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King Lear

60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The late Sir Laurence Olivier stars in this Emmy Award winning production of Shakespeare's King Lear.


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Colin Blakely, Anna Calder-Marshall, Jeremy Kemp, Robert Lang
  • Directors: Michael Elliott
  • Writers: William Shakespeare
  • Producers: David Plowright
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Kultur Video
  • DVD Release Date: June 13, 2000
  • Run Time: 158 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0769712231
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,197 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "King Lear" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Michael S. Conaway on January 6, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
I have to disagree with the negative reviews posted above. This is possibly Olivier's best recorded performance, and the bulk of the other performances are excellent as well, particularly that of Diana Rigg. The actors speak their lines so casually and easily that, even if you're not used to Shakespearian dialog, it'll soon all seem perfectly natural. The set is minimalist, true, but if your enjoyment of Shakespeare is dependent upon set design then I recommend you never attend a stage performance. If I have one complaint about this production it's that the actors, while individually turning out great performances, don't appear to be relating to each other very well--as if they're each giving their rendition of their characters without letting their performances be informed by the performances of those around them. Still and all, this is an extremely moving production of one of the most powerful plays in the canon.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful By K. McDermott on January 4, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is not the best Lear, or the most complete, but it's the one I use in my classroom because Olivier's performance is so accessible and moving. His final scene makes you marvel at the emotional power an actor at the end of his career could muster -- and almost allows you to forget "The Betsy"! The supporting actors are very good, particularly Diana Rigg as Regan and John Hurt as an empathetic Fool. The language is crystal clear and the neolithic-Britain setting gives a better sense of the historical context for this legend than do the many modern-dress updates.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Scott Law on January 25, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a fine production of one of Shakespeare's greatest plays. The spare sets add to the poignance of this version as we aren't caught up in some exotic location so much as in the fact that it is actually a play. I chuckle whenever I hear someone say Olivier is too old for the power of Lear. I suppose it never dawned on ANYONE that Lear is an old man. He is supposed to be very old and Olivier fills the part. Who would know better how an old man would play it than an old man himself and the world's greatest actor on top of that? I can enjoy Ian Holm's version and Paul Scofield's version, but this is the definitive version. The cast is well chosen. The comments someone made about a poor cast are laughable. Don't let them fool you, this is great Shakespeare. Olivier knows just what he is doing. John Hurt as the Fool,Diana Rigg as Regan and Leo McKern as Gloucester are amazing. Get this and enjoy it!
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Format: VHS Tape
The late Sir Laurence Olivier's final major screen role, five years before his death in 1989, is one of his most legendary and best performances. It equals every other Shakespearean role that he did in greatness. He also adapted the play for the screen and produced it (though he took no credit for that). How appropriate that the final major screen role of the greatest Shakespearean actor of all time, Kenneth Branagh close behind, should be a Shakespeare production. A fitting end to a long and illustrious career (see my reviews of his Shakespeare movies). As always, Sir Laurence Olivier is backed up by a strong supporting cast, including Diana Rigg ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service"; see my review of this much-maligned James Bond film) as Regan, John Hurt ("1984") as the Fool, Brian Cox ("Troy"; see my review) as the Duke Of Albany and Esmond Knight (Olivier's collaborator on "Henry V" and "Hamlet"; see my reviews on those films). I highly recommend this version for English classes. I have not seen other versions of this play, but until I see a better one, which I doubt, this version is the DEFINITIVE "King Lear." This final performance by the greatest Shakespearean actor is NOT TO BE MISSED. Not Rated.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 22, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Laurence Olivier turns in an incredible performance as King Lear in this 1970s made-for-British-televison version. He can be watched again and again to savor both his acting and the beauty of Shakespeare's poetry (I've watched it dozens of times). An extremely strong supporting cast only helps - Diana Rigg as Reagan, Dorothy Tutin as Goneril, David Threlfall as Edgar (he played Leslie Titmous in the BBC/PBS *Paradise Postponed*), John Hurt as The Fool, Leo McKern as Gloster (better known as Rumpole, but Mckern was a stage actor in Britain for years). The roles of Edmund, Cornwall, Cordelia, and others are also very fine - Edmund especially. This version is particularly suited for savoring the performances and poetry as it is not really a "film" so much as a brilliant recording of a stage performance - the sets are minimal, and this only helps the acting. As in almost all Shakespeare films, some lines are cut, but no matter. When Lear, after all his hardships and disillusionments, gets to the lines "When we are born, we cry that we have come to this great stage of fools," the viewer might just be ready to cry, too. Fantastic performance.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful By JR Pinto on July 16, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It is difficult to imagine a better Lear than Laurence Olivier at this stage in his carreer. He had said that he completely identified with Lear by this stage in his life. We see the ruination of an old, but monumentally great man. The DVD notes describe Lear as a man brought down by his excessive pride, but that is wrong. Lear's weakness is his capacity, and his need, for love. He cannot bear that Cordelia may not love him as much as he loves her and it drives him mad. It is a pleasure to watch Olivier beat his head as he curses his daughters as only he can.
I don't know of any other comparable production of Lear, unless one counts Kurosawa's Ran. It seems that the art of Shakespearean acting has been lost on the newer guys, so it is a pleasure to watch the old masters of the Royal Shakespeare Company go at it. They make Elizabethan English perfectly lucid to modern audiences. It is a great production.
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