RICHARD III (1956)
Article 2646 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-4-2008
Posting Date: 11-10-2008
Directed by Laurence Olivier
Featuring Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke
A deformed courtier with aspirations to the throne decides to murder those in his way.
I think this is only the second straight adaptation of a Shakespeare play that I’ve done for this series, the other being the 1935 version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. I’m actually rather surprised by this; since fantastic elements crop up in some of his more famous plays (“Hamlet” has a ghost, “MacBeth” has witches, etc.), I find it odd that my sources omit those while including this one, whose fantastic content consists largely of the fact that the title character is deformed, which seems to me to be not as strong an element. Still, the same basic story here inspired both the 1939 and the 1961 versions of THE TOWER OF LONDON, both of which are often classified as horror and feature horror stars (Boris Karloff and Vincent Price) as well.
This one is considered a classic as well as having perhaps Laurence Olivier’s finest role, and there is no doubt he is mesmerizing here. He directed the movie himself when he failed to convince Carol Reed to do so, and the movie often walks a thin line between the cinematic and the theatrical; the camera roves about in a clever and cinematic fashion, and the final scenes of the movie spend less time talking about the action than showing it, but the movie retains the theatrical origins in the declamatory delivery of many of the actors, Olivier in particular. Unless you’re an expert on Shakespeare or know the story very well, the movie will be a bit bewildering at times because of the confusing wash of characters and the difficulty of the language, but you’ll get the basic gist of what’s going on. The cast also features John Gielgud and Claire Bloom, and, for fantastic movie fans, keep your eyes open for Michael Gough, Michael Ripper and Patrick Troughton, all three playing murderers.