Chimes at Midnight (1965) – Orson Welles


So I’m getting back on track with the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book, and am getting ready to finish up my time with Mr. Welles.

I was quite looking forward to sitting down and watching this one, as I do like my Shakespeare, and I was quite interested to see how Welle’s adapted and re-worked The Bard into a two-hour film, that inevitably leads to a betrayal of friendship.

The rather rotund Welles takes on the part of the funny, cowardly, big-hearted Falstaff, in a film that was based loosely on the play Five Kings, which condensed Shakespeare’s Henry IV, V, VI and Richard III into one piece.

Falstaff is happy to drink, cheat and steal, all with a lie and a smile on his lips, as he spends time with young Prince Hal (Keith Baxter), who, for the time being, has no interest in his father’s, Henry IV (John Gielgud), throne. Instead the pair, along with the compatriots, are happy to go wining, whoring, and following whatever lark enters their mind. At lot of these moments are genuinely funny, especially when Hal catches Falstaff out in fallacies and fabrications.

However, when the nation goes to war, to stop Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy (Norman Rodway) from claiming the throne, lines are drawn for final battles and confrontations, more lies, more betrayals, and ultimately an untimely end for one of Shakespeare’s recurring, and much-loved characters.

Picture 2

I quite like how Welles shot this one, though I’m also of the belief that it could have been made to look a little more epic, still, the battle sequences are almost unparalleled, wonderfully shot, cut and edited, making for a standout piece in an overall, incredibly strong film.

Gielgud is right at home on the throne, and delivers his lines with the sternness and power you would expect from a king.

The story rockets along, with Welles balancing his humor and drama perfectly, never letting one run too long, or the other fall too short, until we reach the final act and that last heart-wrenching betrayal of not only friendship, but almost a father-son relationship, and that’s when all the humor that helped these characters slip into your good graces pays off, because the ending hurts, well, it does if you became emotionally involved in the characters.

It’s a well put together film, that lets Welles play, and also lets a number of talented actors get to deliver some beautifully crafted lines, as only Shakespeare could do.

This is a Shakespeare-related film that I had not even heard of before I got to this book, so I was quite happy to hear about it and view it, and while I’m divided on Welles, this one may end up being one of my favorites of his work.





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