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King Lear (1984)

Laurence Olivier , Colin Blakely , Michael Elliott  |  NR |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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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 (54 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0769712231
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,508 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "King Lear" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe Olivier's best performance 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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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars you WILL cry 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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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By HAMLET
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing how some just don't get it January 25, 2005
Format:DVD
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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the Best of the King Lears on Tape August 22, 2002
By A Customer
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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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Our darker purpose..." 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Olivier is amazing in this performance!
Published 12 days ago by Peg
5.0 out of 5 stars Olivier IS Lear
An outstandingly great actor giving once again one of the great performances of his career, supported by a great cast. Worth every cent many times over.
Published 1 month ago by Nobilangelo
5.0 out of 5 stars KING LEAR - Laurence Olivier's triumph as Shakespeare's greatest...
Yes, my subtitle is hyperbolic, I admit that but I won't change it because this production has moved me so deeply and so consistently since I saw its first broadcast on PBS. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Daniel B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare the most quoted person in the English language
Olivier at his finest. Not an easy play to read.Hard to keep the characters straight.But to read it out loud is another matter! Read more
Published 4 months ago by rh
3.0 out of 5 stars Missing Subtitles
A major drawback is the missing of subtitles. Shakespeare cannot be enjoyed to the fullest without subtitles. What a pity and an oversight of this release.
Published 6 months ago by 4Real
4.0 out of 5 stars The Benchmark
A classic performance, a few have equalled it, but none surpassed. Every Lear is different, and we may like one reading better than another, but here, ALL the performances... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Emerita
5.0 out of 5 stars "King Lear."
Shakespeare, and Sir Laurence! What more needs to be said??? Shakespeare has to be acted by professional
actors, or it doesn't play, expecially with his tragedys.
Published 9 months ago by Arlette M.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh Look at a Classic
I saw this version of Lear on TV years ago and at that time I didn't like it. I can't imagine what I was thinking..I suppose it seemed feeble to me. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Richard
5.0 out of 5 stars A great moie
This is the best of all of the movies made about King Lear. Laurence Olivier was one of the greatest actors ever to appear on the screen or the stage. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Edison E. Pastor
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall, better than Lear with McKellen, but not better than McKellen
With 46 reviews already posted, there is probably not much I can say that is new, except perhaps to say that Olivier's performance is almost as good as Ian McKellen's more recent... Read more
Published 15 months ago by B. Marold
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