Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Holy Grail of Shakespeare and Film

Untitled. N.d. N.p. N.d. N.m. N.p., n.d.

You're interested in Shakespeare and film. That's why you're here. And you've been frustrated in your search for something in the Shakespeare and film world—I know you have. And I want to know what it is.

What is the "Holy Grail" of Shakespeare and film for you? What is too expensive, too rare, or too obscure? What is now unobtainable, though it once was available?

I have two lists that spring to mind.

Things that don't exist (though we wish they did):
  • A film version of Orson Welles' 1937 production of Julius Caesar.
  • A full film of Peter Brook's 1970 stage production of Midsummer Night's Dream. A few clips do exist (for which, q.v.), but the whole thing was never filmed.
  • Orson Welles' so-called Voodoo Macbeth. There's actually a lot of Orson Welles that could go on this list . . . his lost Merchant of Venice, for example (some footage here) . . . but it would be great to have more of his 1936 Macbeth than we do.
Things that exist, once existed, or were once promised (but that are hard to track down):
  • Johnny Hamlet. I did manage to find a copy, but that was after years of searching, and it was very expensive. I've never seen another copy for sale. Read about it in this post.
  • A fully-restored Prospero's Books. I've been hearing rumors one way or another about a quality DVD (or even Blu-Ray!) release of this film, but it's yet to come. The DVDs that are out there are largely transferred from VHS tapes. For a film that explored so many different media possibilities, it's distressing that it is so hard to track down. In the meantime . . . 
  • Prince of the Himalayas. We've been waiting for a US release of this film since at least 2011.
  • DVD releases of all thirty-eight of the plays produced in different languages in London in 2012 in conjunction with the Olympics. I'd like every one on the list, but the list particularly includes . . .
  • Othello: The Remix. I saw this for a limited time when it was available for streaming on-line. But I know this would be a big seller—consider Hamilton for just a moment!  People would snap this up—so do yourself and us a favor and make a DVD available, please!
  • Te Tangata Whai-Rawa o Weniti (the Maori Merchant of Venice). I once had hope that I would be able to see this, but that hope is starting to wane. There are rumors of warehouses full of this DVD in New Zealand . . . but that export has been forbidden.
  • Charles Warren's Macbeth with Michael Jayston and Barbara Leigh Hunt. I've been told that this is the best Macbeth ever. Though it's an HBO production, it's hard to find.
  • Celestino Coronado’s 1984 or 1985 film of a stage production of Midsummer Night’s Dream by Lindsay Kemp and David Haughton. This may have been broadcast on television; copies are not to be found.
Those are some of my holy grails. What are yours? Tell us about them in the comments!

Note: If you came here looking for the Shakespearean subtitles to Monty Python's film, try this post instead.

Links: The Monty Python Film at IMDB.

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


Duane Morin said...

I'd love to get a look and a listen at Richie Havens as Othello in "Catch My Soul".

kj said...

That's a good holy grail to have! I've searched for that in the past . . . even under the alternate title Santa Fe Satan.

As it turns out, there's now a Blu-Ray release of the film that's not too expensive:

Something for me to track down in the next fiscal year!


Anonymous said...

The full version of Kiss Me Petruchio IS currently available on YouTube:
Part 1 -
Part 2 -
Though there's no telling how quickly they'll remove it!

kj said...

Thanks, Anonymous! That's a remarkable find.


kj said...

I thought of another. Does anyone know if there are any video clips of Antony Sher as Richard III in the 1984 Royal Shakespeare Company production? It's said to be brilliant.


kj said...

Oh! I've got another one.

The Catherine Tate / David Tennant Much Ado About Nothing.

Yes, I know it's available on some streaming service somewhere, but I object to its lack of availability in other formats—notably the slightly-old-fashioned DVD format.


kj said...

This is from The Cold Genius (@angevin2 on Twitter):

"Ian McKellen's Richard II. You can watch it online now through the BFI but only if you're affiliated with a university in the UK."

Now that's an expensive film (for those not in the UK). The cost of plane fare is usually much higher than the cost of a DVD.

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 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

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