Da'ud Bob's Movie Review
September 2014

I have often noted in these reviews that the main difference between Shakespeare's tragedies and his comedies is the number of bodies; in the comedies, no one dies. (Admittedly, this rule of thumb can make some of his plays hard to classify. No one dies in The Merchant of Venice, but not a lot about it is very funny, either. Except maybe the part about the weird lumpy tea. You know, "The koala tea of Mercy is not strained.") Anyway, I had run across this rendition of one of his comedies that I hadn't seen before, starring some pretty big names, and thought it was worth "checking it out" for y'all. So the DVD arrived, and when the time was right, I dropped it into the tray in the player, sat back in my La-Z-Bubba recliner, and pushed "Play." And so it is that this month, Da'ud Bob reviews for you the 1969 version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Starring Joan Plowright as Viola/Sebastian, Gary Raymond as Duke Orsino, Adrienne Corri as the Countess Olivia, Ralph Richardson as Sir Toby Belch, John Moffatt as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Sheila Reed as Maria, Alec Guinness as Malvolio, and - of all people - Tommy Steele as the fool Feste, this production of the play suffers a little, perhaps, from having so many impressive actors in it. It's hard to know, sometimes, which actor to watch, their presence being so strong even during others' lines. The plot, of course, is that of a brother and sister, separated during a shipwreck, following which the sister puts on men's clothing and calls herself Cesario, enters the service of the local Duke, woos his lady love as his intermediary, she falls in love with Cesario, who only has eyes for the Duke. (This part of the plot reminds me so much of the story of Miles Standish sending John Alden to woo Priscilla Mullins for him, and she ends up marrying Alden.) It all works out in the end, of course, as the real brother shows up, and everybody ends up with the person they love, except, of course, for Malvolio.

Good points: It's Shakespeare's words, Shakespeare's metaphors, and Shakespeare's double entendres. The two-tined fork. Alec Guinness' Malvolio prancing in the garden in yellow stockings, cross-gartered. Multiple mistaken identities that Shakespeare does so well.

Bad points: Joan Plowright is too old to play Olivia/Sebastian. I can't decide if the voiceovers are helpful (since they are often used to explain the internal dialogue going on in someone's head), or if they're just annoying (because could often have just been said aloud). It's basically a film of a stage production with stage sets and hard lighting with strong shadows. That's okay, since it was originally filmed for television, but it could have been done so much better. Even if they'd just softened the lighting a bit it would have been a big improvement.

Zero breasts. One pint of blood. No dead bodies. Forged letter fu. Sword fu. Plots roll. Gratuitous entr'acte cards ("Part I," "End of Part I," "Part Two," etc.); they just seemed entirely out of place here. Academy Award nominations to Ralph Richardson as Sir Toby Belch for stealing the show even, or especially, as a drunk; to Tommy Steele as Feste the fool for his love songs (accompanied by himself); and to Alec Guinness as Malvolio for, as I noted above, his prancing in the garden in yellow stockings, cross-gartered (the result of a plot against him on the part of Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Maria). A 42 on the Vomit Meter. Two and a half stars. Anna Sue says, "Not even Obi-Wan can save this production." Da'ud Bob says, "It wasn't quite that bad. Check it out!"

Upcoming movies and miniseries to watch for!

October 17, 2014 Dracula Untold. Vampire mythology combined with the true history of Prince Vlad tell the origin of Dracula. Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Charlie Cox, Samantha Barks.


December 12, 2014 Exodus: Gods and Kings. Moses leads the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. Christian Bale, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, John Turturro. Directed by Ridley Scott.


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