Sean Connery rocks in this! Although I prefer Orson Welles' more subdued, introspective Macbeth, here Connery delivers his own high-powered performance that you won't soon forget. This is a very theatrical version, full of sound & fury, histrionics and big arm movements. Cynical audiences might not buy into it, but if you were to go back to the early 1600s this is probably the way you'd see it.
The plot of Macbeth, if you were snoozing during high school English class, is about an 11th century Scottish warrior who hatches a dubious plan to steal the throne. Spurred on by his wife Lady Macbeth, who wears the pants in the household, he finds himself swiftly slipping down the path of evil. It's the conflict between his dark ambition and his moral half that makes this IMO the most gripping of Shakespeare's plays.
As I mentioned above, Orson Welles' famous 1948 version gives us a Macbeth who is repressed, depressed and deeply tormented. Many of his lines are delivered under his breath with an air of sadness, sorta like an "emo" Macbeth (which I actually like). In this version, Connery gives us a louder, more extroverted Macbeth who delivers all of his lines with a thunderous roar. It makes the pacing flow more quickly, and the whole film is like an unrelenting freight train from start to finish.
The direction & cinematography are excellent, making extreme use of light & shadow as well as distance & perspective. Certain shots are very exaggerated with one character close in the foreground while another is far away. One may be brightly lit whilst the other is covered in shadows. This gives the presentation a surreal, creepy vibe sort of like a Hitchcockian horror flick. Sets are enormous, cold and minimal.
I only took off a few points for some of the performances that were unconvincing and (this is nitpicking) several famous lines that were altered, whether deliberately or by accident. For example the famous line "Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him who first cries 'Hold! enough!'" is inexplicably cut short to "Damned be him who first cries 'Hold! enough!'" thereby losing its rhyme & rhythm. I caught 1 or 2 other instances of that. It bothered me because this is the only Shakespeare play that I actually read & remembered from high school. If I can remember the lines, why can't they??
Oh, I also took off a point because the 3 witches were way too hot. I mean, homina homina, but in the original play they're supposed to be spooky bearded hags, not swingin' 60s go-go chicks!
Final note about the picture quality... This is a public domain film which means there are a lot of lousy copies floating around. As far as I know, it has never been properly remastered. My copy is on the "Great Cinema: 15 Classic Films" DVD, and the quality leaves a bit to be desired. But for 5 bucks you can't go wrong. Check it out if you get a chance.
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