Othello [1995]

Director: Stuart Burge
Stars: Laurence Olivier, Frank Finlay, Maggie Smith, Joyce Redman, Derek Jacobi
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 165 minutes

Produced in 1981 and intended primarily for classroom viewing, this conventional staging of Othello strips away the adornments of traditional English accents to focus entirely on the power of Shakespeare's tragedy. Despite the disadvantage of a lackluster video transfer, flat overhead lighting, and sound recording that occasionally smothers dialogue with music, the play itself is faithfully preserved. William Marshall's stentorian tones give him a commanding presence as the doomed Moor Othello, whose jealousies are stirred and manipulated by Ron Moody's scheming Iago. But his mannered performance clashes with Moody (best known as Fagin in Oliver!), whose Iago lacks the villainous premeditation that the role demands. Jenny Agutter acquits herself nicely as Othello's ill-fated wife, Desdemona, but she, too, lacks the passion of her character's righteous convictions. The production is unerringly authentic, however, and compensates for its dryness by presenting Shakespeare with reverent fidelity. Overall, a worthy starting point for exploring other, more daring interpretations. --Jeff Shannon

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