Chimes at Midnight (1965)
A Distinguished Company Breathes Life Into Shakespeare's Lusty Age of FALSTAFF
This isn't my first foray into silver-screen flicks. I mean, I've gone back far enough before to have no dialogue outside of the written frames inserted in. This one does have audio though, so we don't have to buckle into our time machines for such a drastic jaunt. Where this one could be a challenge is in how true it may stay to Shakespeare. I'm not a huge literature buff or anything like that, but I've seen a Shakespeare flick before and not super my thing. Well, get on your grey-scale glasses and let's figure out if this is to be or not.
If your a fan of Shakespeare, you will probably enjoy the plot. Supposedly, one of the main characters here is quite the side character in some of his works. This, of course, is a fun fact brought to you by IMDB - again, I'm not a big literature buff so it's all news to me. Although everything about this movie will tell you that he is in fact the main character of this movie, I feel that's a bit of a misleading statement. Yes, he has plenty of screen time, but it still very much feels like the story is focused on and around the young prince and his King father.
On the royalty side, the plot is pretty much that of a redemption story. We have a different royal family upset with the current king for not wanting to pay a ransom for their family member, leading to a rebellion. The king laments his son not being as noble a son as that of the rebel family, as his son is out gallivanting around with a portly man of rather unsavory character. For sure, the prince has a great old time with his portly friend and the ladies of the tavern, but all the fun can't last forever and they soon find themselves called to war.
It works, it feels fine, but whew man. In part I assume due to the prose of Shakespearean lingo and in conjunction with the overly large amounts of dialogue present, the movie can really feel like it's dragging at times. It can be fun, watching the prince and the stout yammering back and forth and putting on plays and insulting or pranking each other, it very much has a Monty Python "Get on with it!" vibe. The vibe is good and enjoyable in nearly every moment it wants to be, but it feels as though things are just drawn out a little too long sometimes.
Largely the only piece of action in this movie consists of a large battle around the middle, in which two opposing forces smash into each other. The battle is hectic - in part because everyone looks very similar to each other on screen, making it hard to distinguish just whose side you are watching and also because the cuts back and forth between archers and events going on. There is a nice bit of one-on-one that's easier to follow at the end of it however. Even with all this hectic and violent fighting going on, the movie still manages to get our large friend in there, looking like a bowling ball with legs walking about the battlefield to liven things up.
This in turn leads me to a few things that I did enjoy in the movie. Costume work is great, with a decent range of outfits and even minor details to set things apart. Some characters appear more grimy and unclean as opposed to others, and the more eccentric characters even having such minor details as bent swords. It's a little sad that the lack of colors rob the movie of what I can only imagine would be an astonishing array of bright and vivid colors to contrast the more muddy and earthly colors of the noble and ill-reputed as well. And of course, all the armors during the battle scene make me happy, including the ridiculously over-large armor earlier mentioned.
The other great thing here is the acting. Although I may have a hard time following some lines here and there due to the Shakespearean formats and overall quiet nature of the disc being played back on my player, there is no doubt that these actors did a great job with what they had. Watching their faces and interactions, I didn't even need all of the dialogue to queue me into what was going on - to what the characters were feeling. The degree of acting borders on stage acting at times - which feels quite fitting given the content - but even with some of the quirks in the characters (even side ones) the actors throw out some great performances to back up their lines. This in turn helps make the tragedy of the movie a bit more effective for those who may have grown a bit disinterested over the course of it's run, as even with a little boredom you can still find yourself rooting a little bit for one character or another.
This is one of those movies where I've got to say it's sadly not going to be for most people. Fan's of the silver age and classic literature - those who would enjoy Shakespeare the most - will probably find plenty to be happy about. For the rest of us though, you may get some laughs and enjoy the acting, but it's largely going to feel a bit drawn out and - dare I say - a tab boring. I can appreciate it for what it is, but don't think I'll be visiting this one again.