THE DVD SHELF: Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux," Olivier's "Richard III" and Douglas Fairbanks as "The Thief of Bagdad"

By Steven Suskin
19 May 2013

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Criterion has also brought us a Blu-ray edition of Laurence Olivier's Richard III, improving upon their fine 2004 DVD version. Given that this is a highly colorful movie, filmed in VistaVision and Technicolor, Blu-ray helps the colors explode across your widescreen. Olivier's portrayal of the maligned monarch is chilling, although I never quite get around that stark black wig. (Olivier apparently modeled Richard's appearance after Jed Harris, the tyrannical Broadway producer who was roundly despised—including by Olivier—but who gave us such plays as "The Front Page" and "Our Town.")

Sir Larry is surrounded by the cream of the British acting set, circa 1955. John Gielgud as George, Duke of Clarence. Ralph Richardson as the Duke of Buckingham. Cedric Hardwicke as Edward IV. That's four Sirs, right there. Matching Olivier's Richard is Claire Bloom as Anne; they make quite a couple.

This was Olivier's third Shakespearean film adaptation. First came "Henry IV" in 1944, which won the star/producer/director a special Oscar. This was followed by the even more acclaimed "Hamlet" of 1948, the first non-American film to win the Best Picture Oscar, with Olivier also taking Best Actor (but losing Best Director, to John Huston for "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"). "Richard III" did not do as well with awards or at the box office, but it might be the most striking film of the three.

The Blu-ray uses the 2012 digital restoration by the Film Foundation. Bonus features are mostly repeated from the prior Criterion release, with the exception of a restoration demonstration hosted by Martin Scorsese.