Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare adaptations have long been heralded; so Criterion’s re-release of his "Richard III" is hardly an excuse for re-consideration. Of the cinematic renderings of the Bard’s masterpieces, Olivier’s have long been held on the top shelf. Yet there’s still something new here to discover; something often exclusive to Criterion releases: impeccable, filmlike picture quality.
Restored with 4K technology (better than that offered for many new release pictures nowadays,) the extreme-widescreen of Olivier’s compositions are brought back to their artificial glory; his visual expressiveness brought back to its transcendent, grainy sheen. His performance as the titular Duke of Gloucester is only improved; the subtlety of his acting brought to home video for the very first time; his face rendered with sharpness rather than by scratchy pixels.
But the picture isn’t Criterion’s only must-see supplement: also on offer is a commentary by a pair of Shakespeare scholars/stage directors, a 60s interview with Olivier sourced from the BBC, a gallery comprised of behind-the-scenes shots and marketing materials, and even a demonstration of the restoration by the one and only Martin Scorsese (his film foundation funded it.)
The third of Olivier’s takes-on-Shakespeare is arguably his best; his character’s dark obsession with taking the throne rendered with comparably diabolical visual expressions. The long takes Olivier came to swear by give you plenty of time to take in the lush beauty - and overbearing dread - coded into the imagery. You’ve heard this story before; but you’ve never seen it look this good.