Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Richard III in Twin Peaks

"Episode 18" [a.k.a. "Masked Ball"]. By Barry Pullman. Perf. Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, and Mädchen Amick. Dir. Duwayne Dunham. Twin Peaks. Season 2, episode 18 [a.k.a Season 2, episode 11]. ABC. 15 December 1990. DVD. Paramount, 2007.

I don't imagine ever having the time to even watch—let alone comprehend—the cult classic television series Twin Peaks. Yet we find some Richard III there, too.

Since I don't fully understand what's going on . . . hold on—that was too mild. Let me start this paragraph over again.

Since I'm completely mystified by the show, I'll turn to a paragraph of summary provided by the Twin Peaks Episode Guide blog:
In his office, unshaven Ben Horne, looking as though he’d slept in his clothes, watches home movies of the groundbreaking of the Great Northern Hotel. “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York,” he recites as he approaches the screen to kiss his mother’s image.
And here's the clip:

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And that's how Richard III week at Bardfilm comes to a close—not with a bang, but with a semi-confused "Huh?"

Have I missed any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments below—but you might also try these Richard III-related clips:
Spectacular Spider-Man
Black Adder
Family Guy 1
Family Guy 2
King Rikki 1
King Rikki 2
Looking for Richard
Richard (Loncraine / McKellen)

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the series from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Monday, June 25, 2012

Richard III in Jesus of Montreal

Jesus of Montreal. Dir. Denys Arcand. Perf. Lothaire Bluteau, Catherine Wilkening, and Johanne-Marie Tremblay. 1989. DVD. Koch Lorber Films, 2004.
This quotation from Richard III may be more than just incidental—it certainly seems so—but I'm not familiar enough with the film to dig deeply into its significance.

But I can point out the connections between religion and theatre that the scene evokes. The film is about a theatre director who is hired to put on scenes from Christ's passion for a church pilgrimage of sorts. The unorthodox theology behind his presentation makes a number of people nervous and angry.

In the scene below, a character contemplates his own history. He presents theatre and religion as something of a dichotomy. He loved the theatre, but he felt that he had to pursue religion instead:

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The rest of the film may, in part, be contemplating whether religion and theatre are irreconcilable entities. Perhaps it is even taking us back to the origins of the theatre in English—to the medieval mystery plays themselves.
Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Richard III in The Wars of the Roses

King Richard III. Dir. Michael Bogdanov. Perf. Andrew Jarvis, Michael Pennington, Anne Penfold, June Watson, and Susanna Best. Wars of the Roses. 1990. DVD. Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 2005.
And now, in the category of terrific films that no reasonable person can reasonably afford, we have the series The Wars of the Roses, the English Shakespeare Company's astonishing production of both tetraologies. Yes, they filmed their series of plays that includes the plots of Richard II; Henry IV, Part One; Henry IV, Part II; Henry V; Henry VI, Part One; Henry VI, Part Two; Henry VI, Part Three; and Richard III. Amazing is too mild a word for it.

But it's also around $700 for the series, which is why you should have your library buy it for you (as I did).

Their Richard III opens with this excellent and humor-filled introduction to the cast. In under four minutes, they set the stage for the play, obliterating any confusion students, scholars, and general readers might face in encountering the play:

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Links: The Series at IMDB.

Click to purchase
(or to have your library purchase)
the films from Films for the Humanities and Sciences.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Richard III in Magnum, P. I.

“Case of the Red Faced Thespian.” By Donald P. Bellisario and Glen A. Larson. Perf. Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, and Roger E. Mosley. Dir. Ivan Dixon. Magnum, P. I. Season 4, episode 12. CBS. 19 January 1984. DVD. Universal Studios, 2006.

While Runaway Train lies nearer to the sublime on the continuum, this episode of Magnum, P. I. moves along the scale toward the ridiculous.

I know very little about the conventions of the show, but this episode centers on a character named Higgins who is struck on the head by a croquet ball just before a 1920s Theme Party begins. He imagines himself to be the great (albeit fictional) Shakespearean actor Sir Fearing Pangborn. [As a side note, does anyone know whether that name is parodying any actor in particular? Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree? John Barrymore?] [Additional Note: See the comments below for the solid suggestion that the character actor Franklin Pangborn is the object of the mild parody.] Another character (T.C., for those in the know) is dressed as Paul Robeson—but he claims he's playing Paul Robeson playing Brutus Jones, so there's no additional Robeson-as-Othello material in this episode.

Here's a brief sample. Warning: It's quite silly, and impressional people should not be allowed to assume that Magnum's shirt-and-shorts combo is appropriate attire in the twenty-first century.

video

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the season from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Richard III in Runaway Train

Runaway Train. Dir. Andrey Konchalovskiy. Perf. Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, and Rebecca De Mornay. 1985. DVD. MGM, 1998.
Although the use of Richard III in popular culture can sometimes be nothing more than incidental, it occasionally is used to alter the entire tenor of a work.

Such is the case with the 1985 Action / Adventure film Runaway Train. The film's plot centers on two escaped convicts—one of whom is recalcitrant and unrepentant while the other is mostly just along for the ride. They end up on board a string of four locomotive engines connected together along with a female railway worker; the engineer has a heart attack and dies, leaving the throttle on full—and the emergency brakes locked on. That gives everyone some respite, but the eventual effect is for the breaks to burn out entirely, leaving the three on board a train that is racing faster and faster with no hope of stopping. If they could get to the foremost locomotive, they could potentially turn off the throttle, but for various reasons they seem unable to get there.

Note: In the next few paragraphs, spoilers will abound. Should you wish to let this film's plot unfold for yourself, stop here, watch the film, and come back to add your commentary to this post. Thank you.

By the end of the film, the warden, who is the main prisoner's arch nemesis, has made it on to the train by means of a helicopter. He and the prisoner fight, and the prisoner handcuffs him to the first locomotive. The prisoner then uncouples the other locomotives from the first, climbs to the top of the engine, and awaits his certain doom—and the simultaneous doom of his arch nemesis. The screen whites out, and this quote appears:


The quote doesn't supply the names of the characters, but the quotation marks indicate that it is an exchange between characters rather than a quote from one character alone. In fact, it is part of the scene in which Richard woos Lady Anne:
Lady Anne: No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.

Richard: But I know none, and therefore am no beast. (I.ii.71-72)
The clever argument—technically, it's a syllogism—embedded in the exchange runs something like this: Beasts have pity. Richard doesn't have pity. Therefore, Richard is not a beast.

Richard makes the argument to try to subvert Anne's accusations. Eventually, his attempt pays off—Anne does agree to marry him.

But what does that mean for Runaway Train? Are we to draw the conclusion that this prisoner is, like Richard, both devoid of pity and also the more human because of it? Is that brought into question because the prisoner has shown pity to the others on the train by uncoupling their locomotives from his? Is this prisoner no more than a beast—whatever the logic of the syllogism might suggest? Does the quotation point toward the warden rather than the prisoner, suggesting that he has brought about his own end as well as that of the prisoner by being devoid of pity?

The quotation, by opening these questions, gives the film far more layers than it would otherwise have.

Here are the final moments of the film:

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Richard III in Law and Order

“Aria.” By Dick Wolf. Perf. Paul Sorvino, Chris Noth and Dann Florek. Dir. Don Scardino. Law and Order. Season two, episode 3. NBC. 1 October 1991. DVD. National Broadcasting Company, 2004.
Sometimes the inclusion of Shakespeare is purely incidental.

Such is the case with this Richard III interjection at the beginning of an episode of Law and Order. The rest of the episode has to do with actors, and these two actors, who are fooling about with props and quoting a line from Richard III, merely set the scene. I watched the episode—admittedly, it was a few years ago—hoping for deeper tie-ins to the play, but there wasn't much there.

All the same, it's another way Richard III is frequently used in popular culture: As shorthand for "Theatre."

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Links: The Episode at IMDB.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Richard III in Fame

Fame. Dir. Alan Parker. Perf. Eddie Barth, Irene Cara and Lee Curreri. 1980. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2010.
In the film Fame, several students use Shakespeare in their auditions. One student gives us a bit of Richard III's opening monologue (interesting in that it's not the portion of that speech typically used); another gives us a portion of Touchstone's comic bit near the end of As You Like It; the last reads something from Romeo and Juliet.

The auditions aren't quite as over the top as those in A Midwinter's Tale (for which, q.v.), but they are still pretty marvelous. Take a look!

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Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

An In-Depth Exploration of Richard III, Act I, Scene ii

Looking for Anne. Dir. Gérard Dallez. 2005. DVD. Equipe de Recherche sur les Aires Culturelles, 2005.
Included in the volume Shakespeare on Screen: Richard III (ed. Sarah Hatchuel and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, Ruon: Publications de l’Université de Rouen, 2005) is a short film entitled Looking for Anne. When I requested the book through my stalwart Inter-Library Loan connections, I was under the assumption that it was a complete film that told the plot of Shakespeare's Richard III from Lady Anne's point of view. Even though that turned out not to be the case—causing some inevitable collateral disappointment—the film itself provides a good deal of commentary on and discussion of Act I, scene ii of the play: The scene in which Lady Anne accepts Richards proposal of marriage.

There's considerable discussion—in French (with English subtitles)—about the scene, and one participant seems to have a cockatoo on her shoulder for no readily-apparant reason. And then comes the fun part. The actors attempt to put all they've been discussing into the scene itself.

The discussion here typifies the threefold conversation that frequently happens in my classroom about this scene:
  1. Why does Anne accept Richard?

  2. Why doesn't Anne kill Richard?

  3. How is it possible to enact whatever conclusions we reach about those two questions?
Here's a brief clip to give you a taste of the film, which is something like a discussion, something like a documentary, and something like an actor's workshop:

video

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(and the film that should come with it) from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Richard III and Felix the Cat at the Top of the Foshay Tower

Felix in Hollywood. Dir. Otto Messmer. 1923. DVD. Sling Shot Entertainment, 1999.
Although this one was not mentioned by the article, it fits in Richard III week well under the category "No Escape from Shakespeare."

I wasn't really searching for Shakespeare when I went to the small museum kept at the top of the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis (along with a marvelous observation platform), but there he was, embedded in a cartoon from 1923.

The Foshay Tower was built during the Roaring Twenties, and the museum directors decided to give their visitors something of a taste of that time in American history. Felix the Cat must have sprung to mind, and the cartoon short Felix Goes to Hollywood can be played from one of the museum's kiosks.

In the film, there's a brief parody of one of Richard's best-known lines:

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Links: The Film at IMDB. The Foshay Tower at Wikipedia.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Richard III Week at Bardfilm Begins with Richard III in Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Burnett, Mark Thornton. “Parodying with Richard.” Shakespeare on Screen: Richard III. Ed. Sarah Hatchuel and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin. Ruon: Publications de l’Université de Rouen, 2005. 91-112.

Tempera, Mariangela. “Winters and Horses: References to Richard III on Film and Television.” Shakespeare on Screen: Richard III. Ed. Sarah Hatchuel and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin. Ruon: Publications de l’Université de Rouen, 2005. 65-89.

I've mentioned the two articles listed above before (for which, q.v.). They provided me with a vast range of unexplored territory, Richard IIIwise, and I've been collecting them, pondering whether they would build up any coherent picture of the way popular culture has appropriated the conventional image and overarching relevance of Richard III in particular.

I'm not sure they've done so, but I am sure that you, gentle readers, will find them interesting and valuable. And I hope to post them with minimal commentary over the next week or two.

"Silent Witness." By Robert C. Dennis and Jeanne Barry. Perf. Alfred Hitchcock, Don Taylor, and Dolores Hart. Dir. Paul Henreid. Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Season 3, episode 5. CBS. 3 November 1957. DVD. Universal Studios, 2007.

The first one is from the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In it, an English professor has been carrying on an affair with a student. When he tries to break it off, she threatens to expose him. He does away with her—but the baby she was babysitting at the time witnessed the event. The rest of the episode plays with the themes of Richard III as the professor contemplates doing away with the child to cover his crime. Here's the episode's opening:

video

The professor is reading from Richard's monologue near the end of the play—the one in which he comes closest to repenting of his crimes:
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high'st degree
Murder, stem murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, Guilty! guilty!
I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul shall pity me:
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself? (V.iii.195-205)
The full episode is quite intriguing—full of plot twits and with a surprising conclusion. Give it a try!

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the season from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2012 by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest