Reviews written by registered user
|11 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film, while entertaining, aims mainly to be a purely twenty-first
century anti-bullying parable, regardless of the historical truth about
Alan Turing. While I have been more firmly opposed than most to
boarding school bullying, in this case, the nobler the goal, the worse
the writing. The film tries unsuccessfully to make Turing both a
friendless quasi-autistic lone genius, and the head of the entire
decryption project; neither point has any relation to reality, and
barely cohere to each other. (I admit to some bitterness about this
slur on my grand- supervisor, since it implicitly denies the existence
of my graduate-school supervisor.)
The film also does disservice to Joan Clarke's genuine contributions, substituting a muddled and completely ahistorical subplot about her professional dependence on, and mathematical superiority to, Turing, while seeming more concerned with her appearance than her intellect.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This play was done in the BBC Shakespeare's first season (produced by Cedric Messina) and tried to be pleasant, realistic, and faithfulunlike the plays which precede it chronologically, done in the fifth season under Shaun Sutton, which were deliberately ugly (trying to look like "playground squabbles" but more like an abandoned lumber yard) and incompetently and trendily directed. This production was filmed competently on realistic locations with suitable costumes; the cinematography shows its age, though, on a high-resolution screen. The actors are all excellent, and Claire Bloom as Henry's (minor spoiler) divorced wife is magnificent. The play itself, though, is relatively weak; it was mostly written by John Fletcher, and Shakespeare's parts are weak, "sometimes downright careless in syntax," as the Pelican Shakespeare notes. It is full of Shakespeare's usual special pleading for history's winnersespecially ironic for a play whose original title seems to have been "All is True." But parts of it are excellent, and the whole is well worth watching. If you're viewing the plays in the proper order, this one will come as a great relief after the botched Henry VI's and Richard III, and an excellent culmination to Shakespeare's double tetralogy. It shows what the BBC could have accomplished had it kept its original agreement with the series' sponsors to do authentic Shakespeare.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unlike some of the earlier BBC plays in this tetralogy, this version of Richard III is reasonably well done and fairly watchable, though it suffers from some of the usual BBC efforts at trendiness. The last scene, which some of the favorable reviewers seemed to like, has nothing to do with Shakespeare, and is a crude attempt to undo Shakespeare's intended effect with his genuine last scene. But most of the text is present, unlike Olivier's or McKellen's versions, though this version is both less competent and less enjoyable than either. Most of the actors do reasonably well, and Ron Cook has grown in the role. Julia Foster is less dreadful as Queen Margaret here than in the earlier plays, but mercifully doesn't have many scenes, and doesn't manage to ruin most of the ones she does have. Peter Benson finally gets it right, and plays Henry VI considerably better dead than alive. Most of the minor actors are very good, though the role-doubling can be distracting. Until Mark Wing-Davey speaks, for instance, it was not at all clear to me that he was portraying a new character; but his accent eventually made that sufficiently clear.
The two leads, Peter Benson as Henry VI and Julia Foster as Queen Margaret, are much less annoying in the final part of the trilogy than in the first twotowards the end, they even do some actual acting, which suggests that their monotones in the first five sixths of the trilogy should be blamed on the director. The minor parts, as usual for the BBC Shakespeare, are mostly well-handled, even (this time) Bernard Hill as Richard, though it's still a relief that he's replaced in the sequel. The direction is competent when it's not heavy-handed, sometimes (as in Warwick's final speech) going over the top and distracting from the play and Shakespeare's words. The production continues to be cheap and gloomy, but this only occasionally (as with implausible snow on what's normally conceived as a filmed indoor set) interferes with the play, though it never adds to it.
This is one of Shakespeare's earliest and weakest plays, but that
doesn't excuse this production. The two leads (Peter Benson as King
Henry and Julia Foster as Queen Margaret) are intolerable. Benson has
some excuse, since playing a weak and useless king (who was in fact
insane) makes it difficult to avoid acting weak and useless. Julia
Foster, however, seemed to avoid acting altogether, in favor of simply
glowering throughout the entire play. (In Part I, this made male
characters' infatuation with her simply ridiculous). As usual with the
BBC Shakespeare, however, most of the minor characters are
well-portrayed; with, however, the exception of Ron Cook as the future
Richard III, which bodes ill for the sequels.
As was regrettably fashionable at the time, the production is minimalist while the directing is over-done, especially some of the later battle scenes. But when the leads and the director get out of the way, some of the Shakespeare shines through.
This musical is decidedly mixed, and none of the elements really fit
together, but it somehow manages to be mostly enjoyable. The plot
contains some of the elements of Wodehouse's novel, but none of its
virtues, though he co-wrote the script. The songs, though charming,
have nothing to do with this particular film, and are unusually crudely
squeezed into the plot, even by pre-Oklahoma standards. Burns and Allen
do their usual shtick quite competently, but it misses the tone of the
rest of the film by about forty IQ points.
There are a few high points. Reginald Gardiner does good work when he remembers that this is a talkie, and stops mugging like a silent actor. And there are a few bits of writing which could only have been written by Wodehouse, though most of the film feels like the production of one of the Hollywood meetings he later parodied.
I'll start with a correction to another review: Like most or all of the
other BBC Shakespeare productions I've watched, this has some minor
abridgments, e.g., the haggling about "Heir to France" in V.2. It's
nothing like as extreme as the "Good Bits" approach that Branagh took,
and indeed leaves in some passages that suggest that even Shakespeare
nods, such as Fluellen's nattering about Macedonian and Monmouth rivers
immediately after mourning the massacre of the boys.
Like most of the other BBC Shakespeare I've watched, it's mostly competent, low-key, and not very dramatic. (After Olivier and Branagh, it was kind of interesting to see a sedate Crispin's Day speech.) There are some outright mistakes in the directing, at least in the light of Branagh. I don't see how anyone, for instance, could ever have directed Nym's leave-taking from Mistress Quickly as casual. But there are bits of Shakespeare here you won't see anywhere else, so it's worth watching, once you've seen Olivier and Branagh.
The producers's declared intent of bringing Bond back to his roots
would have been an interesting idea, and the novel _Casino Royale_
might make an interesting basis for a film some day. There are a few
intriguing moments seeing Bond before he was actually good at his job
though after, of course, he acquired his mystic ability to dodge
bullets. But there are only a few, and most (though not all) of the
film isn't worth watching even for those of us who can tolerate the
lowest depths of the franchise. It seems deliberately to avoid the
charm and humor even the worst of the Bond films occasionally
displayed, replacing it only with even nastier gratuitous violence.
Note to Mr Haggis: Mechanical translation of "communist" to "terrorist," and "baccarat" to "poker," doesn't actually work, and deliberate ugliness is worse than even ersatz elegance. I wouldn't expect your co-authors to grasp this point, but I'm surprised I have to explain it to the second best actual writer ever credited for a Bond screenplay.
This production is not very good, but it's not quite as bad as I'd expected. Richard Griffiths holds up reasonably well in comparison to Anthony Quayle's portrayal in the BBC productions of Henry IV parts 1 & 2, though of course it's unfortunate that different actors portrayed the same characters in the different plays. Most of the other actors are reasonably competent, though not nearly as good as you'd expect from their work elsewhere. I agree that the direction is remarkably weak, with the denouement in particular being far too feeble to intimidate anyone, let alone Falstaff. But this was, after all, one of Shakespeare's weakest plays, allegedly written at royal command under severe deadline pressure.
I'm writing this in response to the plea for a review; if anyone has seen it more recently, please chime in. I saw this a decade or two ago on TV, and remember rather liking it, but being disappointed that it didn't follow Sabatini's book more closely. It wasn't quite as weak as I'd expected from a sequel, and Louis Hayward wasn't as weak as I'd expect from a replacement for Errol Flynn. All in all, a reasonably good standard-issue pirate movie; sorry I can't be more definite than that. There was also a sequel to the sequel, based on Sabatini's _Captain Blood Returns_, entitled for some reason _Captain Pirate_, which I remember as being, surprisingly, somewhat better than this one.
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