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Orson Welles reportedly regarded Chimes at Midnight as his favourite of all the films he made. The first of the year’s reissues which will mark the great director’s centenary, it deserves to be regarded as one of cinema’s most daring adaptations of Shakespeare, compiling the two Henry IV plays into a single, condensed storyline, while adding a handful of scenes from Richard II and Henry V. Welles appears as the boorish Falstaff, a trusted consort of the young Prince, Hal (Keith Baxter).
Hal’s friendship with Falstaff is partly driven by spite, borne from resenting a father who he feels is neglectful. Yet King Henry IV (John Gielgud) has distractions, attempting to consolidate his reign as his country drifts towards civil war. A dazzling international cast includes Jeanne Moreau, Fernando Rey, Margaret Rutherford, and Ralph Richardson as the narrator, and the war scenes in the film remain unflinchingly powerful. (Notes by Michael Hayden.)
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