Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Return to Prospero's Books—with LaserDisc Technology!

Prospero's Books
. Dir. Peter Greenaway. Perf. Sir John Guelgud, Michael Clark, Isabelle Pasco, and Orpheo. 1991. LaserDisc. Fox Video / Media Home Entertainment / Image Entertainment, 1992

I haven't written about Peter Greenaway's remarkable film Prospero's Books since 2008 (you can find the links to those posts at the end of this post). In all those years, I've been waiting patiently for an official DVD—or even (be still, my beating heart) a Blu-ray—to come out. But to no avail. And I know that all the DVDs for sale out there are dubs of the VHS (and probably illegal).

Then I spotted a LaserDisc for not too much. "Well," I said to myself, "our library has a LaserDisc player. I'll give it a shot."

Long and short, the library's LD player was broken and irreparable. So I found someone in California who could convert an LD to a DVD for a fee that still wasn't too much. With a few tracks lost to something called "LD rot," I now have a high-quality version of the film!

And it makes such a difference. It's not the same as watching it in the theatre (I was able to do that when it was first released, and it shook me to my bones), but it's much better than what I've been able to see (if you look at the links below, you'll see the poor quality of a capture from a VHS tape of the film).

And it makes me feel like sharing! So come on over this Friday night . . . .

Wait. That might not actually work. But I'll provide some key clips below, still following Bardfilm's Fair Use Policy. And I'll also leave out the nudity. [Note: The quality won't be the same as watching the actual LaserDisc, but it will be much improved over previous clips.]

Here's the opening, setting the stage for the background of looking through many different "books."

Continuing the "book" theme, let's look at a brief sampling. [Note: I'm finding it hard to find lengthy clips without nudity. And, although the nudity would probably be classified as "artistic" rather than "naughty," there's too much of it.]

In this penultimate clip, we have the meeting of Miranda and Ferdinand. You'll also get a sense of how Sir John Guilgud's voice takes nearly all the lines in the film.

And last, we have the last scene in the film. Prospero is drowning his books . . . and all but two are lost. Caliban manages to save those two from destruction.

I'm still not sure why this highly-visual, tremendously-innovative film version of The Tempest still hasn't been issued in DVD or Blu-ray—it deserves it!

Now . . . is it worth it to go through the whole process again with another LD to get those LD-rotted tracks?  Hmmmmmm.

Links: The Film at IMDB. Previous Posts on Bardfilm about Prospero's Books: "The Granddaddy of Modern Tempests," "The Odd, Layered Opening of Prospero's Books," "The Odd, Layered Closing of Prospero's Books."

Click below to purchase the film—on LaserDisc, no less—from

(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

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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.
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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