Chimes at Midnight - The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)
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
Release Date: August 30th, 2016
Approximate Running Time: 116 Minutes 24 seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.95
"The crowning achievement of Orson Welles’s extraordinary cinematic career, Chimes at Midnight was the culmination of the filmmaker’s lifelong obsession with Shakespeare’s ultimate rapscallion, Sir John Falstaff. Usually a comic supporting figure, Falstaff—the loyal, often soused friend of King Henry IV’s wayward son Prince Hal—here becomes the focus: a robustly funny and ultimately tragic screen antihero played by Welles with looming, lumbering grace. Integrating elements from both Henry IV plays as well as Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, Welles created a gritty and unorthodox Shakespeare film as a lament, he said, “for the death of Merrie England.” Poetic, philosophical, and visceral—with a kinetic centerpiece battle sequence that rivals anything in the director’s body of work—Chimes at Midnight is as monumental as the figure at its heart." - synopsis provided by the distributor
Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Based on the 2009 restoration supervised by Luciano Berriatua at the Filmoteca Espanola, this high definition digital transfer was created from the 35mm original camera negative and a 35mm optical soundtrack element. Additional image and sound restoration was undertaken by the Criterion Collection. Dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were removed using MTI Film's DRS, while Digital Vision's Phoenix was used for jitter, flicker, small dirt, grain and noise management. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4."
Chimes at Midnight comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 46.2 GB
Feature: 32.3 GB
The source looks great considering what they had to work with, and it is easily the best that Chimes at Midnight has ever looked on home video. That said, outside a few minor contrast variances, image clarity and black levels are solid, compression is strong, and the image retains an organic look.
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 shot without sound, and the soundtrack was created in post-production. There are no issues with background noise or distortion. Also, the dialog comes through clearly, and everything sounds 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 theatrical trailer (1 minute 50 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with Orson Welles from The Merv Griffin Show, original air date 9/21/1965 (11 minutes 7 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles),an interview with Beatrice Welles (14 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actor Keith Brewer (29 minutes 49 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Orson Welles biographer Simon Callow (31 minutes 41 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with film historian Joseph McBride (26 minutes 44 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with film scholar James Naremore and a poster; on the reverse side of this poster are cast and crew information, an essay titled Fallstaff Roars written by Michael Anderegg, and information about the transfer.
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 sets for Chimes at Midnight. Filmmaker Jesús Franco was reportedly the second unit director; he shot Chimes of Midnight’s battle sequences.
Though not as well known as Orson Welles' other films, due to Chimes at Midnight being very difficult to see for many years, it is still another artistic triumph from Orson Welles, who once again turns cinema on its head with his unique style of storytelling. That being said, Chimes at Midnight features many of the elements that have since become synonymous with the cinema of Orson Welles. There is one area where Chimes at Midnight drastically differs from the bulk of his filmography. And that is when it comes to the look of Chimes at Midnight, which is by far and away Orson Welles' most subdued film visually, as he relies on the performances to drive the narrative.
In terms of acting, the entire cast is a joy to watch in their respective roles. With the standout performance coming from Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) in the role of Falstaff, a knight who has befriended and since become a mentor to Prince Hal. His performance runs the gamut 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 (The Bride Wore Black) in the role of Doll Tearsheet, a prostitute that also lives at Mistress Quickly’s inn. Ultimately, Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight is an extraordinary cinematic experience that firmly takes its place next to his most revered films.
Chimes at Midnight gets an exceptional release from The Criterion Collection that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a wealth of informative extras, highly recommended.
Written by Michael Den Boer