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Authentic rendering of John Gay's 18th century musical, filmed in Technicolor, about Captain MacHeath, a highwayman, and his love for too many beautiful women. Betrayed by Jenny and Sukey, two of his bygone lovers, and temporarily freed by two others, MacHeath is arrested and condemned to death. While waiting to be hanged, the captain is entertained by a musical beggar, who has written an opera of which the highwayman is the hero. Written by
Mike Rogers <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>
The Beggar's Opera has so much going for it. The author, John Gay placed it squarely in an underworld of thieves, whores, liars, drunkards, double-crossers, and corrupt officials. He gave them a witty voice, where moral values are reversed, and most importantly he gave them newly worded songs set to recent popular tunes.
The Beggar's Opera continues to be an important work, that has been raided by later writers; most importantly by Brecht who adapted its main elements as The Threepenny Opera; and also by writers such as Dennis Potter (Pennies From Heaven clearly borrows heavily from from The Beggar's Opera, down to the final twist).
This is a film that should work well as a film-of-the-stage, for there is always a sense that the characters are trapped in their little world, in each other's pocket, and all knowing each other's business. But Peter Brook tries to make the film more cinematic by opening the action out in places. Though this is understandable, it entails some unfortunate compromises. The attempt to inject some new life into this film, with primarily visual scenes and a bit of derring-do action, means that Brook is forced to cut the text severely in places, and the strength of the piece lies in the words Gay wrote, not in the pictures that Brook creates. The film works well where the original text survives and the characters are allowed to speak, but that happens rarely. And Brook also messes about with the twist-ending!
In brief, enough survives of the original to make it worth watching, if there's no better alternative.
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