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3.2 16
Director: Roman Polanski, Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw

Cast: Roman Polanski, Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw


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Perhaps William Shakespeare meant to have Lady Macbeth perform her sleepwalking scene in the nude -- it was this X-rated scene and the film's much-publicized spurts of violence, rather than the brilliant performances of Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca Annis as his Lady, that lured crowds to Roman Polanski's 1972 adaptation of Macbeth. Only a few critics


Perhaps William Shakespeare meant to have Lady Macbeth perform her sleepwalking scene in the nude -- it was this X-rated scene and the film's much-publicized spurts of violence, rather than the brilliant performances of Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca Annis as his Lady, that lured crowds to Roman Polanski's 1972 adaptation of Macbeth. Only a few critics glommed onto the most impressive aspect of Polanski's version: as Macbeth and his wife sink deeper and deeper into the morass of their murderous ambitions, they age and wither before our eyes (Shakespeare's play does cover several years, but this is usually forgotten or ignored by many actors and directors). Macbeth was financed and released by Playboy, which naturally necessitated a fold-out spread on "the witches of Cawdor." The original Shakespearean text was adapted for the screen by Polanski and Kenneth Tynan. Despite an excellent first week, Macbeth ended up in the red, compelling Hugh Hefner to think twice about future motion-picture projects.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
The dark side of ambition runs amok in Roman Polanski's 1971 Macbeth, a grim and blood-soaked adaptation of Shakespeare's violent tragedy. It's a simple story: Spurred on by witches' prophecies and by his young wife (Francesca Annis), Macbeth (Jon Finch) gains the Scottish throne through ruthless butchery and assassinations, only to lose it in a similar fashion. Polanski's approach is equally simple and straightforward. Macbeth’s locations and sets realistically evoke a dark, murky medieval Scotland, and the cast’s low-key performances are clean and unembellished. This is muscular, cinematic Shakespeare in which significant sections of soliloquies are dispatched in voice-over, a device that works surprisingly well. Many have attributed the film’s abundant onscreen violence to the fact that Macbeth was Polanski’s first film after the grisly murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, by the Manson family; and while the mayhem is brutal and plentiful, it's never gratuitous. In fact, there are no gimmicks here: Even Lady Macbeth's nudity during her most famous monologue suits the voyeurism of the scene perfectly. In the end, despite the film's somewhat racy reputation (resulting in large part from the fact that it was financed by Hugh Hefner's Playboy Productions), this Macbeth smacks of true classicism. It is a stark and compelling gem.
All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
Roman Polanski filmed William Shakespeare's grisly and nihilistic play as his first project after the horrifying murder of his wife Sharon Tate by the Manson family. Polanski's Macbeth taps into a deeply rooted literary tradition -- a hero flawed by ambition and tempered by conscience -- while using seedy cinematography to suggest the nasty brutishness and grimly expedient violence of this pre-medieval Scottish world. Jon Finch's Macbeth, who bears a creepy similarity to Charles Manson, offers an appropriately bipolar performance, swinging wildly from swaggering bravura to paralyzing guilt. The infamous Lady Macbeth is portrayed in a curiously muted and demure way by Francesca Annis, who gets stuck inside the role of a hysterical Victorian heroine and fails to show her character's development from doting wife to fiendish schemer. Polanski adds such non-Shakespearean scenes as the execution of Cawdor, the murder of Duncan, and the final duel between Macbeth and Duncan's avenger, Macduff -- all helping to portray, brutally and convincingly, the cruelty of a world run by savage despots, and making for an unforgettable film that is almost ceaselessly riveting.

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Special Features

Toil and Trouble: making "Macbeth," a new documentary featuring interviews with Polanski, producer Andrew Braunsberg, assistant executive aproducer Victor Lownes, and actors Franscesca Annis and Martin Shaw; Polanski Meets Macbeth, a 1971 documentary by Frank Simon featuring rare footage of the films' cast and crew at work; Interview with coscreenwriter Kenneth Tynan from a 1971 episode of The Dick Cavett Show; "Two Macbeths," a segment from a 1972 episode of the British television series Aqarius featuring Polanski and theater director Peter Coe; Trailers

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jon Finch Macbeth
Francesca Annis Lady Macbeth
Martin Shaw Banquo
Nicholas Selby Duncan
John Stride Ross
Vic Abbott Cawdor
Stephen Chase Malcolm
Terence Bayler Macduff
Josephine Barstow Actor
Keith Erwen Actor
Kostas Paskalis Actor
Elsie Taylor 1st Witch
Roy Jones 2nd King's Groom
Terence Mountain Soldier
Jane Kells Actor
Aud Johansen Actor
Christina Paul Actor
Sydney Bromley Porter
Mark Dignam Macduff's Son
John Gordon Dancer
William Hobbs Young Seyward
Ian Hogg 1st Minor Thane
Alf Joint Old Seyward
Geoffrey Reed 2nd Minor Thane
Howard Lang Old Soldier
Paul Shelley Donalbain
Andrew Laurence Lennox
Frank Wylie Mentieth
Bernard Archard Angus
Bruce Purchase Caithness
Keith Chegwin Fleance
Noel Davis Seyton
Noelle Rimmington Young Witch
Richard Pearson Doctor
Michael Balfour Murderer
Andrew McCulloch Murderer
Diane Fletcher Lady Macduff
Maisie MacFarquhar Blind Witch

Technical Credits
Roman Polanski Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Jonathan Bates Sound Editor
Andrew Braunsberg Producer
Timothy Burrill Producer
Fred Carter Art Director
Bryan Graves Set Decoration/Design
Hugh Hefner Executive Producer
Simon Kaye Sound/Sound Designer
Victor Lownes Producer
Alastair McIntyre Editor
Anthony Mendleson Costumes/Costume Designer
Ted Samuels Special Effects
Wilfred Shingleton Production Designer
Gilbert Taylor Cinematographer
Kenneth Tynan Consultant/advisor,Screenwriter

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Macbeth 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This one of the best Shakespearian adaptations, because it is not a reductionist rendition, distilling Macbeth's character down to that of an overambitious despot or henpecked thane. Polanski has captured the psychological struggles of Macbeth by concretely depicting his guilt, existential musings, occult fascination and ultimate spiral toward moral destitution. It is shot entirely on location in the bleak and austere moors of Scotland. The dissonant and atonal soundtrack adds to the gruesome and disturbing amtosphere. Also, it can be scary, which is its best feature. A play about black magic and usurpation, featuring powerful female roles, would have been terrifying to a Jacobean audience. The fact that Polanski could bring some terror to his twentieth century audience makes this version of Macbeth, Macbeth as it should be seen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an English teacher who ''forces'' students to read Shakespeare, I found that the Polanski version is the freshest and most believable of the film renditions, and my students always enjoy it. I NEVER find it boring.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a first-rate effort at a classic play. Polanksi was at the peak of his career when he made this. It is not without its flaws but anyone who finds this boring just didn't pay attention in literature classes.
Litophile More than 1 year ago
Director Roman Polanski may have besmirched his personal reputation, but the shadow of that does not carry over into his screen work. His imaginative conception and execution of "the Scottish play," one of Shakespeare's most often produced tragedies, is among the best film versions available. Jon Finch elicits both sympathy and contempt in his portrayal of the ambitious but hesitant thane, and beautiful Francesca Annis is chilling as the greedy, conniving wife who incites her husband to treasonous murder.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Polanski's adaptation of Shakespere's great play is a masterpiece in film. Polanski follows the basic theme and plot of the film but emphasizes more on the murderous madness of MacBeth and his devious wife. Polanski focuses a substantial amount of time on the gruesome murder of King Duncan. The scene succeeds in showing how MacBeth's mind is overtaken by madness and how pointless his crime really is. His emphasis on the witches also adds emphasis on how credulence and superstition leads to foul thoughts and deeds. Taking into account that the film was done shortly after the Manson killings, one can see some parrallels with Polanski's adaptation. Altogether one of the finest adaptations of this play.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This cinematic adaptation of MacBeth is masterfully done. Ignore the silly comments below about the brief nudity (which is neither gratuitous nor titillating), gore (again, relevant to the tale), and relation to the Manson killings (read: superficial association on the part of the commenter). This film does not feel dated, even after so many decades have passed.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is pretty bad... it's kind of accurate in terms of the play. But the music made it go from a possible 4 to a 2. The music is the worst I have ever heard. Beside's that, if you want to know the story of Macbeth, then read the play.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Roman Polanski did an excellent job capturing the psychological struggles of Macbeth. He also did a good job keeping the storyline identical and by using the same language as the play. I thought Polanski did a good job keeping the movie accurate to the play and there are not many things I would have changed. I would have showed the battle at the beginning. You can hear the battle raging but it would have been nice to see more action. This also probably would have kept those who hate Shakespeare with a passion awake for a little longer with the hope of more gore. Another thing I would have changed is the amount of nudity in the film. It was unnecessary to have the witches naked. Keeping them clothed would have reduced the urge to claw one’s eyes out in an attempt to rid yourself of the image. Overall, this movie was well done as Shakespeare goes and i would recommend it if you're into this kind of stuff.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the film on the whole was boring, self reflective on polanskis terrible life and i really hated it i advse you not to waste your time watching such ''rubbish'' as you english might say...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was forced to watch this rubbish at school as part of my GCSE media course work and frankly, i have never seen a worse film. This mockery of Shakespeare's tragic tale bored me to the very depths of my soul and i still have to remember every naked ugly body, every poorly choreographed fight scene and every little spec of ompa-loompa shaded blood. If a talented director could remake the dire film, then today's generation of students would be very (very, very, very)grateful. Ps. Dont watch it unless you enjoy laughing at feeble attempts to put literature history on to the big screen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This film is not great. Too much nudity, violence and gore that is not necessary greatly takes away from the potency of this play. However as an english student I found it an interesting comparison to other productions and would definitely not condemn it as boring. (Although Lady Macbeth's performance in the sleepwalking scene was very uninspired)
Guest More than 1 year ago
We had to watch this movie for one of my classes in school, and I have to say, it was TERRIBLE. Just plain terrible. It featured some of the grossest scenes I have seen (I mean, who wants to see a bunch of shriveled-up witches naked? Ewww...) and, on top of it all, was boring! I do not recommend this movie to anyone.