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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > Romeo & Juliet (1976/Thames)

Romeo & Juliet (Thames Television/1976)


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Main Program: B



So much updating of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet has been done in recent years that some of the subtleties that made the story a classic have been getting lost the shuffle.  That is why the recent release of the 1976 Thames TV version is such a pleasure, as director Joan Kempwelch has a great, classical, purist understanding of the material in all of its depth.  Christopher Neame and Ann Hasson are solid in the title roles, supported by a fine cast that includes Robin Nedwell, David Robb and Simon MacCorkindale (later of Manimal) that is consistent and strong throughout.


The program runs an amazing 186 minutes, but feels so much shorter than many programs running 90, particularly feature films of late.  Though not done in an over the top fashion, it also skips the kind of dynamic energy needed to make such productions work because Romeo & Juliet is an exception in Shakespeare’s oeuvre.  This takes particular skill to make this work properly; so subtle and even meticulous care is needed to make this production work.  There are unique issues here about the failure of the older generation to help and understand the younger, including a lack of resolution of their own stupid conflicts and the high price such unresolved issues generate.  At this particular time of this new DVD’s release, that speaks volumes.  This is a classy interpretation that is of referential quality for all those serious about The Bard.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot on professional analog PAL video of the time and is dated with unavoidable softness and color flaws throughout, but the way it was taped is always compelling and involving.  This was a golden time for British TV with great talent all over doing prolific work.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 takes the broadcast mono and boosts it to a decent (if simple) stereo), making this as watchable as possible technically.  The extras include text on the cast, director and a recently produced featurette where cast members look back on the production.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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