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Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Film on dual format in July

20 June 2016

The BFI’s second home entertainment release as part of BFI Presents Shakespeare on Film, (following Richard Loncraine and Ian McKellen’s Richard III that is out today), is Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Film. This collection of the earliest film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays is accompanied by a newly created musical score by the composers and musicians of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

From King John in 1899, film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays proved popular with early filmmakers and audiences. By the end of the silent era, around 300 films had been produced. This feature-length celebration draws together a delightful selection of thrilling, dramatic, iconic and humorous scenes from two dozen rare archive titles, many of which have been unseen for decades.

See Hamlet addressing Yorick’s skull, King Lear battling a raging storm at Stonehenge, The Merchant of Venice in vibrant stencil colour, the fairy magic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and what was probably John Gielgud’s first appearance on film, in the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. These treasures from the BFI National Archive have been newly digitised and are brought to life by the composers and musicians of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, in this, the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death.

Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Film will be released on UK dual format (Blu-ray & DVD) on 18 July 2016 by the BFI at the RRP of £19.99.

Special features:

  • Introduction to Silent Shakespeare (2016, 10 mins)

  • Play On! Making the Music (2016, 11 mins)

  • King Lear (1910, 13 mins, silent with commentary by Judith Buchanan)

  • The Winter’s Tale (1913, 43 mins, silent with commentary by Judith Buchanan)

  • Living Paintings (Romeo and Juliet) (1924, 1 min, silent with commentary by Judith Buchanan)

  • Silent Shakespeare (2004, 88 mins): programme of silent Shakespeare films, previously released on BFI DVD, with music by Laura Rossi and optional commentaries by Judith Buchanan

  • Illustrated booklet with new writing by Bryony Dixon (silent film curator, BFI National Archive and Bill Barclay (director of music, Shakespeare’s Globe)