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Macbeth

Released Dec 26, 1948 1h 46m Drama List
87% Tomatometer 30 Reviews 76% Audience Score 2,500+ Ratings
In director Welles' retelling of Shakespeare's classic tragedy, Macbeth (Orson Welles), a medieval Scottish general, is told by three witches he will rise to be king. After learning the prophecy, he's pressured by his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth (Jeanette Nolan), to murder King Duncan (Erskine Sanford) and seize the throne. Macbeth succeeds, but with his new power he becomes increasingly paranoid and bloodthirsty, which ultimately leads to his tragic demise. Read More Read Less
Macbeth

What to Know

Critics Consensus

This haunting, eccentric Macbeth may be hampered by budget constraints, but Orson Welles delivers both behind and in front of the camera.

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Critics Reviews

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Variety Staff Variety Only a few of the Bard's best lines are audible. The rest are lost in strained, dialectic gibbering that is only sound, not prose. Jun 18, 2008 Full Review Steve Daly Entertainment Weekly Stark, intermittently brilliant. Jun 18, 2008 Full Review David Parkinson Empire Magazine Powerhouse performance from Orson Welles as the troubled Prince. Rated: 4/5 Jun 18, 2008 Full Review Michael J. Casey Boulder Weekly It’s a wonder to watch, even though three-quarters of a century has passed. Rated: 4/5 Jul 11, 2024 Full Review Matt Brunson Film Frenzy One of the most fascinating of all screen Macbeths. Rated: 3.5/4 May 31, 2023 Full Review Elsa Branden Photoplay The stark Scottish landscape adds a weird note to a picture that has its moments of high dramatic interest. Rated: 1/3 Aug 20, 2021 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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s r I saw this after seeing the Tragedy of Macbeth from 2021 and the differences were stark. This was much more brooding and dark, but it still packed a cave goblin like punch at times. I felt there was more of a focus on Scotland and Macbeth. Perhaps it was Welles' ego? Regardless, it had moments, like Lady Macbeth and the outrageous viking like costumes / crowns. It was on youtube. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review William L Weird crown, but okay. With any adaptation of a major literary work, the question inevitably becomes one of faithfulness vs. originality; virtually no subject matter receives more scrutiny that Shakespeare, with its long tradition of theatrical and cinematic versions alike and its retinue of purists who would scream in agony if minor grammatical alterations were made (which is funny given the major disparities in many plays published in early individual quartos vs. the First Folio). Into this dangerous territory walked Orson Welles, with a minor budget, recycled sets, off-the-rack costumes, and a shooting schedule of barely more than three weeks. What he came up with was subjected to forced alterations and was still lambasted, largely due to comparison to the Olivier Hamlet that was circulating at the same time. But its reputation has grown with time, with recognition given to the cinematography, Welles' maddened performance, and even to the changes made to the narrative to accomodate the medium. While it doesn't quite approach the style of Welles' adaptation of Othello, nor the power of his Chimes at Midnight, Macbeth is still quite impressive particularly given its practical production limitations. Half-convinced that the production team behind The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) reviewed this Welles adaptation and had it in mind when casting Harry Melling as Macduff; Dan O'Herlihy, in the same role, bears striking similarities in his facial features. (3.5/5) Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 06/27/22 Full Review matthew d Orson Welles brings madness to Macbeth! Macbeth (1948) is Orson Welles' dark and grim take on William Shakespeare's play about treachery, guilt, and paranoia. Welles directed Macbeth with an acute eye for the most scary vibe and carefully framed shots with all characters in view. He makes sure you watch everyone's reactions to Macbeth's madness. Welles uses dim lighting to bring out the terror of his surroundings. The few lights only shine on the eyes of the guilty party or those viewing the insanity firsthand. The quick zoom in shots to the far wide shots of the scenario are magnificent. I loved Welles' use of fog and shadowplay to build atmosphere. This is as good a film version of Macbeth as you'll ever get to watch. It is long, but the performances are so gripping and interesting. The heavy Scottish accents are fun to hear with their intriguing expressiveness. The music is Gothic and boisterous with a malicious intent to the sound. The reverberating voices in the deep caverns of Castle Macbeth are haunting. Welles goes to great lengths to convince you of Macbeth's guilt born madness overcoming him. Speaking of which, Orson Welles as an actor continues to astound me. His thick Scottish accent covering his legendary deep voice with fits of rage and mourning alike. His Macbeth starts out sympathetic and ends up raving with the most fearsome fury and wrath. Welles plays the role beautifully. Lastly, I must mention the beautiful Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth. Her prodding Macbeth to murder is excellently cruel and punishing. Her revelry at the deed and proceeding distress is a pleasure to watch. Nolan's performance rivals even Welles. In all, Macbeth has never looked so frightening in the stark black night screaming to the heavens. The scene in which lighting strikes around Orson is just gorgeous to witness. Check out this version of Macbeth if you want to see something special. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review andrey k This is what can be called a masterstroke, magnificently executed, the more so considering technical restraint Welles had to endure while filming this film version of the astounding play. It's as dark as possibly can be; the trademark Welles' long shots is how Shakespeare should be filmed with as less cuts as possible. And yet there's a touch of Olivier's 'Hamlet' even in a truly Welle's production, still Laurence Olivier's film opened doors to screen adaptations of Shakespeare. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member Without being too daring but being very personal, Welles' 'Macbeth' is a highly honourable adaptation of the play made by an expert. Its rustic, frightening, supernatural atmosphere beautifully fits the play, and Welles interprets a diabolical Macbeth. Furthermore, the budget constraints of the film do not only seem to make it suffer, they also seem to participate to its rough, wild style. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/13/23 Full Review Audience Member http://filmreviewsnsuch.blogspot.com/2016/08/welles-bard-trilogy-macbeth-othello.html Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/25/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Macbeth

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Movie Info

Synopsis In director Welles' retelling of Shakespeare's classic tragedy, Macbeth (Orson Welles), a medieval Scottish general, is told by three witches he will rise to be king. After learning the prophecy, he's pressured by his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth (Jeanette Nolan), to murder King Duncan (Erskine Sanford) and seize the throne. Macbeth succeeds, but with his new power he becomes increasingly paranoid and bloodthirsty, which ultimately leads to his tragic demise.
Director
Orson Welles
Producer
Orson Welles
Screenwriter
William Shakespeare, Orson Welles
Distributor
Republic Pictures
Production Co
Mercury Productions, Republic Pictures Corporation
Genre
Drama
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Dec 26, 1948, Limited
Release Date (DVD)
Oct 1, 2015
Runtime
1h 46m