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Olivier's Shakespeare (Hamlet / Henry V / Richard III) (The Criterion Collection)

4.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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(Aug 01, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Dubbed the greatest actor of the twentieth century, Sir Laurence Olivier, the classically trained and majestically handsome English theater veteran, first transplanted his passion for Shakespeare to the big screen in the 1940s, and in so doing, allowed Elizabethan verse to break free of its stage-bound origins. Olivier directed only five films in his sixty-year career, yet his three Shakespeare adaptations (Henry V, Hamlet, Richard III), presented here together on DVD for the first time, are still widely considered the definitive film adaptations. Faithful to the playwright’s words yet open to the unique possibilities of the cinema, these works transcend both screen and stage with timeless passion. Criterion is proud to present this unprecedented filmmaking legacy.

Special Features

  • 3 features: Henry V, Hamlet, and Richard III
  • Commentaries by film historian Bruce Eder on Henry V and playwright and stage director Russell Lees on Richard III
  • A 1966 BBC interview with Olivier, featured on Richard III
  • Original theatrical trailers of Henry V and Richard III
  • Galleries of production stills and posters on Henry V and Richard III

Product Details

  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Robert Newton, Jean Simmons, Cedric Hardwicke, Nicholas Hannen
  • Directors: Laurence Olivier
  • Writers: Laurence Olivier, Alan Dent, Colley Cibber, Dallas Bower, David Garrick
  • Producers: Alexander Korda
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: August 1, 2006
  • Run Time: 448 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FILVO6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,313 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Olivier's Shakespeare (Hamlet / Henry V / Richard III) (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paulo Leite on August 23, 2006
Format: DVD
Basically, these are three great Criterion Editions boxed together - which gives it a nice sense of continuity between these films.

HAMLET is, perhaps, Shakespeare most widely known and popular work. And Olivier gives it the film performance to which all others are compared. Period. And it is a great film with a striking cinematography and (naturaly) a great cast. A classic. Criterion, as always, does a fine job in terms of image and sound... although this disc has no extras.

RICHARD III tells the story of the evil duke of gloucester and his murderous machinations to get the throne of England. Another great performance. Great Technicolor cinematography. Here, Criterion gives us a two-disc edition full of nice extras: an Olivier interview, a featurette, etc.

HENRY V is another tour de force as the king who must battle all odds in order to achieve the greatest victory. The Agincourt battle scenes are a wow!!! Another Tecnicolor triumph.

So, here you have three great Shakespeare adaptation at a better price (you can buy the separately) by Criterion.

I say look no further.
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Format: DVD
1. Criterion; enough said.

2. Five stars for shelling these three classics together.

3. Laurence Olivier is one of the most captivating and most talented actors to ever grace the craft. His honing and mastering of timing, process and realism is bar none compared to the actors of this day and age as a whole. He was masterfully involved in every facet of a production.

4. Clearly 'Henry V' is his shining tour de force, although the majority will say it was 'Hamlet'. A Classics teacher I had once freshman year, a true inspiration of a hero, said "Olivier is the crowning jewel of a lost empty space." Olivier's Henry V unchains Shakespeare from most Elizabethan limits. He commands the performance with mobility and tenderness, yet brings Shakespeares poetry into a new light. He masterfully illuminates the complete package.

I remember seeing Olivier play Master Nikodemus in Zeff's potrayal of the life of Christ in 'Jesus of Nazereth', (I am forever the agnostic, but Zeff's film was mesmorizing) and even there, even there in that simple tiny, forgotten role, we see that illumination at first hand. A gentle hovering spirit that soared to the very upper echelon of his profession.

Thank you Criterion for understanding majestic raw talent, pinnacle acting and directing from a superstar, in which the likes of will surely not be matched for some time, if ever.

Thanks

Ken
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Who can deny that for his time, Laurence Olivier was the absolute pioneer in Shakespeare adaptations for the screen.

This masterfully crafted boxed-set by Criterion contains three of his best versions of the Bard.

The first is "Henry V", filmed during WWII, and as such it reflects a bit of the mood and the propaganda needs,
that were prevailing in England during those days.
Despite of this, Olivier shows us filming techniques, which for those days, were considered revolutionary.
Of course the speeches are held for an audience in need for motivation and are far less naturalistic than, say,
in Kenneth Branagh's own version.
Yet, the entire production, which actually starts on a stage at the "Globe" Theater in Shakespeare's times, just
to slowly switch to actual exterior shots (especially in the final Agincourt Battle), runs smoothly and very
entertaining.
Names such as Robert Newton, Leslie Banks, Leo Genn, Esmond Knight and many other famous British actors of the
time grace and crowd the screen with powerful performances.
The DVD transfer, at least to me, seems extremely well done.
Sharp images, vivid colors and details that on a VHS tape and even on the Laserdisc looked somewhat washed out
are now fully restored to their original showing vision.
The sound is impeccable, despite being in Mono, it is now more rounded up and fuller than previous versions

The second is "Hamlet", in which Olivier truly takes center stage, both as a director and as an actor.
This one is in Black and White, but due to the gloomy and complex subject involving the title character, it seems
very appropriate and adds to the "gray" mood that pervades the whole plot.
Read more ›
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Of this set, the weakest, if anything has a weakness at all, is Olivier's "Hamlet," and it's still historic and wonderful in its way. Olivier's "Henry V" simply has to be experienced, as does his "Richard III." Both of them changed acting, Shakespeare on film, and therefore theatre as we know it. It will never substitute seeing Olivier onstage, which I was fortunate to have witnessed, but this shows his early power with the Bard in a way that prepares one for his later, revolutionary "Othello" and "Merchant Of Venice." Every theatre teacher should have this set.
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All of these films stand as master adaptations of Shakespeare to the Screen. Olivier's Hamlet is the standard for any screen version. Staged traditionally and filmed in black and white it is the Hamlet performance that can be viewed again and again. Olivier's direction and acting are superb as are the rest of the cast and the lines of the most famous scenes are so beautifully delivered as to make them seem fresh again with every viewing. Much the same can be said of the other two plays that are in this collection. Henry V uses the device of showing the play being staged but then the viewer is drawn into the action in a way to make the experience as immediate as if in the theater. For Shakespeare lovers this is a must own collection as Sir Olivier does the bard justice as no other film maker can.
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