Macbeth (1983)

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Released 10-Sep-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 147:13
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jack Gold
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Brenda Bruce
Eileen Way
Anne Dyson
Mark Dignam
James Hazeldine
Christopher Ellison
John Rowe
Gawn Grainger
Nicol Williamson
Ian Hogg
David Lyon
Jane Lapotaire
Gordon Kane
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Carl Davis


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Sometime in the distant past, the Scottish forces under King Duncan (Mark Dignam) have repulsed the Norwegian invaders, and Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, has distinguished himself in battle. However, the Thane of Cawdor has betrayed his countrymen and now captured, is to be executed. Duncan sends messengers to greet Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor in recognition of his service.

    Macbeth (Nicol Williamson) and Banquo (Ian Hogg) come across three witches, who predict their futures. Macbeth is to be Thane of Cawdor and eventually King, while Banquo will sire a long line of kings. Macbeth and Banquo scoff at this, but when the King's messengers catch up with them and greet Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth begins to believe in the prophecy of the witches.

    Duncan decides to stay overnight at Macbeth's castle, and egged on by Lady Macbeth (Jane Lapotaire), our reluctant hero slays Duncan in his sleep and contrives to place the blame on Duncan's bodyguards. The fleeing heir Malcolm (James Hazeldine) is blamed for the regicide, and Macbeth is proclaimed King, though some have doubts. Macbeth must now reap what he has sown.

    For me, this is one of the finest of the entries in the complete Shakespeare series produced by the BBC between 1978 and 1985. Nicol Williamson is an excellent Macbeth, demonstrating the stage presence that proved elusive on film. He makes the vacillating and reluctant regicide Macbeth believable. Jane Lapotaire is also good as his ambitious wife, as is the entire cast. Some well known actors appear in small roles, such as Brenda Bruce as the First Witch and James Bolam as Porter.

    Macbeth is also one of Shakespeare's most accessible plays to a modern audience given the familiarity of the story. There have been many film adaptations, notably Orson Welles' 1948 version and Roman Polanski's bloody 1971 film made in the wake of his wife's murder at the hands of the Manson family. Like King Lear, it was adapted for the screen by Akira Kurosawa, and the resulting Throne of Blood is an eerie, atmospheric setting in a foggy 16th century Japan. There have been numerous updatings such as Joe Macbeth and Scotland, Pa., and Verdi wrote an opera based on the play.

    Much of the text is very familiar, with lines like such as "Double, double, toil and trouble" and "Out, d*** spot". I counted at least four book titles taken from lines in the play. One of my favourite Shakespearean quotes is here too:

"Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player

that struts and frets his hour upon the stage

and then is heard no more:

it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

signifying nothing."

    The staging seems idiomatic, and much like a real staging with simple sets and low lighting levels. Direction by Jack Gold is satisfactory, though there are a couple of instances where the cameramen had trouble getting the focus correct.

    I found this highly enjoyable and after the play had finished, felt inspired by having watched it. I can't think of a better recommendation.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The play is presented in the original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    As a video production, it is lacking in sharpness and clarity. There is occasionally a glare from studio lighting, but most of the time the lighting levels are low (covering up the cheap studio sets), resulting in poor detail, especially in shadows. A lot of the video is murky. Contrast is adequate in the more brightly lit scenes.

    Colour is drab and muted, with a slightly washed out look typical of video productions of the era. Flesh tones are reasonable but not always lifelike. Black levels are poor, lacking solidity and including low level noise.

    There are a range of video artefacts present. Excessive noise reduction is a problem in the darker sequences, of which there are many. Motion blurring is visible in many sequences. There are comets trails from bright sections of the image when the camera or actors move. Cross-colourisation, colour bleeding, overmodulation and chroma noise is also visible throughout much of the running time. There are occasional horizontal dark lines indicating analogue tape tracking errors. There are also interference lines across the screen in some shots, similar to those seen in microphony but seemingly not due to any loud noises on the set. Occasionally there is a small green spot in the upper right hand corner of the screen, for example at 4:50, that seems to be limited to one camera.

    Being shot on video, there are no film artefacts of any description.

    Subtitles are provided in English, in small white lettering. Being familiar with the play I was able to watch without the subtitles. From a small sampling of them, it seems that the subtitles repeat the text verbatim.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change positioned at 71:26 between scenes II and III of Act III, and is not disruptive. In fact, I did not notice it when watching the play.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, reflecting the original mono broadcast.

    The audio is satisfactory and little more. Dialogue is clear and the sound is clean despite the limitations of the recording and the presence of a slight background hiss. I had no trouble hearing any of the dialogue, and as the author would have said, the play's the thing.

    The fanfare music that is played under the opening titles of each play in this series was written by Sir William Walton. Incidental music during the play and end credits comes from Carl Davis. I did not notice the score very much during the play, but the end credits music was quite impressive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No substantial extras are provided. A missed opportunity, as with the addition of background materials and other information this DVD could have been useful for schools and students.

Main Menu Audio

    Music from the score is played over the static menu.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The UK Region 2 release of this material is identical to the Region 4.

    This production is also available in Region 1 as part of an expensive box set only. The box set contains five of the tragedies, with Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello and Julius Caesar. Given that the material has been transferred from PAL to NTSC, you would be better off getting the Region 4 releases as they appear, as hopefully they will.

Summary

    A fine Macbeth in spite of the video problems.

    The video quality is not very good, but this is as good as it can be given the source material.

    The audio quality is acceptable.

    No extras are provided.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, October 08, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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