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Midsummer Night's Dream, A (1935)

4.4 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Midsummer Night's Dream, A (1935) (DVD)

Love is blind, fickle and true. And under the sway of capricious fairies it becomes blinder ( a queen romances as donkey), more fickle (best friends swoon over each other's beau) and truest of all (lovers repledge their devotion). "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" in Shakespeare's bewitching comedy!



James Cagney and Mickey Rooney romping in a Shakespearian fairyland? This could only be A Midsummer Night's Dream, Warner Bros.' 1935 attempt at classing up the proletarian studio. The legendary German stage director Max Reinhardt had produced the play at the Hollywood Bowl to enchanted, sold-out audiences, and Warners decided to hand Reinhardt the keys to the studio (along with fellow Germans William Dieterle, co-director, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who adapted Mendelssohn's music). Reinhardt created an eye-popping phantasmagoria, a movie laced with sparkling sequins, flying fairies, and moon-kissed forests. As for the words, Reinhardt had a collection of Warners studio players, notably James Cagney as Bottom, whose playing of "Pyramus and Thisby" with Joe E. Brown is perhaps the movie's comic high point. The other actors are decidedly varied, and they tend to be overwhelmed by the production design. Not so Mickey Rooney, whose performance as Puck is a feral, antic act of imagination (he was 14 during filming); picture a boy raised by wolves who somehow memorized Shakespeare. His Puck growls and screams and mocks the drama of the other characters, a little postmodern imp before his time. (Critic David Thomson called this Puck "truly inhuman, one of the cinema's most arresting pieces of magic"). The rest of the movie comes to earth with some regularity, but it's a one-of-a-kind production, and a reminder of the lavish, unreal possibilities within a movie studio. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Commentary by film historian Scott MacQueen
  • Olivia de Havilland screen test
  • Vintage featurette: A Dream Comes True
  • Presenting...: gallery of six teaser trailers showcasing cast members
  • Warner Bros. Studio Cafe teaser trailer
  • Musical short: Shake Mr. Shakespeare
  • Theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, Mickey Rooney, Joe E. Brown
  • Directors: William Dieterle, Max Reinhardt
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Original recording remastered, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: August 14, 2007
  • Run Time: 143 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000QGE8JC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,199 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Midsummer Night's Dream, A (1935)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
There have been criticisms here of Reinhardt's AMND as "un-Shakespearean," but truly: who among us would really want to sit in a theater with almost no props or backdrops, minimal costuming, men performing the women's parts, and audiences that were anything but quiet during the show? -For that's exactly what Shakespearean theater conditions amounted to. Our idea of Shakespeare derives simply from modern Masterpiece Theater style productions, which make a virtue of sober lucidity, and do a fine job of it, too.
But Reinhardt gives us a German High Romantic version of AMND, and displays a very different virtue, seldom seen in modern screen transcriptions of older works: a sense of well-conceived and executed style. You may not like his Mendelssohnian fairies, but their integration into the play--by choice of dialog, imaginative staging and costuming, brilliant special effects and incidental music--is consistent. Mendelssohn's music was in fact intended to accompany actual performances many years previously; and the ballet sequences built around it have a way of stopping time even today with their visionary beauty, a matter of movement, staging, lighting (the remarkable Hal Mohr), editing and effects. A book in fact could be written on Reinhardt's multi-level application of thematic materials, which is done in a manner that's far less boring than the way it sounds. This is a brilliant conception of Shakespeare, far from the "let's be different to grab attention" Shakespeare of punk Romeos that have fled across our screens in recent years.
The casting is generally very good. Mickey Rooney, in his first feature film role, displays all the remarkable energy and focus which were his greatest gifts.
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Format: DVD
The much awaited DVD release of the classic 1935 Warner Brothers production of `A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM' is something of a disappointment, in spite of the blurb on the keep case about its "sparkling restoration from original film elements".

This film, one of the most remarkable projects of 1930s Hollywood, was released in October 1935 in a 143 minute roadshow presentation. This was trimmed back to 132 minutes for general release (with the overture & exit music removed) and trimmed again to 117 minutes for its October 1936 re-release.

Apparently, only the original nitrate camera negative of the 117 minute version survives, which means that Warners discarded the trims. However, there is also a nitrate positive of the long version, and a nitrate dupe negative of same. I believe that they also have a nitrate fine grain of the short version, which was used as the basis for the very first Laser Disc and subsequent VIDEO release in the late 80s.

So, the team assembling this DVD had a number of excellent source materials from which to work and to produce a definitive version at last. Regrettably, they didn't and unless I am mistaken, no frame-by-frame digital restoration has even been attempted. Given all these choices, I would have thought they could have made a better job. Clearly WB just wouldn't spend the money.

Indeed, the team that was responsible for assembling the materials made some pretty poor decisions. This film is one of the most beautiful, visually, of the entire era and deserves better. Hal Mohr's spectacular photography (he deserved his Oscar) and wonderful lighting produces some breathtaking effects.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A great production of Shakespeare overwhelms us with its oral perfection and sensational visuals. In this case it is the latter, the remarkable stage visuals, that astonish us, as opposed to the elocution of the actors and actresses.

Max Reinhardt was a superstar theatre producter of the Berlin twenties.
(Being Jewish, he had to flee the Nazis, once they assumed power). He has created a German High Romantic version of the play. For example, the film has a spiritual glow, a soft-focus radiance when the fairies are in display. Even the palace in Athens has dreamlike, amorphous spires. At moments, I thought I was experiencing a religious vision of the Virgin and Child when Titiana and Bottom were in the forest. Other times, the spiral of fairies ascending in the air reminded me of a William Blake painting of Jacob's Stairway to Heaven.

Regarding the actors, the undisputed star of the film is Mickey Rooney. In this movie, he communicates a manic energy, a malevolent laugh, a force of nature in his peformance. I thought the other actors were substantially weaker...so if you are primarily interested in the language, go for the Peter Hall version of Midsummer Night's Dream.

Nevertheless, the film is so overwhelmingly stunning that it must belong in anyone's list of the top 1000 films anywhere. It's so ironic that with the development of movie special effects in the last 70 years, today's filmmakers cannot replicate the truly magical effects that Max Reinhardt delivers. Go for the experience, forget the weaknesses, and appreciate this photographic masterpiece for what it is.
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