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Orson Welles'cinematic version of Shakespeare's classic tale of jealousy and deceit was shot piecemeal over many months as he struggled to raise capital to finance it. He reassembled his international cast whenever he was able, shooting on location in Vienna and North Africa, at one point filming in a Turkish bath to avoid the expense of costumes. Despite these tribulations, the motion picture was the winner at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival. However, it never went into general release and long had been believed lost. Found more than three decades later in a Twentieth Century Fox warehouse, it was restored painstakingly and opened theatrically in 1992.

The black-and-white cinematography, opening and closing with a procession bearing the corpses of Othello and Desdemona, silhouetted against a brooding sky, is stunning, and the cast is superb. Irish actor Micheal MacLiammoir is coldly calculating as lago, arguably the most villainous character in the Shakespeare repertoire, while Suzanne Cloutier is touching as the falsely accused Desdemona. As might be expected, Welles dominates as the Moor of Venice, using his voice almost as a musical instrument in evolving from loving husband and mighty warrior to a man driven mad by that cursed "green-eyed monster" - jealousy. Despite the distractions of a sound track sometimes out of synch with the actors' lip movements, since some of it had to be redubbed during the restoration process, and watching Welles' weight go up and down in various scenes filmed months apart, this is one of the finest examples of Shakespearean drama available on video, ranking with Laurence Olivier's far more lavish productions.
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Author:Rothenberg, Robert S.
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Video Recording Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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