Combustible Celluloid
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With: Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Joyce Redman, Frank Finlay, Derek Jacobi, Robert Lang, Kenneth MacKintosh, Anthony Nicholls, Sheila Reid, Malcolm Terris, Harry Lomax, Michael Turner, Terence Knapp, Edward Hardwicke, Michael Gambon
Written by: none credited, based on a play by William Shakespeare
Directed by: Stuart Burge
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 166
Date: 12/15/1965

Othello (1965)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Green-Eyed Monster

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's a bit jarring when Laurence Olivier first appears in blackface for this Shakespeare production, but before long he begins working his magic, giving a surprising performance of almost lackadaisical poise and monstrous energy; it's truly astonishing. Unfortunately, he did not direct this movie, and the credited director Stuart Burge turns in a dull, dim-witted effort. He clearly has no idea how to leave the stage and make the picture move. Despite the widescreen, color cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A Space Odyssey, Tess, etc.), it's a bloated corpse of a movie, running a numbing 166 minutes with only Olivier's lifeblood to sustain it. Maggie Smith co-stars as Desdemona and Frank Finlay gets the coveted Iago role, often cited as the best in all of Shakespeare. (Both Smith and Finlay were nominated for Oscars, as were Olivier and Joyce Redman as Emilia.) I far prefer Orson Welles' 1952 version as well as the 1995 version with Laurence Fishburne in the title role and Kenneth Branagh as Iago.

DVD Details: The new DVD from Warner Home Video comes with a trailer and an introduction by Olivier. It was released in conjunction with several other Shakespeare titles, including Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996).

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