According to IMDB, there are 23 movies titled “Macbeth”. Add in the couple that have other words in the title and you have yourself a hell of a lot of competition. With so many takes on this Shakespearian tale, you pretty much have to say the year or the director with the title to ensure that whoever you are talking to is on the same page. Interestingly enough, in this case, you would need to say the year AND the director, because Orson Welles put out two cuts of Macbeth, in 1948 and 1950. Fortunately for us, Olive has opted to include both versions in this stellar Olive Signature set. So let’s take a look!
The Movie Itself (3/5)
So, for those who weren’t paying attention in English during highschool, Macbeth is the story of a Scottish noble, who makes a big mistake by listening to his super hot wife.
Ok, so there’s more to it than that. During the 11th century, Macbeth is driven by a witch’s prophecy and the prompting of his wife to take on treason and name himself king. Of course, witches just cannot be trusted, and claiming a crown is not where Macbeth’s story ends, but I’ll let you witness the scene yourself when you see this movie (it’s one of the more intense and interesting points in the film).
Orson Welles, who directed and starred in Macbeth was very much a fan of the project. So much so in fact that he preceded the film by a series of stages performances, which, depending on who you talk to, may have been better than either of the cuts that made it to home video. Regardless, two full cuts of the film were released in 1948 and 1950, and both are in this set.
The two cuts differ by only about eight minutes of screen time, but the 1950 shorter version removes some lines spoken with obnoxious accents. Being a Shakespearean story, the dialog is a bit rough to get through at times, but for me, the accents weren’t too egregious. Your mileage may vary, though.
The biggest difference between Welles’ Macbeth and the vast slew of others is the style of film, and the style that Welles’ used to make it. In fact, this film is almost like a play caught on camera, taking the set pieces and feeling of a stage play, but with the cinematography and camerawork for the silver screen. Either way, this one is a bit more artsy than Hollywood, and Welles’ actually got a degree of backlash for this.
This take on a classic story takes some liberties along the way, but ends up being an interesting watch. This one will be a bit dry for a lot of viewers, I think, but hey, that’s Shakespeare.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4/5)
Movies that were filmed close to 70 years ago can be severely hit or miss, depending on how the various prints have been handled over the years. I am pleased, however, to say that holy hell, the picture looks great. There’s definitely grain and some drops in quality here and there, but overall I was impressed at how well it’s held up. I can’t imagine anyone having too many complaints here at all. Well done, Olive!
Score/Audio Quality (4.5/5)
The audio for both cuts of the film is also quite good. Apart from the accents and speed in which the actors are speaking (about a mile and a half a minute), everything was clear and satisfying. I would recommend turning on subtitles on this one though, the combination of language and accent can make it hard to keep up.
Special Features (5/5)
Olive, once again, has packed a diverse and interesting set of special features, which truly sets their Signature line apart. Included in this set are:
- Two cuts of the film, the 107 minute 1948 cut, and the shorter (at 99 mins) 1950 version, both in 1080p
- Commentary on 1948 version with Orson Welles’ biographer Joseph McBride
- Welles and Shakespeare – an interview with a professor who discuses in depth Welles’ work on Shakespeare
- Adapting Shakespeare on Film – Two directors, Carlo Carlei and Billy Morrissette discuss why Welles’ film is important.
- We Walk Again – A section of an older documentary which includes parts of Welles’ stageplay of Macbeth.
- That Was Orson Welles – An interview with actor/director/writer Peter Bogdanovich about his experiences meeting Welles.
- Restoring Macbeth – An interesting look at the choices made while restoring old films.
- Free Republich: Herber J. Yates and the Story of Republic Pictures – A history of Republic Pictures
- Orson Welles’ Macbeth and booklet – A booklet with several pictures and essay on the film.
I absolutely love it when a distributor has a look and feel to their releases that ties them all together. Numbered spines are addicting and great for collectors, but I’ve seen a few too many “sets” that just don’t look collected together on the shelf. Having said that, Olive Signature is absolutely nailing it. With great looking slipcovers (even if they are slightly deeper than the case, I can get past that), numbered spines, gorgeous clear cases, and attractive branding all around, it’s safe to say that I’m in love with this line. This is the type of packaging that will definitely draw in people’s attention, and I applaud Olive for it.
- Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
- DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Runtime 107 Mins
With an absolutely top notch presentation, Olive brings a Shakespearean classic to their Signature lineup and nails it out of the park with the extra features. This is the type of film that I can see picking up as a blind buy to complete an Olive Signature set, so if you are one of those people, you’re already getting this film. Anyone else with an interest in Orson Welles’ take on the classic (and people should, it’s definitely unique) should definitely buy this set. I can’t imagine a better presentation with both cuts of the film in one place.
You can pick it up here.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.