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Criterion unleashes their first Olivier Shakespeare Blu-ray, and it's a VistaVision knockout....
Criterion / 158 Minutes / 1955 / Unrated / Street Date: April 23, 2013
With perhaps the exception of Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier was the face of Shakesperean cinema in the 20th century. Some of his adaptations were more successful than others, but Olivier’s larger-than-life sensibilities – both in front of and behind the camera – brought the bard’s material to life on film in a way that electrified the globe.
And seeing as Criterion has released – and re-released – many of Olivier’s Shakespeare films on DVD, one wonders what took them so long to finally liberate one of them onto high-definition, which they’ve finally done with this rollicking Blu-ray release of Richard III. Perhaps the most singularly iconic movie in his pantheon, Olivier’s adaptation of this dark, back-stabbing melodrama is lush and large, one that matches the bigness within its characters’ drives and desires with a captivating VistaVision scope.
This writer must admit that while he can’t question for a moment Olivier’s staggering audacity with films like Richard III, he has trouble making it through more than an hour or so of them. Criterion makes such a wonderful case for Richard III here that it’s hard not to respond to its innate cinematic beauty, but I’ll happily applaud this disc’s time-capsule technical savvy, I will probably pass on adding it to my collection. But for enthusiasts with more appreciative of Olivier’s oeuvre, this one’s a no-brainer: Criterion has finally brought Shakespeare to Blu-ray, and regardless of whether you love it or hate it, it’s nothing short of a wonder to behold.