Movie Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Posted: February 16, 2010 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Another short one today, signs we’re running out of archive material. When the archive runs out, we’ll be going to once or twice a month.

Check it out! It’s the title page!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935 Warner Bros. Dir. Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle)

See if you can get that jalapeño popper in my mouth from there!

This being a black and white movie just isn’t fair. This really should have been made five or six years later when Warner was making movies in Technicolor. Having it in black and white means the movie only gives about a tenth of the effect it could have given had it been in color. Sometimes the cinematography is just a little too dark to tell what’s going on. Different colors would have helped immeasurably. While some of the costumes are beautiful, these are the most English Elizabethan era Athenians I’ve ever seen. Also, I’m not sure the Roman forest spirits were dressed in leotards trimmed with tinsel. However, Anita Louise and Olivia De Haviland look appropriately sexy, so that’s okay. Yup, a single hottie looking gorgeous will fix a lot for me. I will admit that it doesn’t work so much in current movies as it does in classics. I think because they try to over do it these days. See Megan Fox in the Tranformers movies, or don’t. I didn’t and I count myself ahead of the game. A hottie won’t fix story or editing problems, just costumes.

Said it before and I’ll say it again, pimpin’ ain’t easy.

It’s a little odd watching this movie now and noticing that I actually know who most these people are. Noticing who they are though means that in many ways I notice that they really don’t belong much in a traditional Shakespeare movie. Particularly everyone in the troupe of actors seems badly out of place, even though in many ways they’ve set the stage for later adaptations that would include seemingly out of place persons. Mickey Rooney needed a valium to counteract his performance as Puck though. He plays the part like a speed freak who just found a bag of smack on a park bench and did it all at once. The hyperactivity is off-putting to me. Dick Powell is funny though, more than any of the other lovers I think. Only the Actors of the Troupe provide any real comedy.

Where is my Tatiana today? Where have all the hotties gone?

I seem to remember this is pretty accurate to the actual play. Even though the movie itself is set up almost as a musical. Mendelssohn’s music is a near constant, or at least it’s more wall to wall than music normally was in those days. I think it’s supposed to be purpose written, but I can’t be bothered to look it up right now. There are problems with the musical production though. Some of the dialogue is spoke in musically tinkling voices, which aren’t as easy to understand as they might be. Interestingly the studio heads thought the same because it’s mentioned several times in the commentary. Actually the making of this movie was evidently quite a contentious production.

Quite an outfit for an ancient Athenian

Scott MacQueen’s commentary is a little dry in places. You can tell he’s working off notes, which isn’t a problem for me. I would rather he had something prepared than to run dry halfway through the movie. Most the material isn’t actually him though, it’s made up of studio memos and other records that he’s gathered together and shuffled into a pretty good order. The DVD has a good handful of special features, including vintage trailers and shorts from the production and Shakespeare in general. I like the old shorts, because the short is a lost art and it’s fun to watch them when they were great. Even though the musical short provided gets a bit tedious. The rest of it is good though and as a package the special features give you a good handle on the movie’s production and commercial presentation.

Warning! Beautiful when angry.

Over all I give this one a clear thumbs up! Not the best production ever, and it would have benefited greatly by technology advents that were still a few years off, but over all it’s pretty good. The DVD is a good production too, and if you buy it in this set, you’ll get some more good stuff too. That includes Branagh’s Hamlet, Olivier’s Othello, and a Romeo And Juliet MGM did in ’36. Each comes with a servicable number of extras, but in all honesty the Hamlet and this are the only ones that shine.


Official Score:
49 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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  1. Ted Leach says:

    I must admit I’m not familiar with this film — in fact, other than a few clips of Olivier, the “older” Shakespeare films are pretty much a mystery to me. Where should I start?

    • greyweirdo says:

      This one is a good one to start with for older stuff. Frankly though, if asked, I would tell most people to stick to current versions. The style of the 40s and 50s was very stilted and comes off as either sleep educing or just plain goofy now.

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