The undortunate side effect of the faithfulness is that Richard III has a real Masterpiece Theatre quality that you just can't shake. Olivier plops the camera down at one end of the room and lets scenes take place in wide shots, unmolested. Long scenes are certainly forgivable, but the end result is that this rendition of the story looks far more like a play than a movie. It isn't until the second half of the film when we really get out of the castle, and thank God we do. But unfortunately, even these scenes aren't exactly thrill rides. The landscapes chosen are barren and void of majesty. Sword fights are genteel affairs with no distinguishable choreography. Why ride an army out to battle if you're not going to use them?
Richard III would be Olivier's third and final Shakespeare movie (as director, at least), and it would earn the least amount of industry praise among his films (a sole acting nomination for Olivier himself). If you can get past that wild wig, he's got some of the Bard's most memorable lines to deliver. "My horse, my horse...", "Now is the winter of our discontent...", all the good ones this side of Hamlet. But on the whole, the story is what it is -- straight outta Shakespeare, with its flowery language and rapid-fire dialogue. The few scenes of action are impressive, but they are few and far between. Overall this is an excellent piece of history -- how can you not dig a movie that offers John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, and Ralph Richardson on top of Olivier, however brief their parts are? -- but it's unfortunately dry as burnt toast.
Olivier shoots in Technicolor this time around (vs. black and white in prior outings), but the film isn't notably enriched by it. In fact, Olivier was probably a little uneasy in color; strangely, the film premiered on network TV the same day it opened theatrically.
Now available on DVD from Criterion, the two-disc set includes commentary from a pair of Shakespeare gurus, a lengthy interview with Olivier, and the 12-minute TV commercial for the televised version of the film.
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Friday 29th December 1995
Distributed by: United Artists
Production compaines: Mayfair Entertainment International, British Screen
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 43 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.5 / 10
Director: Laurence Olivier
Producer: Laurence Olivier
Starring: Ian McKellen as Richard III, Annette Bening as Elizabeth, Jim Broadbent as The Duke of Buckingham, Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Anne, Adrian Dunbar as James Tyrrell, Maggie Smith as Duchess of York, Tim McInnerny as William Catesby, Robert Downey Jr. as Earl Rivers, Edward Hardwicke as Lord Stanley, Nigel Hawthorne as The Duke of Clarence, Jim Carter as Lord Hastings, Dominic West as The Earl of Richmond
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