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Richard III [VHS]

4.4 out of 5 stars 180 customer reviews


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Product Details

  • Actors: Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Nigel Hawthorne
  • Directors: Richard Loncraine
  • Writers: Ian McKellen, Richard Loncraine, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Ian McKellen, David Lascelles, Ellen Dinerman Little, Joe Simon
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
  • VHS Release Date: October 3, 2000
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (180 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6304046006
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,850 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Shakespeare's immortal tale of ambition, lust and murderous treachery is brilliantly updated and brought to life in this riveting, 20th-century masterpiece. Boasting breathtaking performances, unforgettable imagery and two Oscar(r) nominations*, this astounding wartime spectacle is mesmerizing...it will rivet you and shock you (Jeffrey Lyons, 'sneak Previews ). In 1930s Britain, a savage, civil war between two royal families has just concluded. But even as the newly installed King Edward (John Wood) takes the reins of power, his ruthless, younger brother Richard (Ian McKellen) sets in motion a monstrous scheme to claim the crown for himself. Enlisting the aid of equally duplicitous allies in the court, Richard embarks on a merciless, single-minded campaign of betrayal, seduction and cold-blooded murder to achieve the goal that has obsessed him all of his tortured life: to beking...at any price. *1995: Costume Design, Art Direction

Amazon.com

This film adaptation of a critically acclaimed stage production of Shakespeare's historical drama stars Ian McKellen in the title role. The setting is a comic-book vision of 1930s London: part art deco, part Third Reich, part industrial-age rust and rot. The play's force is turned into a synthetic high by art directors and storyboard sketchers, all of whom have a field day condensing the material into disposable pop imagery. This is a fun film, more than anything, so infatuated with its own monstrous stitchery that even the most awkward casting (Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr.) seems a part of the ridiculous design. McKellen is the best thing about the movie, his mesmerizing portrayal of freakish despotism and poisoned desire a thing to behold. Directed by Richard Loncraine (Bellman and True). --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Ian McKellen's "Richard III" is a brilliant 20th Century adaptation of the Shakespeare original. McKellen sets the murderous intrigue and civil strife of the play in an imaginary fascist period of English History. In doing this, he removes the story from its historical context and demonstrates the timeless nature of its themes. The original story was set during the War of the Roses, a bitter succession conflict which took place in pre-Tudor England. None of the medieval butchery is lost on us when we see it take place in a fascist context.
The central theme of Richard III is not ambition or ruthlessness but the power of momentum. Richard relies on both physical and rhetorical momentum for his success. Physically, he must always be on the move. Once his movement is stopped he is doomed. Richard makes this abundantly clear in the play and in the film when his transportation is destroyed at the Battle of Bosworth field and he can no longer move. Richard says "a horse a horse,my kingdom for a horse" meaning that without movement he loses the battle and with it his life and his kingdom. This signature death speech is even a bit ironic in the film since it is Richard's jeep that is shot out from him which means that he is speaking metaphorically when he refers to it as a horse. What could be more fitting for a fascist leader?
Momentum is also crucial to Richard's rhetoric. On two occasions in the play, Richard must convince a woman whose husband he has murdered to marry him. Richard accomplishes this the first time by matching each of the widow's arguments with a witty retort until she has none left. But Richard is later unable to do this with the second widow. He begins his confident stream of witty retorts but is flustered by and then outdone by her.
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A gala ball: The York family celebrate their reascent to power; the War of Roses (named for the feuding houses' heraldic badges: Lancaster's red and York's white rose) is almost over. Actually, the year is 1471, but for present purposes, we're in the 1930s. A singer delivers a swinging "Come live with me and be my love." Richard of Gloucester (Sir Ian McKellen), the reinstated sickly King Edward IV's (John Wood's) youngest brother, moves through the crowd; observing, watching his second brother George, Duke of Clarence (Nigel Hawthorne) being quietly led off by Tower warden Brackenbury (Donald Sumpter) and his subalterns. With Clarence gone, Richard seizes the microphone, its discordant screech cutting through the singer's applause, and he, who himself made this night possible by killing King Henry VI of Lancaster and his son at Tewkesbury, begins a victory speech: "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York" (cut to Edward, who regally acknowledges the tribute). But when Richard mentions "grim-visaged war," who "smooth'd his wrinkled front," the camera closes in on his mouth, turning it into a grimace reminiscent of the legend known to any spectator in Shakespeare's Globe Theatre: that he wasn't just born "with his feet first" but also "with teeth in his mouth;" hence, not only crippled (though whether also hunchbacked is uncertain) but cursed from birth, his physical deformity merely outwardly representing his inner evil.

Then, mid-sentence, the image cuts again.
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Ian McKellan played Richard III on the stage in London, then touring the world, under Richard Eyre's direction and the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain's auspices. Like many great productions of Richard III in the past, there was an anticlimactic sense about things when the lengthy run ended - McKellan compares his production (justifiably) to those of Henry Irving and David Garrick, but longs for the lasting legacy of Laurence Olivier, who translated his successful stage production into a lasting cinematic production. Richard Eyre issued the challenge to McKellan to produce a screenplay, which he did, in collaboration with Richard Loncraine. Loncraine then produced the film, again starring Ian McKellan as Richard III, updated into a National-Socialist timeframe.

It is true that Shakespeare is the 'author' of Richard III - of course, much of Shakespeare's authoring involved heavy borrowing, redaction and crafting. This is not to take anything away from Shakespeare's achievement, but rather to prove the adage 'good writers borrow from others; great writers steal from them outright'. However, every production of a Shakespeare play requires modification of some sort; bringing Shakespeare productions to the screen (indeed, bringing any stage-play to the screen) requires a recrafting to suit the medium. McKellan and Loncraine rearranged and edited expertly the play to suit a film.

Richard III has been an enigmatic and controversial character - Shakespeare's play is probably more in keeping with Tudor propaganda against Richard III (from whom they took the throne) rather than actual history; Richard's malformed physical form and malicious character may be fictions, or at least great exaggerations, designed to serve the purpose of bolstering Tudor legitimacy.
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