So after the 2015 Macbeth a few months ago, time for the Polanski version from 1971. If the newer version was the action pic version of the classic play, then this is the indie horror version. Its, obvs, the same story - witches, Macbeth, prophecy, king, deed, wifey, madness, more death, more madness, end. And like the newer version it retains the original Shakesperean dialogue......but even with my tin ear, this version sounded a lot less 'dense'. Being the not-so-classic scholar and literature ejit, I've always struggled with the traditional dialogue but in this version, it kinda made a lot more sense - not so many 'foresooths', more tightly linked to the story and plot, without the floweriness (apologies for the ironic literate garbage of that last sentence but I cant explain it any better!!! ).
Its less obviously cinematic, without the huge scope and epic sweep of the Kurzel version, but it makes up for that with a really creepy and gothic tone - the witches are eerier and there's more of them here. More is made of the prophecy about Macbeth's 'invincibility' and its backed up with a pretty darn graphic vision sequence. And while it glosses over some major plot points in the blink of an eye - I can't even remember Lady Macbeth dying or it even mentioning that she had died!!! - I have to say that of the two versions seen recently (three if you include Kurosawa's Throne of Blood from last year) I prefer this version.
Its got that classic feel to it that makes it timeless - there's nothing on screen that dates this as being 45 years old (apart from a really too young looking Martin Shaw!) and somehow that streamlining of the dense language helps engage you in the story itself more, even though its so well known, and its represented so well visually, it could be a movie with no dialogue at all and you'd still know what's going on. I like the darkness to the slayings - given its history with Polanski (being the first film he made after his wife's murder), its understandable, but its quite graphic, giving it that horror story feel. And even though Polanski has almost ruined the final face off between MacDuff and Macbeth by overcranking the camera and speeding it up to almost Benny Hill style, its a really coolly choreographed sequence, ending, of course, nice and bloodily.
I really liked this and if I had to choose (luckily I don't!), I'd pick this one over last years version. But there's not a lot in it.
The transfer is, as mentioned in the main review, really, really good. Picture quality is so detailed again you'd swear it was made yesterday. Nicely earthy looking in its palette and colour representation, its got a really good, chewy, authentic image to it. And the lossless mono track is almost as good. I've not tucked into many extras but I will dive into the new hour long look back at the making of the film included on the disc - it looks excellent from the first few minutes sampled already.
Summary - more great stuff from UK Criterion. A more traditional telling of the tale, but one that skews towards the dark, with easier to follow dialogue (god, I sound like a right philistine!!!) and a wonderful, timeless feel to it. A belting disc too - hugely recommended.