Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 15th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: Spain, 1965
Director: Orson Welles
Writer: Orson Welles
Adpated From: William Shakespeare plays “Henry IV, Part I”, “Henry IV, Part II” and “Henry V” / Raphael Holinshed book “Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande”
Narration: Ralph Richardson
Cast: Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, John Gielgud, Marina Vlady, Walter Chiari, Michael Aldridge, Fernando Rey, Ingrid Pitt
BluRay released: August 30th, 2016
Approximate running times: 116 Minutes
Aspect Ratios: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Criterion Collection
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.95
The narrative for Chimes at Midnight was adapted from as many as five Shakespeare plays. With the bulk of the narrative coming from Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2. The other three sources include, Richard II, Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Chimes at Midnight originally began as one of two films that Orson Welles agreed to shoot simultaneously for Spanish film producer Emiliano Piedra. The other film as part of this two film deal would have been Treasure Island. Reportedly Welles never intended to make Treasure Island and he only agreed so he could use some of that film’s set’s for Chimes at Midnight.
Key collaborators on Chimes at Midnight include, cinematographer Edmond Richard (The Trial, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), composer Angelo Francesco Lavagnino (Beatrice Cenci) and second unit director Jesus Franco, who reportedly shot Chimes at Midnight’s battle sequence.
Though not as known as Welles other films, due to this film being very difficult to see for many years. It is still another artistic triumph from Welles who once again turns cinema on its head with his unique style of storytelling. With that being said, though this film features many of the elements which has since become synonymous with the cinema of Orson Welles. There is one area where this film drastically differs from the bulk of his filmography. And that is when it comes to the look of the film. Which is by far and away Welles most subdued film visually as he relies on the performances drive the narrative.
From a performance stand point the entire cast are a joy to watch in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance coming from Welles (Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil) in the role of Falstaff, a knight who has befriended and since become a mentor to Prince Hal. His performance runs the gambit as he expresses a wide range of emotions throughout this film. Other performances of note include Margaret Rutherford (Blithe Spirit) in the role of Mistress Quickly, she is the owner of the Inn where Falstaff stays throughout the film and Jeanne Moreau (Viva Maria!, The Bride Wore Black) in the role of Doll Tearsheet, a prostitute that also lives at Mistress Quickly’s Inn.
With Chimes at Midnight, Welles once again delivers an extraordinary cinematic experience that firmly takes its place next to his most revered films.
Chimes at Midnight comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand new high definition transfer was created and the end result is by far and away the best this film has ever looked on home video. Contrast and black levels look solid throughout, the image looks sharp, grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English and included with this release are removable English subtitles. This film was shoot without sound and the soundtrack was created in post-production. There are no issues with background noise or distortion. Also dialog comes through clearly and everything sound balanced. Range wise things sound as good as one could expect considering the way the soundtrack was constructed and the limitations of the mono source.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (1 minute 50 seconds), an archival interview from The Merv Griffin Show (11 minutes 7 seconds – original air date 9/21/1965), an interview with Beatrice Welles (14 minutes 40 seconds), an interview with actor Keith Brewer (29 minutes 49 seconds), an interview with Orson Welles biographer Simon Callow (31 minutes 41 seconds), an interview with film historian Joseph McBride (26 minutes 49 seconds) and an audio commentary with film scholar James Naremore.
The interview from The Merv Griffin Show was filmed while Welles was editing Chimes of Midnight. Other topics include Citizen Kane and how he was given freedom on film that no filmmaker before or since has been given.
Topics discussed in the interview with Beatrice Welles include, Chimes at Midnight and the role she portrays in the film, her life onset and offset with her father.
The interview with Simon Callow is a detailed overview of Welles Shakespeare adaptations.
Topics discussed in the interview with Joseph McBride include, Wells career as a filmmaker after he left Hollywood and his Shakespeare adaptions.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, how the film was shot in Spain in 1966 and originally released in the U.S. in 1967, Shakespeare and Welles various adaptions and how Welles often portrayed men who are imprisoned by their own acts. Other areas this track covers in great depth include, Shakespeare and the stories which Welles used for this film and the main characters in this film and background information about them.
Rounding out the extras is a poster and on the reverse side of this poster is cast & crew information, an essay about the film titled Fallstaff Roars written by Michael Anderegg and information about the transfer. Overall Chimes at Midnight gets a definitive release from Criterion Collection, highly recommended.