1971, Movie, R, 140 mins


Roman Polanski's controversial version of the classic Shakespeare play casts Jon Finch and Francesca Annis as the murderously obsessed couple who utilize witchcraft and prophecies as stepping stones to power. Polanski's first film after the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, by the Manson family, this graphically violent MACBETH could be read as an attempt to exorcise real-life demons. In any case, this version, if not the best Shakespearean adaptation, is certainly the most inspired in its recreation of the cold barbaric spirit of the play's original setting. The vulgarity and gore on the screen is neither exploitative nor irresponsible, but a thoughtful interpretation that is less beholden to conventional theatrical techniques of the time. In accordance with this approach, Polanski elicited naturalistic understated performances from his actors which bolstered the play's realism while bringing the poetry down to earth. Some would argue he brought it too far down.

While Annis's nude sleepwalking scene has been criticized as evidence of Playboy Enterprises' involvement (in fact, the script was written before Playboy agreed to produce the film), it is true to the period. The project was originally offered to Allied Artists and then to Universal but both deals fell through. Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, who was anxious to diversify into film production, felt this would be an ideal project for the growing Playboy Enterprises. However it turned out to be his first major failure. Polanski originally intended to cast Tuesday Weld as Lady Macbeth, but she declined after learning about the nude scene. Photographed in Wales during incessant downpours and fog, the picture was completed way behind schedule and lost about $3.5 million dollars. The original cut received an "X" rating. leave a comment

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