Othello (1965)

Othello (1965)

Director: Stuart Burge
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Frank Finlay

A Moorish general in the service of Venice is driven to suspect his wife by a disgruntled officer in his army.

I'll admit my core motivation for seeing this was the makeup work of Laurence Olivier that ventures far into the uncanny valley. All you have to do is look at it to see how wrong it looks, but Olivier took great pride in the work and it's certainly a thorough job. It clearly isn't blackface with any intent to offend, but it was derided in its day and isn't likely to be seen any more fondly now. It certainly served Orson Welles to film his version of the play in black and white. Setting aside this elephant in the room, this film is a fairly reserved production as far as the cinematography is concerned. The sets and costumes are quite good, though. The main feature is the acting itself and being Olivier, it's quite good. His portrayal of Othello is very interesting to watch, being very subtle at first to really set it off when passions run high later on. Olivier has really good chemistry with Maggie Smith, who plays Desdemona, which emphasizes the tragedy of the breach between them. Frank Finlay plays a nicely understated Iago. It's easy to ham it up with the character, but by reining it in Iago comes off as far more insidious. If you're not put off by Olivier in blackface, I highly recommend this production.

Watch It