Richard III (Kino Video DVD, 1912, 2001)

by popegrutch

richardIII-kinoDVDWorldcat Link:

I recently reviewed the feature-length film, but I wanted to also post a few words about the DVD. I bought my copy direct from Kino Video, but it appears that quite a few libraries still carry it, for those interested in pursuing Interlibrary Loan.

Unlike many of the DVDs I’ve reviewed, this is not a collection, but simply a single film released as a DVD with some features. I wish they had managed to include a few other short samples of silent Shakespeare movies, but there are some compensating features. The case is attractive and includes all the basic information you need, and there is a one-page insert with the chapter list on one side, and a brief essay by Douglas Brode explaining the significance of the film on the other. The disc includes a seventeen-minute documentary discussing the preservation and discovery of “Richard III,” a bit of history of Shakespeare on the silent and talkie screen, and some of the available production information about this film. There is also a reproduction of a short (written) interview with Frederick Warde on the disc, which, for once, I was able to read on my screen. I still wish they had reproduced this text in a booklet instead of digitally, but it works.

The movie itself is nicely preserved and restored, with tinting clear and visible, and many good sharp images. Perhaps the biggest feature is the new score, by Ennio Morricone, the fellow who gave us the unforgettable music from “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly,” and many other great films. Morricone took the movie very seriously, and adds a decidedly dark tone, even to scenes where the ominous situation might not be clear to the audience. Often, he anticipates events, as when Richard visits the aging king in his cell. The actors give no sign of the danger this brings, but the score clearly highlights it from the moment Richard enters the Tower. Some may find this heavy-handed, but I thought that Morricone’s score added greatly to the experience. Richard III is a dark play, after all, and his score keeps that as a focus, where many silent film scores will lapse into jaunty rhythms unexpectedly, disturbing the mood of a movie.