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Customer Review

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully restored film about the hideous human nature, August 17, 2006
This review is from: Richard III (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
No one could rival Laurence Olivier (Hamlet, Henry V, Richard III) as the scheming, ruthless youngest son of the 3rd Duke of York, who stopped at nothing to be King Richard III. His first appearance was deceptive. I noticed only a big nose and recognized him only after he spoke. Burdened with a crooked back, limp and shrunk hand, his ambition for kingship only burnt more feverishly. With disguised humbleness, he made peace with other royalties. His words were sugar-coated and gay. He killed Warwick, the 'KingMaker' who helped enthrone his elder brother as King Edward IV, and wooed Warwick's daughter Anne(the beautiful Claire Bloom) to marry him shortly after killing her husband. His planned murders of his elder brother Duke of Clarence, Lord Hastings, his young nephews (heirs-to-be), his wife Anne made even today's politics pale and unexciting.

Yet the movie about such a dark character was beautiful in VistaColour, set and costumes, cinematography. Scenes of executions, naÔve Lord Hastings (Alec Clunes) walking into his death trap, innocent heirs-to-be greeting uncle Richard and Richard's final battle are memorable. All the other characters exuded integraity, royality and humanity. They were handsome in appearance and noble in heart, so different from Richard III. Even the once accomplice Duke of Buckingham (Ralph Richardson), without whose help there would be no Richard III, showed a moment of caution in doing any more evil. Perhaps it's this great contrast between Richard and everyone else that made the movie luring and tragic. In his last battle of Bosworth Field, Laurence Olivier showed a more reflective and human side of Richard III. When nearly everything on his side was lost, he marched, with a handful of supporters including his royal page (Stewart Allen), and fought valiantly.

The movie also succeeded in its clarity and fluidity. The powerplay of an excellent cast of experienced actors with great screen presence made 155 minutes fly without notice. With no prior knowledge of the Wars of Roses (House of York vs House of Lancaster), I am not at all lost in the many characters and relationship. And the crowning of Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond, as Henry VII marked the beginning of the most filmed Tudor dynasty - a perfect prologue of films about the lives of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth.
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