Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Two Macbeths from Orson Welles

Macbeth. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O’Herlihy, Roddy McDowall, Edgar Barner, and Alan Napier. 1948. DVD. Republic Pictures Home Video, 1992. 

Back in 2013 (yes, I'm running a bit behind), I was thrilled to see a new DVD release of Orson Welles' Macbeth. The only previous version I knew of was imported from Korea—and it was wonderful (except that I had to turn off the Korean subtitles every time I started it).  But I thought that, perhaps, the new release would have the audio cleaned up a bit and the video restored somewhat.

When the DVD arrived, I found that its run time was 1:47:34; the previous release had a run time of 1:42:38. The new release, I thought, contained a precious four minutes and fifty-eight seconds' worth of material not found on the earlier release! What scene that had been cut had been restored? Or was it a general lengthening—a few speeches here, a few speeches there, but each one adding to the overall texture of the film?

It turns out to be the same film, just run at a slightly-slower speed so that it takes an extra five minutes to watch. I love this film, but it doesn't need to be five minutes slower.

Thus, caveat emptor—especially if the emptor has been primed with this knowledge from Bardfilm.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film (in either version) from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).



Thom Verratti said...

But . . . . Understand that this is because your earlier film was transferred at the wrong film speed, and the newer Olive version is correct. In other words, the "longer" version is as Welles actually intended it; the performances are correct as they were filmed. The earlier knockoff DVD you got is faster because film speeds are different in Asia.

We emptors should support Olive, no? Otherwise they and others aren't going to bother with new editions of Welles and other films. There's my caveat.

your film pal,


kj said...

Ah, that's interesting!

But if it's going to be slower, shouldn't it have the Scottish accents he intended as well?

You're right about supporting official releases. I thought the Korean press was official--just for a different market.

Take care!


Thom Verratti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thom Verratti said...

I must have been in a mood when I wrote earlier -- sorry for the snarky tone! I don't know for sure that the Korean disc is a knockoff, and on second thought I'm probably wrong about the PAL/NTSC conversion (although this conversion calculator supports the idea that a 1hr47m NTSC video would run around 1hr43m in PAL, which seems about right) . . . . . More interesting is your note that the soundtracks are apparently the same between the two. The original performances with the accents were restored in an edit made in 2010 by UCLA and the Folger -- and I was under the impression that the Olive disc does have the original vocal performances (which I with my ignorant ears don't find distracting or bad at all). If that's the case, then your Korean disc must have been using the restored version as well (and is probably legit) -- if not, and I trust you on these matters, then the Olive disc isn't what I thought it was. It doesn't help that there are varied running times for the cuts listed all over the place . . . . I think the best indicator we have is that there is a shorter theatrical cut imposed by the studio in 1948 that runs under 90 minutes (88), and Welles's longer original cut restored in 2010 to something over 100 minutes -- 108 is the figure I see most consistently, but I see some articles talking about 114. As far as I can tell, the recent cut only exists with the original Welles soundtrack.

Eh, I am too sloppy when it comes to a lot of these details. I mean I care about them more than some, but I tend to drift away when I start to screen something amazing. If the film is great, I don't see DVD artifacts and technical issues, you know? I love every detail of Welles's Macbeth, including the bizarre crowns. (I want to go watch it right now, actually. 8^)

[n.b. That "removed comment" didn't contain anything salacious, BTW -- I just wanted to add the link for the PAL/NTSC converter.]

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