced by the inventive camera work in Citizen Kane (1941) and by modern, psychological reinterpretations of Shakespeare's play, Olivier's masterpiece was the winner of four Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Actor (Olivier), Best Black and White Art Direction/Set Direction and Best Black and White Costume Design. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide

Richard III (Criterion Collection) (1955)

Laurence Olivier was the director, co-screenwriter (with Alan Dent), and star of this robust adaptation of Shakespeare's drama, which, as Bruce Eder has written, "was the final, crowning glory of the British studio system and the end of the great cycle of British films aimed at international audiences." Olivier begins his Richard III by recapitulating the final scene of Henry IV, Part III with Edward IV (Cedric Hardwicke) being crowned king. In the background of the celebration, Richard (Laurence Olivier) jealously views the proceedings. Soon afterwards, Edward IV is murdered, drowned in a vat of wine. Richard becomes king and, after proceeding with a succession of intrigues and duplicities, he finds his kingdom in dire peril, set upon by Henry Tudor (Stanley Baker) and mustering a final defense for his realm at the Battle of Bosworth. ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide


GreenCine Member Reviews

Nothing better by HarryHardy August 12, 2006 - 12:30 PM PDT
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I've seen this many times and marvel at its creativity----Battle of Agincourt without battle sounds, transcending from an Elizibethan stage to "vasty fields of France" and dozens more. And you don't have to be an intellectual or college grad to appreciate it. Shakepeare wrote for commoners in his audience as well. Before I was happily married I dated many--too many? girls but could have tripled the number if I could have put on moves like Olivier as Henry V puts on Katherine with words. Anyway, there may be movies as good, but none better.
Harry Hardy




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