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Othello (1981) (TV) More at IMDbPro »

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Othello -- Othello falls prey to a deceitful plan, believing his wife has taken another lover.


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Down 4% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
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Release Date:
12 October 1981 (USA) See more »
A general becomes convinced that his wife is having an affair, even though there is no evidence. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
A Really Great Star Performance, but the Othello is a Problem See more (14 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Directed by
Jonathan Miller 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
William Shakespeare  play

Produced by
Jonathan Miller .... producer
Original Music by
Stephen Oliver 
Film Editing by
Malcolm Banthorpe 
Production Design by
Colin Lowrey 
Costume Design by
Raymond Hughes 
Makeup Department
Eileen Mair .... makeup artist
Sound Department
Alan Edmonds .... sound
William Hobbs .... fights
Camera and Electrical Department
Jim Atkinson .... senior camera operator
John Treays .... lighting technician
Other crew
David Snodin .... script editor
John Wilders .... literary consultant
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: Othello" - USA (video title)
See more »
USA:203 min (DVD version) | UK:195 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The interior design of the production was based on the interiors of the Palazzo Ducale, Urbino, whilst the street set was based on a real street in Cyprus.See more »
Revealing mistakes: Shortly before stabbing himself Othello bounces the blade of the dagger on the bed and we both hear and see the blade retract.See more »
Movie Connections:
Version of Othello (1989) (TV)See more »


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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful.
A Really Great Star Performance, but the Othello is a Problem, 13 January 2007
Author: tonstant viewer

I believe it was Laurence Olivier who theorized that William Shakespeare and his lead actor Richard Burbage were bending elbows one night when Burbage drunkenly taunted, "I can play any role you can write." And Shakespeare said, "Oh yeah?" and wrote Othello.

The play is indeed entitled "Othello," but the focus is almost always stolen by the villain. Bob Hoskins here is a brilliant Iago, character motivations for once crystal clear, his accent emphasizing class conflict, his ready laughter only occasionally too much. You will not find a better Iago anywhere.

We know that James Earl Jones was the first choice to star in this production, and that British Equity threatened to close down not just the one show but the whole BBC Shakespeare series if a single non-British actor was hired.

However, when James Earl Jones played Othello on Broadway, it was common wisdom that Christopher Plummer's Iago stole the show from him. So we shouldn't fantasize too much that Jones's presence here might have changed everything.

Anthony Hopkins begins as a very confident character. However it is not possible to believe his backstory, that recitation of bravery and romance that wins Desdemona's heart. Hopkins doesn't look like a general, just like an earnest actor trying to solve problems. He hits a sweet spot just after Iago's first insinuations, when Desdemona appears and charms him all over again. After that, the performance goes downhill, and some of his choices undermine the later scenes.

Is it miscasting, or just a play where the gargantuan scale of emotions defies reduction to television scale? The Welles and Olivier productions were designed for large screens, not a small one.

The much-loved Penelope Wilton here is the most "English" Desdemona I've ever seen. She does everything right, but there's nothing remotely Mediterranean about this daughter of Venice. Rosemary Leach gives the performance of her career as Emilia, honest and vigorous without a cliché in sight. The rest of the cast is excellent, with an overall energy level higher than the norm in this series.

Jonathan Miller's direction concentrates on the domestic side of the drama, downplaying the public aspects, and bringing his background as a neurologist to the various varieties of mental illness on display. The visuals are once again Old Masters, with some lovely Georges de la Tour effects over candle-lit dinner.

However the dramatic heights are not successfully stormed. If you want to see Othello with the thunder Shakespeare implied, go instead to Verdi's opera "Otello," which concentrates on the core of the conflict and distills sheer dynamite. Placido Domingo can be fairly stolid and workmanlike in the part, so I'd recommend you track down a black and white Italian TV production starring Mario del Monaco for maximum impact. Here is the heroic "punch in the stomach" Othello you've always dreamed about.

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