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Orson Welles' Othello (1955)

Orson Welles , Micheál MacLiammóir , Orson Welles  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Orson Welles, Micheál MacLiammóir, Robert Coote, Suzanne Cloutier, Hilton Edwards
  • Directors: Orson Welles
  • Writers: Orson Welles, Jean Sacha, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Orson Welles, Giorgio Papi, Julien Derode, Patrice Dali
  • Format: Black & White, 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: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 31, 1999
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00000JN1N
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,122 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Orson Welles' Othello" on IMDb

Special Features

  • 22-minute "Restoring Othello" featurette

Editorial Reviews

Orson Welles' daring and visually adventurous production of William Shakespeare's classic play. Welles, one of the greatest directors ever, revered Shakespeare and was determined to bring his own versions of the Bard's work to the silver screen, though the studios resisted the idea. Without studio funding, Welles struggled for three years to make "Othello" with his own money. The film won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and critical acclaim but was rarely seen for many years. Over $1 million dollars in restoration work was spent, including re recording the score and re creating the sound effects, as well as updating the audio to digital. "Othello" remains a testament to Welles' legendary genius.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare & Welles--A Brilliant Combination! June 13, 2000
If people today remember Orson Welles at all, it is probably as the pitchman who would "sell no wine before its time." The more "film literate" might know him as the director of "Citizen Kane." Most, though, will be unaware that he directed a number of other outstanding pictures that rank among the very best. "Othello" is one of those.
Incredibly, "Othello" was filmed over a three year period from 1949 to 1952, in nine different cities in Morocco and Italy. Welles never did assemble adequate financing for the film, so he was forced to shoot in a series of small spurts. They would work until his money ran out, then he would rush off to take acting jobs to raise cash to start filming again.
One scene-between Othello (Orson Welles) and Iago (Michael MacLiammoir) on the beach-starts on one continent and ends on another, a full year later. Somehow, though, Welles kept the whole picture alive in his head. He also improvised when he had to. On the day when they were to film Iago's attempt to murder Cassio (Michael Laurence), the necessary costumes had not yet arrived. Welles quickly moved the action to a Turkish bath where he could dress his actors in only towels and sheets. It is now one of the most effective scenes of the film.
As was typical of Welles, he took many liberties with Shakespeare's text, trimming it to a tight ninety-one minutes and cutting out the comedy. The story now begins and ends with the funerals of Desdemona (Suzanne Cloutier) and Othello; scenes not contained in the orginal, but done here to good effect. (For those of an auteurist bent, "Citizen Kane" and "Mr. Arkadin" also open with the deaths of the main character.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why the LOST masterpiece? April 30, 2000
I'm sick of the general notion (mostly in print) that Welles virtually went down hill from Citizen Kane onwards. The fact of the matter is, no one would give him a break, ie; finance. In the few instances that he was given the money, his films were breathtaking ("Touch of Evil"-for example).
With Othello, Welles had virtually no backing apart from his own money. Subsequently, he spent alot of time acting in other people's movies to make the expensive film costs. This is why "Othello" took so long to make. Welles had nightmarish problems with refilming when actors couldn't make the call after the long waiting periods (read Michael Macliammoir's "Put Money In Thy Purse"-his diaries during the making of "Othello"). Therefore, Mr Welles travelled through thick & thin to give us this incredible movie. From the first image of the funeral, the angles & the look of the film is staggering to say the least. Macliammoir is brilliant as Iago. The part where he is hoisted up in a cage, should be one of those scenes they always flash in a greatest scenes montage. Orson is in great Shakspearian form & shines through all his scenes. I don't think any film maker today could come close to this film's stunning beauty & innovative camera shots. To think it was made on a low budget makes you reconsider the quality of something like the "Blair Witch Project", considering the 1950's had yet to invent the low costing video camera. But this is besides the point.
"Othello" is THE most underated film in the history of movie making, and it IS a true masterpiece. No wonder it won an award at Cannes at the time. God bless Welles' lovely daughter, Beatrice for restoring & caring for the film.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, but not a popcorn movie April 7, 2000
By A Customer
This is not necessarily an easy film to watch, even in the restored version. The dialog track was post-dubbed to begin with, and though the restorers did their best to improve the synchronization, the speech is still oddly disembodied much of the time. That, combined with the sometimes clipped and rapid delivery, can make it hard to follow. Knowing your Shakespeare helps, of course, but don't expect to be able to follow along with the book -- there's more than the usual amount of chopping and rearranging.
I admire the work that went into the restoration, but it is not in the same league as something like the splendid Criterion edition of Seven Samurai -- there is still a fair bit of visual noise in places. The "Restoring Othello" feature is very disappointing as well, consisting mostly of scraps of interviews and random shots of the studio.
Those quibbles aside, this film offers great photography, great editing, and great acting. Welles has a field day casting his large shadow on walls, striding through scenes crisscrossed by pillars and iron bars, and reeling about like a sort of Moorish Kane. He does all this while making the descent of Othello into the clutches of the green-eyed monster completely believable.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Welles' images match the beauty of Shakespeare's language December 31, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
Considerable controversy has surrounded this 1992 restoration and re-release of Orson Welles' "Othello." First, the film was wrongly labelled a "lost classic" - not technically true, as Welles aficionados will realize. More seriously, the restoration crew (under the aegis of Welles' daughter, Beatrice Welles) re-synced the dialogue and re-recorded the musical score - an abomination to Welles purists. While it would have been preferable to adhere to Welles' vision for the film, such an endeavor becomes extremely difficult when no written record of Welles' intent exists (as it did with his famous 26-page memo to Universal regarding "Touch of Evil"). So it's true that this version lacks a degree of authenticity; but what are the alternatives? Grainy, scratched, poorly synced public domain prints (c.f. "Mr Arkadin" and "The Trial")? Or, worse, no available copy at all (c.f. "Chimes at Midnight")?
Anyway, on to the film. "Othello's" existence helps disprove the charges of profligacy and "fear of completion" that plagued Welles' career after "Citizen Kane." Shot over four years in Morocco and Italy, and financed largely by Welles himself, "Othello" manages to avoid a low-budget look, thanks largely to virtuoso editing that masks the incongruities of time and space. Welles' powers of invention are on full display here, most obviously in the famous Turkish bath scene (an improvised set necessitated by a lack of costumes). Set designer Alexandre Trauner's astute choice of Moroccan and Venetian locations instantly establishes a geographic authenticity; Welles initially expolits them for all their stark beauty before retreating into noirish interiors, underscoring Othello's descent into darkness.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Orson Welles at the Top of His Form
Orson Welles did a brilliant job on this. Let's start with the fact that I have never seen Othello performed before, and have only read pieces of it. Read more
Published on May 14, 2012 by Barbara Frederick
5.0 out of 5 stars "One that loved not wisely but too well"
Orson Welles worked on and off for four years to complete his remarkable adaptation of OTHELLO, which was filmed in Morocco and Italy. Read more
Published on February 6, 2012 by Annie Van Auken
4.0 out of 5 stars Restoration of a Classic
Between 1949 and 1951 Orson Welles filmed Shakespeare's Othello on s shoestring budget and often with his own funds earned for acting on other films. Read more
Published on February 22, 2007 by Bryan A. Pfleeger
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gangrenous Monster of Jealousy.
You have to wonder how Orson Welles would ever have to spend a penny of his own to make a movie after Citizen Kane, but I suppose Shakespeare was not considered worthy of expense... Read more
Published on October 29, 2005 by Bernard Chapin
5.0 out of 5 stars Welles strikes again!
This legendary filmmaker was in his late thirties (38) when he adapted to screen this colossal adaptation of Othello. Read more
Published on September 12, 2005 by Hiram Gomez Pardo
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for purists, poor sound quality
While I have great respect for Welles as both an actor and director, the fact that this was done more or less as a pet project of his over several years is readily apparent. Read more
Published on January 14, 2005 by JJK Bard Fan
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Cinematography, poor shakespeare
For students of film, this is a must-see and worthy of five stars in that category. For Shakespeare, don't rely on this interpetation or editing as the story of Othello. Read more
Published on August 9, 2004 by Guy J. Kelley
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a real cinema, not a stagy movie version.
Beautiful camera work, a treasure. You can also enjoy Chimes at Midnight on DVD sold in Spain if you have a PAL comppatible DVD player.
Published on July 28, 2004 by F. WATANABE
4.0 out of 5 stars Welles' indomitable spirit in the face of penury shines...
The recent restoration of Othello brings to cinematic space the magic of another... Read more
Published on January 10, 2004 by Abhijoy Gandhi
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
Great, just great. Yes, some of the music one wonders if Welles would have used, but it is pure Welles. Read more
Published on June 18, 2003
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