Banishing any myth that Orson Welles never matched Citizen Kane or The Magnificent Ambersons comes a fabulous restoration and re-release of his long-maligned and disputed 1965 treasure Falstaff: Chimes At Midnight (12A) *****.
An unusual Spanish-Swiss co-production, Welles constantly struggled to get the film financed. Perhaps as a mirror of it’s off-screen troubles, it’s an ingeniously scripted mash-up of five Shakespeare plays centring on the relationship between young Prince Hal (Keith Baxter) and the rotund roustabout Falstaff, inevitably and brilliantly played by Welles himself, declaiming his lines with infectious relish, supping from great tankards of emotion.
The battle scenes are thrilling and the staging, filmed in locations around Spain, stunning. With Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford and John Gielgud on board, it’s also sexy, funny and wondrous on the ear and eye – one of the best, most cinematic Shakespeare adaptations I’ve ever seen on screen.