Macbeth (1948)

Macbeth (1948)

Director: Orson Welles
Starring: Orson Welles, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O'Herlihy

Goaded by his wife, a Scottish nobleman commits regicide to claim the throne for himself.

Whereas Orson Welles' adaptation of Othello was a troubled-production drawn out over several years, this film had the opposite problem, given only a scant 23 days for filming and a shoestring budget. These limitations contribute to a lot of the problems this film has. The accents are a bit dodgy (but at least they try for Scottish accents), the costumes often ridiculous, and sometimes the acting is a little overdone, but this is a striking film. The sets are bare and spartan (the castle looking like it was mostly built into natural caves), the atmosphere is oppressive and the camerawork is stylish. Contrast this with Olivier's Hamlet, released the same year, a much better-regarded classical performance but cinematographically bland. I like Welles and Jeanette Nolan as the Machbeths. Alan Napier was also interesting as the original character, the Holy Father, and a young Roddy McDowall was pretty good as Malcolm. It's also worth noting the bit part by Welles' daughter Christopher as Macduff's kid (her only film performance). Both as a film and as an adaptation of the play, this is a mixed bag, but any aficionado of Welles and/or Shakespeare should give this a watch.

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