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Othello (1965)

Laurence Olivier , Frank Finlay , Stuart Burge  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Frank Finlay, Maggie Smith, Joyce Redman, Derek Jacobi
  • Directors: Stuart Burge
  • Writers: William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Anthony Havelock-Allan, John Brabourne, Richard B. Goodwin
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Original recording remastered, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: August 14, 2007
  • Run Time: 165 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000QGE8IS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,215 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Othello" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Vintage featurette: Olivier Talks About Othello
  • Theatrical trailer

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Laurence Olivier's extravagant performance as the jealous Moor of Venice had its origins on stage at London's National Theatre; this 1965 film is a straight rendering of that production, shot on a soundstage with spare backdrops. However much the resulting artifact can actually be described as a film, one must feel gratitude just for the preservation of Olivier's pinwheeling turn. Yes, it's theatrical: the blackface make-up, the exotic gestures, the rumbly voice. Olivier doesn't connect organically with the character, but builds layer upon layer of effect until reaching critical mass; then his Othello explodes across the stage, keening in rage or flopping in agony. Before being encouraged to doubt his spotless wife Desdemona (Maggie Smith), Olivier's Moor flashes a broad grin that stands as a beacon of his shallow self-confidence; after the coin drops, his body hunches in misery. If Olivier dominates, this film nevertheless presents a marvelous Iago, by Frank Finlay, the evil engineer of the plot. It may just be Finlay's physical and vocal resemblance to comic Peter Cook, but he seems to embody the sarcasm and "sick" humor of the 1960s in his Iago--and his dry style is far more attuned to the movie camera than Olivier's. Olivier, Finlay, and Smith were all nominated for Oscars, as was Joyce Redman, as Iago's hapless lady. For a real shock, and a great lesson in Olivier's chameleon talent, watch Othello and then view the brief promotional film shot during filming, included on the DVD--you'll be astonished that the gray-haired gentleman, near sixty and with clunky eyeglasses, is the same volcanic performer that just erupted for 166 minutes on film. --Robert Horton

Product Description

The original cast and soul-shattering impact of the play's 1964 staging by the National Theatre of Great Britain are captured on film. As the valiant war hero swept into a maelstrom of jealousy and revenge Olivier won his seventh Academy Award nomination. The movie's Desdemona (Maggie Smith) Emilia (Joyce Redman) and 'honest Iago' (Frank Finlay) also captured Oscar nominations. And the result Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times is that 'this Othello is one of the boldest you'll ever see.'System Requirements:Running Time: 166 minsFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: DRAMA UPC: 085391112105 Manufacturer No: 111210

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Olivier's politically incorrect masterpiece July 16, 2007
Format:DVD
True, you have to get past the blackface make-up, the bright red lips, the false eyelashes; but once that surface is accepted, a great performance is there to be appreciated. Olivier is the blackest Othello I've ever seen, the most 'African', in his movements, the wilds of his emotion, the warrior-like curses and threats as he beats his chest and curses his fate. Many thought it was a ham acting, excruciatingly over the top; for me it was a courageous, dangerous performance, walking the line between terror and pity throughout. His voice is astonishing and his delivery unique and musical and frightening and tender. I thought it was his bravest, and greatest, performance. I'm glad it was recorded as a filmed play and not 'opened up' as a movie, which would have diluted the intensity of the performance. Highly recommended, with the above caveats about the makeup.
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Moor Of Venice August 21, 2007
By Marlina
Format:DVD
I wrote my AP English essay junior year in high school about the Moor of Venice. I have seen every version of this play that has ever been committed to film, which is no small feat for a woman who adores the Bard as I do. I am an African American woman and I have heard about the fact that some think that his portrayal of the moor to be stereotypical, well, I don't think so. I think that there is nothing so sweeping as the way that he brings this play to life, Othello is not my favorite Shakespeare play, possibly the third favorite but there is something in the truth of Othello that I think is deeply stirring, it is the truth of self-esteem. He thinks himself a lowly creature, despite the fact that he is a great general and is acclaimed by many even the trials that he has been through in his life. Olivier makes you feel that, he wrung tears from me the frist time that I saw him in this performance, like a floodgate, I wanted to hold this wounded man to my heart, he was flawless and seamless, I lost Olivier in this movie, he was purely the character. I think that if I were trying to get someone to understand the subtle nature of Othello this would be the performance that I would suggest, I am so glad that I saw it one night on cable when I could sleep. He outshines all others who have attempted this part, ALL OTHERS. I mean I have seen the Laurence Fishburne portrayal and its good and it has its moments but this one is amazing. I didn't notice his lips being red really, but when you are that dark, the inner part of your lips are redder by contrast. When I saw it I was floored, his voice,the sheer emotion, glorious.
I am going to buy this version because I think it belongs on the shelf with my four and a half hour version of Hamlet.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Pinnacle of Drama July 31, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
This is Olivier's finest performance, although Archie Rice runs it close. Anyone even minimally familiar with Shakespeare criticism knows that, as the play is written, the Moor's tragic flaw is not that he is prone to jealousy, but that he over-dramatizes his self-image. He exaggerates his role in life as a great military commander, with excessive rhetorical relish, and sees himself as a man for whom personal honour and glory are of greater intrinsic importance than anything else, including love, loyalty and forgiveness. This is why and how Iago succeeds in making such a fool of him.

The role itself is therefore ideally suited to Olivier's over-the-top theatrical style. To complain that this is a filmed stage play is idiotic, since it never pretends to be anything else. That is exactly what it sets out to be: a permanent record on film of a stage production. It is also idiotic to protest that Olivier is a white man playing the part in black make-up: that is how Shakespeare wrote it, 400 years ago, and there is nothing that can now be done to alter it, like it or not.

Olivier's performance is utterly compelling. Only the semi-literate, or those with the aesthetic sensitivity of a rhinoceros, can fail to be gripped and transfixed by this superb interpretation of one of the most diabolically well-written masterpieces of European theatre. It is interesting to note that such is Shakespeare's genius for stage-craft that even modern ten-year-old American kids (of normal intelligence) can easily follow the development of the drama, in spite of the apparently archaic language.

Finlay's Iago and Redman's Emilia match Olivier. Maggie Smith's Desdemona is very fine, although I see the role played by someone just a touch more delicate and vulnerable.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular May 18, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Laurence Olivier's interpretation of Othello in this production is outstanding. His black paint, heavily Negroid make-up, careful imitation of West Indian gait & gesture, astonishing vocal inventiveness, and precise accent (not to mention his hilarious laugh) coalesce to create perhaps his best performance. Unlike some other Othellos, Olivier created an essentially narcissistic and very self-dramatizing outsider (you'll be swept away by many of his heightened speeches). Maggie Smith, Fred Finlay, and Joyce Redman were also very good. All Olivier fans and Othello fans, this is a must buy!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
I had seen Kozintsev's King Lear years ago and was very impressed but only saw this film recently after ordering the DVD. The DVD transfer is excellent, much better than the King Lear DVD available from the same company. The film has very high production values and an amazing score by the still controversial Shostokovich. itself is an ear opener. This interpretation is very much about Hamlet as an action hero, and Kosintesev conveys the force and limits of Hamlet's agency with amazing economy. Claudius's speech begins the film after shots of the ocean (quoting form Olivier's film of Hamlet) Hamlet racing back for the funeral, and a soldier reads the speech as a proclamation to the crowd outside. We cut to the court where ambassadors and courtiers are translating it into German and French, and then arrive in the courtroom where Claudius finishes it. We see Hamlet listening at the beginning of this shot, but after Laertes and Claudius speak and Claudius addresses Hamlet, we track back to his chair and see that it is empty. Ophelia, through the soundtrack music, becomes an increasingly mechanical dancer as she goes mad. This is very much a political interpretation of the play, with no close ups (like Kurosawa's Throne of Blood) and it is refreshing to see this perspective on the screen. Anyone seriously interested in Hamlet and / or in Hamlet on film should see this wonderful film. Note: the DVD comes with various language tracks and subtitles. It's a great edition.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars OtherThan Misconception As Moor's Having BLACKFACE,Quite Highly...
Hate the Moor in blackface,it's to racist.But this is quality portrayal of the play.
Published 5 days ago by Ellen
5.0 out of 5 stars Incomparable Olivier
Olivier gave many outstanding performances during his stellar career, but his Othello is the most astonishing. He became a black man. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nobilangelo
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassable
I saw this masterly performance when it was first released in 1965. In 50 plus years of teaching Shakespeare I have yet to encounter a presentation of any of the Bard's works has... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Bjoerling Idolater
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended- masterful performance!
This is an excellent performance of Othello. Olivier can't be beat! I recommend this to anyone who wants to study, or just to enjoy, one of Shakespeare's great tragedies.
Published 5 months ago by elsab
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing performances!
With Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith and Frank Finlay in the cast, how could it be bad? It's marvelous and while you can poo-poo it now as being politically incorrect to have a... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sir Shecky
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible, terrible, gambled and lost
I enjoyed this German-language Otello so much on the new ArtHaus release, at the same time regretting the problems on the ArtHaus release, I thought I'd just see if this older one... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Brent Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars "Othello"
Can't beat Shakespeare, Othello and Sir Laurence. Nor Verdi and "Otello"!!! To me, this is one of Shakespeare's
finest works, and the cast in this particular one was... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Arlette M.
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful shakespeare
this one is really good. AS good as Richard III. Both far away better than Hamlet. Olivier is the Always primma donna we all know but Maggie Smith's Desdemona is just great. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Romeu França
3.0 out of 5 stars Great virtues, great deficits.
This film represents the adaptation of a massively influential production at the Old Vic with the National Theatre. Unfortunately it was rather hastily committed to film. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mostly Shakespeare
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, Clean Presentation
This is an older version of Shakespeare's Othello, but it is a very good production and one that can be shown in the classroom without fear of indecent exposures, etc.
Published 18 months ago by GRH
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