- 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
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Thames Shakespeare Collection: Macbeth / McKellen, Dench
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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
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Ian McKellan and Judy Dench are absolutely magnificent. Their slide into evil is absolutely convincing, the anguish it causes them is completely natural. All the ambition and cruelty that we expect are there, mingled with a tenderness and regret that are often missed by lesser actors. The supporting cast is all good, though not uniformly so; some are excellent, some merely good.
The witches are creepy in a repellant rather than a scary way. The supernatural elements of the play aren't played out with special effects, but rather take place in the minds of the characters. I think that works well - hags over cauldrons and gauze wearing ghosts get pretty cliched. Here the boundary between supernatural and madness is left completely blurred.
I expected the set design to be a negative - I'm not fond of dark and mostly empty sets. At first it bothered me, but later I found that I was focusing entirely on the actors and completely failing to notice the absence of detailed background. The darkness fits the mood of the play and makes everything that is there on stage stand out. The sets may be initially off-putting, but I think they're a wise and artistically sound approach.
In spite of the senseless costume design, this is a solid five.
When I first reviewed this, I thought, and wrote, that the disc had something wrong with it. However, it now seems that the problem was with my machine.
Macbeth production is outstanding....Dench and McKellen portray the lustful and power hungry couple of all times.
All of the cast members are wonderful and with some members playing dual roles you can really appreciate the repertory background of so many of the British actors we admire.