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Widely acclaimed as his crowning Shakespearean film performance, Laurence Olivier's Richard III is the notorious tale of Richard of Gloucester. This deformed king connives, backstabs, and woos his way to the top of the royal heap, but his treachery eventually lands him on the fields of Bosworth, dying and screaming "A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!" Olivier, who loved the role for "its bloodcurdling spurts of malevolence" and "smoldering sexuality," gives a performance that will define Richard III for years to come. A cast replete with Britain's acting royalty give a command performance of the highest order. Restored to its original widescreen version, the film blazes with vivid color, while William Walton's musical score stirs and rouses the emotions.
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The third and final entry in Laurence Olivier's Shakespeare triptych, Richard III (1954) is an audacious portrait of a man determined to prove himself a villain. As the personification of evil impudence, Olivier portrays the Duke of Gloucester with such aplomb that he brings the audience onto his side. This is true even as Richard engineers plots to murder his brother Clarence (John Gielgud), betray his cousin Buckingham (Ralph Richardson), and seduce his niece Lady Anne (Claire Bloom). From the play's famous opening lines ("Now is the winter of our discontent"), Olivier delivers every speech with truly Machiavellian splendor, and his superb staging of the climactic battle rivals his work on Henry V. Regrettably, this would be Olivier's last Shakespeare film, as a planned adaptation of Macbeth was abandoned for financial reasons. Olivier justly received an Oscar® nomination for his performance; and believe it or not, this film was the inspiration for the original Blackadder! --Kevin Mulhall
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