Edward Karam
March 05, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Richard III (Movie - 1955)

Current Status
In Season
John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Claire Bloom, Norman Fisher, Cedric Hardwicke
Laurence Olivier

We gave it a B+

Laurence Olivier was a man of the theater, but thankfully, his gift for Shakespeare extended to the screen. More so than his Hamlet, Henry V, or Othello, Olivier’s spidery Richard — shuttling around with a black pageboy haircut and sleeves dangling to his knees — revels in his eloquence yet remains deliciously wicked. Delivering his soliloquies to the camera, in Richard III he makes us confederates on Richard’s march to the crown; as a result, most of the other actors come off as solid but bland. To make his confection work, Olivier the director edits heavily: The film begins with a scene from Henry VI, Part 3, and John Gielgud’s Clarence is essentially reduced to a cameo. (Look for Michael Gough, future Batman butler Alfred, as a hired killer.)

EXTRAS Along with still photos and trailers, disc 2 boasts a 1966 BBC interview in which Olivier chats about the Bard. For example, Othello and Titus Andronicus are harder roles than Macbeth, he says, because ”they’re complaining all the time.”

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