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Laurence Olivier Centenary Collection DVD Review



Whitney Houston & Bobbi Kristina

Distributor: Network DVD
Certificate: 15 | region 2 | 1475 minutes | 10 Disc set

Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright, Helen Mirren, Frank Finlay, Anthony Nicholls, Michael Jayston, Denis Lawson, Denis Quilley, Constance Cummings, Cedric Hardwicke, Ralph Richardson, Greta Scacchi, Malcolm McDowell, Robert Wagner, Donald Pleasance, John Gielgud.

If you ask anyone to name the most important British actor of the 20th century few would disagree with Lord Laurence Olivier, a bonafide legend in his own lifetime, always the most showy of the great actors Olivier loved the stage but knew that cinema was a genuine art form in its own right and naturally gravitated towards TV in his later years. Having succumbed to Hollywood in the late 1930’s Olivier was a huge star, a romantic leading man with roles in Wuthering Heights and Rebecca who then made some of the best Shaspearian movies ever committed to celluloid before settling maybe for a position as the grand old man of stage, screen and TV.

To celebrate the centenary of the great man’s birth (22 May 1907) Network have pulled out all the stops for an absolutely stunning 10 disc collection featuring some of his best loved film roles and some classic performances for the small screen including the long on most people’s wish list Laurence Olivier Presents… The Best Play Of, his 1976 series for ATV. Destined to be on most peoples releases of the year list this Centenary collection is absolutely a must have.

The full run down of productions is.

Henry V
Olivier’s mind blowing interpretation of Shakespeare’s play, made in 1945 and shot in glorious colour and with its glorious realisation of the battle of Agincourt and beginning and ending the movie as it was a performance at teh Globe Theatre during Shakespeare’s time. Extras include the theatrical trailer and an image gallery.

Richard III
Olivier’s real triumph as actor and director where he uses his sexual magnetism to make evil glamorous and a Richard that explores this in great detail.

King Lear
Superb 1983 ITV production with Olivier unsurpassable in the role as the ageing King who has plans for his three daughters, packed to the rafters with brilliant acting talent including the likes of Diana Rigg, Robert Lindsay and John Hurt.

The Ebony Tower
Olivier plays Breasley, an elderly painter who has his solitary life (save for the presence of two most nude young girls, Greta Scacchi and Toyah Wilcox) disrupted by the arrival of a younger artist who has been commissioned to write a biography of Breasley.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night
This National Theatre production by ATV of Eugene O’Neills autobiographical play was a prominent success in the states winning Olivier an Emmy in the process, he’s backed up by superb playing from the likes of Ronald Pickup, Maureen Lipman and Denis Quilley. Also includes an image gallery.

The Merchant of Venice
Another National Theatre transcription, this time of Jonathan Miller’s electrifying 1930’s set take on The Merchant of Venice

Olivier takes on the role of the vengeful moneylender of Venice, Shylock, in Jonathan Miller’s brilliant London stage production.

Laurence Olivier Presents
This staging of various plays targeting various years of the 20th century was a major enterprise from Olivier who devoted some considerable time to the series. It was big budget stuff as befitting someone of the stature of Olivier who had plans to produce a play for every year of the century but in the end only 6 were produced. Olivier himself co-directed Hindle Wakes which marked his debut as a TV director.

The plays were:-
1. 1960: THE COLLECTION With:- Alan Bates / Helen Mirren / Malcom McDowell
2. 1955: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF With:- Natalie Wood / Robert Wagner / Maureen Stapleton / Jack Hedley
3. 1912: HINDLE WAKES With:- Donald Pleasance / Rosemary Leach / Jack Hedley / Pat Heywood / Rosalind Ayres / Roy Dotrice
4. 1973: SATURDAY SUNDAY MONDAY With:- Edward Woodward, Frank Finlay, Celia Gregory
5. 1950: COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA With:- Patience Collier / Joanne Woodward / Carrie Fisher
6. 1949: DAPHNE LAUREOLA With:- Arthur Lowe / Joan Plowright

The South Bank Show: Laurence Olivier, A Life
Last but by no means least is this masterly 1980’s two hour special edition of The South Bank Show celebrating the great man’s life and work, a genuine treat, this is full of revealing moments and candid interviews.