Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 25th, 2015
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: June 29th, 2015
Approximate running time: 116 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
BluRay Release: Mr. Bongo
Region Coding: Region ABC
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
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 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. A brand new transfer from a recent restoration for the film was used for this 50th anniversary release for the film. Details generally look crisp, there are no issues with compression and the source used for this transfer is in great shape. When it comes to contrast levels there are a few moments that look too bright and black levels / shadow detail also leave room from for improvement. And DNR has been used in varying degree throughout. With that being said, this is a film that has been notoriously difficult to see due to it not being in circulation due to legal issues and though this transfer leaves plenty of room for improvement. The end result is good enough presentation that will have to do until something better comes along.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English. 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.
This release comes with no extra content. There are two options on the main menu, play feature or chapter selection.
Overall Chimes at Midnight gets a strong audio / video presentation from Mr. Bongo.
Note: Mr. Bongo are also releasing this film on DVD.