No author’s works have been so visited on the silver screen as Wiliam Shakespeare’s. And no author’s work has been so broadly interpereted. Now Kino Video brings two of the earliest and historically notable film versions of Shakespeare’s work to DVD with the 1912 version of Richard III and the 1922 version of Othello.
An astounding rediscovery of the cinema, “Richard III” is the earliest surviving American film, newly discovered and restored to its original brilliance through “The American Film Institute,” with a haunting orchestral score by composer Ennio Morricone. Produced as a vehicle for Frederick Warde, a legendary stage actor of the 19th Century, “Richard III” was the most ambitious Shakespearean adaptation to date. The film not only attempts to honor the intricacies of the original play, it flavors the drama with spectacular crowd scenes and rich color tints.
The new DVD will be fullscreen black and white with color tinting taken from a recently discovered master. The disc will feature Morricone’s stereo score and a seventeen minute featurette “Rediscovering Richard: Looking Back at a Forgotten Classic”. The disc will also contain an essay by historian Douglas Brode and a somewhat enigmatic feature labeled Frederick Warde on “Richard III” which is most likely a text based interview.
Rather than a literal adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Othello” is more of a dark psychological thriller in the German tradition. Cavernous chambers and story battlements cast shadows of impending doom upon Othello and Desdemona as the mephistophelean lago dances about them, methodically destroying thieir happiness and steering them toward their bitter fate with impish delight. An ambitious silent version of Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Othello” is perhaps the first film to transplant Shakespearian prose to moden-day settings – a practice which continues to this day.
“Othello” will be presented in its original black and white fullscreen transfer, but will contain a new stereo soundtrack of scored music. The disc will also contain a fair amount of features including four silent Shakespearean shorts: Duel Scene from “Macbeth” (1905), “The Taming of the Shrew” (1908), “Romeo Turns Bandit” (1910) and “Desdemona” (1911). Also included will be an essay by Douglas Brode.
Both films will be available on June 26th, helping to add to the desperately small library of classic silent films on DVD. Suggested retail price is $29.95.