Tuesday, February 15, 2011

By the pricking of my thumb...

[Some borderline incoherent notes on Orson Welles' Macbeth (1948)]

So this was made on the cheap?
Well, sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit—it looks AWESOME: I love Welles’ Macbeth’s B-movie “Frankenstein Castle” look and the mish-mosh of costumes.

Incredible B&W cinematography, and LOTS of optical printer work, bolted onto Great God Orson’s super-theatrical ANTI-REALISM—

And we do have to say that The Scottish Play is my fave of The Bard’s works (followed by King Lear, brought to screen in Japanese and then in Russian, and both those versions superb) and Troilus & Cressida, which has yet to be made into a film (I think).

[I’m also a big fan of Olivier’s Richard III, but I need to see Gandalf’s version again to have a genuine opinion, though.
Meanwhile, I really dig All Night Long, Basil Dearden’s “Jazz Othello” starring Patrick McGoohan as the Iago character, with guest appearances/performances by Charles Mingus and Dave Brubeck, among others.]

[Getting back to Mack the B, I have yet to see Roman Polanski’s version, but don’t feel in a rush to do so. I’d rather watch Throne of Blood instead first.]

Getting back to Mr. Welles’ 1948 version—you enjoyment depends on your tolerance of Willie The Shakes oeuvre.
If you’ve zero tolerance for genuine classics of human civilization, well, sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit. What would you care about Orson Welles anyway, let alone visit Ivanlandia?

With his square and pointy crown, and the cat-like makeup, Welles looks like a grown-up Max (from Where the Wild Things Are), but gone very, very bad.

Being a special effects geek, the flick is a joyful cornucopia of optical effects, especially when The Weird Sisters are about.

According to Wikipoopia,
“Of all Welles's post-Kane Hollywood productions, Macbeth is closest to Citizen Kane in its use of long takes and deep focus photography. Shots of the increasingly isolated Scottish king looming in the foreground while other characters address him from deep in the background overtly reference Kane.”

And honestly, I dug how Welles has everyone speaking in thick Scotch burrs…

This flick is shamefully not available on DVD, but if you’ve the ability—or friends with the ability—it can be found by snooping about the Intertubes for a bootleg.


  1. Going to have to keep an eye out for this one. Sounds like a winner.

  2. I pretty much hate Roman Polanski, and his movies, except for Rosemary's Baby. Perhaps i have a slight problem with Eurotrash coming here and drugging up our thirteen-year-old girls and buttfucking them. Call me old-fashioned, but that behavior seems impolite.

    But i must say that his version of Macbeth is pretty damn good. I saw a 16mm print of it, and enjoyed it completely. I've never seen Welles' version.

  3. Christopher, Auto: Yes, you should see Welles' Macbeth, it's a good'un!

    As it turns out, while I don't care so much for Roman P. himself (although I *love* the Psychic TV song about him, called "Roman P."), I do dig several of his flicks: Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, and The Tenant. Knife In the Water left me cold, and I have yet to see the rest of his movies--although his "Cul-De-Sac" is on top of my Nflix InstaVue selections.

  4. Chinatown is a simply awesome movie. Never let it be said that rapists can't also be great filmmakers.

  5. "The future, Mr. Gittes, the FUTURE!"
    Oh yeah, great stuff--but Chinatown was also a project of love for screenwriter Robert Towne.