Orson Welles’s first screen adaptation of Shakespeare was shot on a Republic studios Western soundstage in three days. Even though it looks like a ’20s German expressionist film shot on a rubber-boulder-covered Star Trek planet, this low-budget film has a lot going for it. While not totally successful, it is never dull.
Welles himself described this as “a violent charcoal sketch of a great play,” and he added characters – in particular, Napier’s Holy Father–to emphasize the paganism of the three witches vs. Christianity. Look for the Mercury Theater regulars: William Alland and Erskine Sanford.
Originally cut to 89 minutes for theatrical release, the film was later restored to Welles’s intended 105 minutes. Nominated for an award in the 1948 Venice Film Festival.
Welles asked his actors to adapt a thick Scottish accent. These accents were incomprehensible to preview audiences, requiring the studio rerecord the entire film.
Cast: Orson Welles, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O’Herlihy, Roddy McDowall, Edgar Barrier, Robert Coote,
Producer and Director: Orson Welles
Original Story: William Shakespeare
Directors of Photography: William Bradford, John L. Russell Jr.
Editor: Louis Lindsay
Composer: Jacques Ibert
Screenwriter: Orson Welles
Production Designer: Fred A. Ritter
Costume Designers: Adele Palmer, Fred A. Ritter, Orson Welles
Special Effects: Howard Lydecker, Theodore Lydecker
USA / Republic / 105 minutes / 1948