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Macbeth / McKellen, Dench (Thames Shakespeare Collection)

4 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Murder, prophecy, and witches! MACBETH returns, starring Academy Award®-nominee Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Academy Award®-winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), on DVD for the first time anywhere. First broadcast on Britain's Thame


Two of England's greatest actors, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench, electrify in this lean, stripped-down production of Shakespeare's darkest tragedy. In the wake of a battle, the Scottish warrior Macbeth (McKellen, Gods and Monsters, Lord of the Rings) receives a prophecy from a trio of witches: He shall be king. When fate doesn't unfold quickly enough, Macbeth and his even more ambitious wife (Dench, Shakespeare in Love, Iris) decide to give it a push. McKellen sweats anxiously and oozes a creeping lust for power, while Dench is hypnotically vicious from her first moment. For audiences used to their film careers, this grand pair will seem young as pups (this TV movie is from 1979, adapted from an acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production)--but that only gives them an added edge of sex and vigor. Extras include the older McKellen thoughtfully commenting on the play and this classic production. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

  • Introduction to Macbeth with Ian McKellen
  • The Scottish Play: An Explanation with Ian McKellen
  • Timeline of William Shakespeare's life and plays
  • Biography and filmography of Ian McKellen
  • Biography and filmography of Judi Dench

Product Details

  • Actors: Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, John Bown, Susan Dury, Judith Harte
  • Directors: Philip Casson
  • Writers: Trevor Nunn, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Trevor Nunn, Verity Lambert
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: November 16, 2004
  • Run Time: 145 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002TVWYW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,127 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Macbeth / McKellen, Dench (Thames Shakespeare Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
This production highlights the Christian v. pagan elements, and in other ways deals in opposites (men's v. women's perceptions, solid v. spirit worlds, etc.), but without beating you over the head with it. The witch scenes are amazing--the production borrows from Irish "bog people" imagery with the witches' stick puppets representing Macbeth's visions, with a little borrowing from Carlos Castaneda's peyote trips, and maybe the minimal "circle" staging of Equus. Minimal props and furniture; the actors carry it all the way, brilliantly. I can't imagine anyone doing a better, visceral, more committed job with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth than McKellan and Dench. It could sell huge--for a Shakespeare film--if only it wasn't probably too obviously a taped stage production (it doesn't try to be otherwise). A couple of turtlenecks among the costumes betray the 70's-era staging, but otherwise the costuming is great and doesn't date the production. If you a) are a fan of Ian McKellan and/or Judi Dench and b) appreciate great Shakespeare performances and want to be "in the know" on what's considered the definitive Macbeth staging of the past couple decades, this is the one.
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Format: VHS Tape
I purchased this tape after it was featured in an interview with Ian McKellen on Inside the Actor?s Studio and I decided I had to have it for my collection. This is a very simply staged version of Shakespeare's most violent play, and against this basic black canvas you witness two of the greatest stage actors of all time. The queen knighted both McKellen and Dench after this production, and rightfully so. They are both national treasures, as they should be.
This film is worth watching for these two outstanding performances alone, and for the beauty of the language, unencumbered by complex technical effects. Trevor Nunn has chosen to highlight the emotional deterioration of MacBeth and his Lady for this production, and I wonder if that choice was made because he had these two incredible actors for this production, or if he chose them for this purpose (a variation on the chicken/egg theory of theatrical production).
The "apparitions" (Banquo, dagger, et al) occur in MacBeth's head only -- McKellen's amazing ability convinces you that he sees bloody, murdered Banquo seated at the table, although we do not see him. (Believe me, this is infinitely preferable to some other Banquo apparitions I've witnessed in other productions.) Dench is, quite simply, the best actor alive to ever trod down the even road of the Bard?s blank verse. Period. Her Lady MacBeth?s degeneration is set in motion from the first letter-reading scene, climaxing in the most jaw-dropping sleepwalking scene ever.
Shakespeare has never SOUNDED better?much of this recording would work equally well as an audio-only version.
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Format: VHS Tape
Shakespeare's plays, I find, often tend not to come off too well on screen. The essence of these works is the language: it is Shakespeare's blank verse that contains the drama. But all too often, this gets lost on the screen. However, this much acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production, directed by Trevor Nunn, gets it absolutely right. The sets are minimal; the lighting is imaginative, but dark; the camera movements and editing are unobtrusive: nothing distracts from the verse, which - needless to say, given this cast - is beautifully spoken. The costumes are taken from different periods in history, and so do not tie the action down to any particular time; but there is a unity both in design and in purpose.
The atmosphere is intense and claustrophobic from the very beginning. Judi Dench presents a Lady Macbeth who, right from the start, is terrified of the spirits she calls upon to possess her. Ian MacKellen presents us with a figure on the verge of insanity, and possibly beyond: this Macbeth has to convince himself that "all is but toys", for otherwise, he could not go on living with the burden of such guilt. It is terrifying to see these figures descend further into the depths of evil and madness. Somehow, all horror films seem a bit tame after this: the evil does not come from the monster outside, but from the monster within ourselves.
In brief, this is not prettified Shakespeare. If you are looking for spectacle and opulence, it would be best to look elsewhere. But if you are looking for an intelligent reading of one of the great undisputed masterpieces of drama, then you need look no further.
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Format: DVD
If you require elaborate scenery, costumes, or special affects to appreciate Shakespeare, then this production is not for you. If all that you require is outstanding acting to bring Shakespeare to life, then you'll likely enjoy this production. The performances of Ian McKellen and Judi Dench are outstanding. Judi Dench's depiction of Lady Macbeth's descent into madness is riveting.

Acting aside, the great thing about this production, is that it presents Macbeth in much the same way as it would have been seen by William Shakespeare. Some comment on the stripped down nature of this production, without appreciating that in the original productions there was virtually no set and little in the way of costumes. Oh, and no women. Far from being an esoteric adaptation of Macbeth, this version is much closer to what theatre goers would have witnessed in Elizabethan times.
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Macbeth / McKellen, Dench (Thames Shakespeare Collection)
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