Reviews & Ratings for
"The Theban Plays by Sophocles" Oedipus the King (1986)

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Best version of Oedipus Rex i've seen on a screen.

10/10
Author: riddickrp from United Kingdom
19 May 2005

Michael Pennington quite simply DOMINATES this version of Oedipus Rex. While some might not like the update of Thebes to what appears to be Industrial Revolution England, I believe it works. Various characters look "Greek" enough for me, and the removal of the traditional masks that were found in Greek plays works out.

Why? Well Pennington fits the part of the play's namesake. He obviously did well researching or getting into the 'mind' of Oedipus. Watching him speak, his expressions is much better than somehow finding 'hubris' from a mask that is frozen into place. The rest of the cast compliments well, but above all is Pennington. If you are going to show a version of Oedipus to a literature class, this is the version. Its easy to understand and updated for a culture that would find little interest in watching frozen masks walk around.

I wish this play was released widely on DVD and not only available at insane high prices on an educational website.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Very interesting story in easy to understand format

8/10
Author: Lynn13361 from United States
7 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This video was viewed by our Writing class this evening and several students of the class, including myself, were surprised that we thoroughly enjoyed this play. Before watching the video, our instructor explained to the class that the Ancient Greeks believed that the enjoyment of the audience was enhanced if they are told the story before the performance and are then allowed to watch the characters of the play as they live and learn the events of the story which the audience already knows. She explained the events which had occurred before the point in time at which the play begins. Therefore, the class knew the solution to the mystery which Oedipus seeks to solve. For most movies or plays, having this solution before watching could be considered a 'spoiler', but in this case having this knowledge is essential for enjoying the play. With this knowledge, the audience is not encumbered by trying to solve the mystery. Instead, we watched and gradually came to realize that Oedipus and those around him would be better off if they did not seek to find the answer. Make sure to learn the circumstances that have brought these characters together before watching the video to thoroughly enjoy.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Useful video for college class

8/10
Author: englishprof-842-179991 from United States
11 September 2010

I've shown this first of the Theban trilogy, to a college class taking a basic literature course, for over 15 years now. No one, of course, recognizes Claire Bloom, Edward Hardwicke (who also did a turn as Dr. Watson opposite Jeremy Brett's Holmes), or even Sir John Gielgud, which is a shame, but it does tend to keep students from being distracted by more contemporary 'name' actors. (I do tell my students that they might recognize Michael Pennington in a brief appearance on the Death Star in one of the "Star Wars" films.) Yes, the more contemporary costuming can be odd, even irritating, but part of my job as teacher is to indicate why such production changes can add to a play's impact. I like Don Taylor's translation/adaptation here better than any other version I've seen, or read; it tends to make the overall story clearer to the average college-age viewer. Gielgud's turn as the blind Tiresias is spot-on, and even though Pennington, and John Shrapnel as the brother-in-law, sometimes shout a little too often at each other, the video holds up well, even after repeated viewings. I could only wish for a DVD version, at a reasonable price.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Very Good Adaptation of OEDIPUS REX.

Author: tonymurphylee from USA
29 July 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*** out of ****

This film version of the classical Greek tragedy hits all the right notes. For fans of the story, this is really worth checking out. Michael Pennington does a ferocious but good job as the distraught king. Claire Bloom does an admirable job in a tough role. Her intensity in the scene where she realizes the truth about her son also being her husband is really quite admirable and sad. The film takes place in one setting on a stage. Most people will likely not like the stagy aspect. A creepy and active chorus will not help convert teenagers who aren't fans of stage and theater. The acting, the look, and the way the story is presented are among the best I've seen of the OEDIPUS REX adaptations. The scene at the end where he gouges out his eyes made me feel quite pretty sick, as did the overall tone of the play. But the eye gouging scene is very effective the way it is done. Of course you don't really see him do it. You see a twisted man come out and narrate the sight of him doing it, but then he comes out with a shroud and pulls it off and you see his bloody eye sockets. It's really quite neat how they pull it off. I'm not a fan of roman theater, but i do have an appreciation for classic literature, which is why i have my three star rating. If you are a fan of roman theater, consider it a three and a half. if you hate literature and theater, give it a two. Overall, I'd say, enjoy this grim classic.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Stagey Greek tragedy

7/10
Author: didi-5 from United Kingdom
12 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sophocles' three plays about Oedipus and his ill-fated family are amongst the best known in classical Greek theatre.

This film adapts the first of those plays, Oedipus Rex, and casts it extremely well. The central role of the warrior who is forced to leave his loving family after a prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother, is taken by Michael Pennington (rarely seen on TV these days, he continues to be active in the theatre). This Oedipus is sensitive, arrogant, and set to run headlong to his fate.

His wife (and by a twist of fate, the mother he never knew) is the excellent Claire Bloom. As the disturbed Jocasta, she gives the role an air of dignity and grief that is rarely seen on TV. This woman is literally destroyed by the twin peaks of mother-love and spousal passion.

John Shrapnel is Creon, the man who abandoned his son as a baby, not realising the visitor to his court is the one who can do him most harm. Shrapnel is a good actor and can put the part across. The all-seeing sage who confirms the prophecy, Teiresias, is played by the great John Gielgud.

Greek tragedy is marked by the most stagey of effects - notably the Chorus, who communicate the most grisly scenes which happen off-stage (the blinding of Oedipus, the suicide of Jocasta), and who comment on the action throughout. This device works surprisingly well in this adaptation.

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Not bad

Author: (worldchanger38@hotmail.com) from Hampstead, NH, USA
13 February 2004

All things considered this film is really not all that terrible. The cinematography was decent, especially since it is being filmed from a stage. Oedipus and Creon both deliver good performances although their costumes are rather contemporary. Those who have read the play will find this satisfies their need to see it acted out.

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3 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

What a piece of trash.

Author: my_bike from Ypsilanti, Michigan
26 October 2002

why was this shot on video? if it were shot on 35mm i would give it more respect. what was the point of oedipus wearing 19th century clothing? it did not help the film. the only thing that could've saved the film, is if the boy who was rolling around on that cart started singing "i have no legs".

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