Oedipus Rex (1957) - Rotten Tomatoes

Oedipus Rex (1957)





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Movie Info

Filmed by the famed British actor/director Sir Tyrone Guthrie, this elegant version of Sophocles' important play adds a brilliant stroke--the actors wear masks just as the Greeks did in the playwright's day. The story of Oedipus' gradual discovery of his primal crime--killing his father and marrying his mother--has influenced many of the great plays, films and books of all time. When this landmark film production of one of the great dramas ever appeared, it was hailed from all corners: "Spectacular and awesome...this film is a jewel of great price!" raved The New York Times.
Art House & International , Classics , Drama
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Critic Reviews for Oedipus Rex

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Audience Reviews for Oedipus Rex

Imagine yourself as the guitar builder for Jimmy Page.To begin making a delicately master-crafted Gibson 1958 Les Paul,you need dozens of 5A maple trees from Northern Canada for the wooden body of the guitar, impeccable Tobacco sunburst flaming top finish on the exterior of the body,and exact measurement between every strings from the fingerboard.Finally,the legendary aged Gibson made "burst bucker" with split-coil control in the guitar knob control system..... Apparently Mr.Guthrie has abilities to fits every appetite for Mr.Page. The plot of the classic "Oedipus Rex" concentrated into an hour and twenty-seven minutes,which is highly efficient considering the British spirit is slow and elegant.The old-fashioned clandestine storyteller in the beginning of the film reflects unpredictable elements of "Oedipus Rex". Extra-creepy tones of the actors and constant "beholding of the god" peculiarly demonstrates the epic and tragedy of ancient Greece.. Here's the problem,Mr.Page is quite fastidious with the materials that is used in his guitars.Instead of 5A maple trees from Northern Canada,Mr.Guthrie choose the evergreens from Pennsylvania. The low-key lightning of the film seems never changed in a period of a decade. For a director,one of the most essential factor is to alternating the lightning throughout the film,apparently,Mr.Guthrie didn't really care about these details. Instead of impeccable tobacco sunburst finish,Mr.Guthrie choose the factory manufactured oils from new jersey..The camera focuses...Yes,if there is a documentary about experiments of drowsiness of human kind ,this Film will win the best motion picture award before Mr.Guthrie walked on the red carpet in Hollywood. I highly doubt there is another camera in the setting,because the whole film seems to be struggling with rare close ups and frequent medium shots. The only impressive close up is the facial distorted "Oedipus" played by Douglas Campbell waving his fists frenziedly in rage after he found out he killed his father and slept with his mother. If there is any climax of this film...yes I would say that's the only climax of the film..Again, no lightning changes,no camera changes,no costume changes.. Instead of precise measurement, Mr Guthrie chooses to careless about the measure tools.The mise en scène of this film is penetrated with old-fashioned film-noir setting from Hitchcock films..Instead of close up to a men with black tie outside of the apartment in Philadelphia to the aerial view of white house in an blink of an eye("Strangers on a train" 1951), Mr.Guthrie decides to accomplish everything in a tiny shadowed circular stage.With millions of blinks of eyes,you will find yourself trapped in a same time zone. Instead of legendary gibson pick ups,Mr.Guthrie chooses the cheap chinese-made plastic pick ups(no offense). Douglas Campbell who played the lead role as the "Oedipus the king" in a semi-professional manner. Throughout his career,seventy percent of on-screen activities he involved was tv series...That explains a "whole lotta love" about his acting. Lawrence Oliver completed Hamlet's 10 pages of soliloquy in 4 minutes with legendary expressions in his film "Hamlet"(1948)that will last forever in the history of filmography. Not mentioned the movie is in black and white,and the director is Oliver himself. 9 years later,it is definitely astonishing to see there is still an play-based film with technicolor that brings horror and drowsiness to the audiences. As a result,Mr.page found the appearance of the guitar satisfactory,but when he began to play,he threw the guitar into fire pit,not because he wants to be Jimi Hendrix, it's just the guitar is simply a practice guitar for a fourteen-year old. So my suggestion would be drive to Northern Canada,it's necessary.

Paul Ma
Paul Ma

The Classic Story of a Boy Who Loved His Mother I read a ton of mythology as a child. I mean, that probably isn't literally true, but hundreds of pounds of books at least. My preference was for Greek; I don't know why, but it always appealed to me most. The only Greek play I've ever actually read (in translation, obviously) was [i]Medea[/i], which we read in my sophomore English class. I suspect this is another "my English teacher died" thing, since I know my sister read this in her own senior year. I don't know what translation they read, and I don't think she'd remember even if I asked her, but I doubt it was this one. I didn't know William Butler Yeats had ever translated Sophocles. Heck, I didn't know he spoke Greek well enough. I don't read Greek, and most of the mythology I consumed as a child was written for children. An uncle gave me [i]The Golden Bough[/i] when I was too young for it, and I'm not sure I've read it yet. The play is the story turned somewhat inside out. As a child, I read the story in chronological order, I believe first in the d'Aulaire version. However, Sophocles gives us King Oedipus (Douglas Campbell) of Thebes. His people are frightened; there is a plague among them, and because this is Classical Greece, they believe this to be a punishment from the Gods. Creon (Robert Goodier), brother to Queen Jocasta (Eleanor Stuart), has gone to Delphi to find out what is causing the Gods' anger. He returns from the Oracle and says that the problem is that the murder of the old king, Jocasta's first husband, is still unavenged. Oedipus vows that he will learn who killed Laius. He summons blind prophet Tiresias (Donald Davis), who knows but doesn't want to say. He says it is better for Oedipus not to know, but Oedipus digs deeper, only partially to aid his people. And Tiresias is right--Oedipus didn't really want to know. It is all about a long-ago prophecy that the son of Laius will kill his father and marry his mother. The choice to stage the play on a nearly bare stage and with enormous and elaborate Greek masks is an interesting one. However, I think one of the things it goes to show is that what we want out of a staging of a play has changed a great deal in the last two and a half thousand years. Now, on the one hand, it did quite nicely hide that one of the members of the chorus turns out to have been William Shatner, which was frankly information I could have done without. It is also true that the workmanship on the masks and costumes and so forth was really quite striking, and a well-done set of prints of the characters would probably be lovely, were such a thing available. It's certainly also true that the fashion in sets has changed back and forth several times in that two and a half thousand years, and everyone acted like it was all innovative and new when Thornton Wilder did it in 1938. It's not as though I haven't seen bare-set productions before. On the other hand, they were doing what may or may not have been proper Greek tragedy intonation. What it in fact reminds me of is when Robin Williams, on the [i]Reality . . . What a Concept[/i] album, does improv Shakespeare to the theme of Studio 54 and Three Mile Island. Which was a bit Shakespearean but also had these perverse bits of Greek tragedy to it. Whenever he declaimed things, which was fairly often for an eight-minute bit, he sounded the way most of the cast does in this through the whole thing. Gwen told me that she kept thinking about how he didn't have to nanoo for a while, and I was thinking about the unkind things he'd said about Jimmy Carter. It was unfortunate. Maybe if I didn't have that association, I would have liked it better, but I think what I would have been doing instead was contemplating why we think that's how they performed. It more reminds me of the ridiculous, over-the-top acting we know people did in the eighteenth century, before naturalism was a thing. I suppose everyone ought to have some exposure to Greek drama. It is also true that it is generally easier to watch drama than read it. With that in mind, this wouldn't be a bad thing to show an English class, though you'd probably have to do it over the course of two days. On the other hand, I'll confess I don't have much belief that anyone would just sit down and watch this for fun. There are several productions of the play, and while I have no intention of watching more than one of them, you'd have to be a huge fan of Greek drama in order to actually have any interest in watching this movie when you didn't have to. Though I suppose there are plenty of people who think that you'd have to be pretty weird to watch Shakespeare for fun, and I do that. So I don't know. I watched this because it started with "O." And because it had William Butler Yeats attached to it in a way I wasn't clear on when I brought it home. I don't know if awareness that Shatner was in the chorus would have made me more or less interested.

Edith Nelson
Edith Nelson

While I don't think I can bare to give this a "rotten" rating for the writing behind it, and the ambition of the filmmakers for going all out on performing the movie in the fashion the ancient Greeks did from wearing masks to having a chorus narrate, I don't think I can give it a high mark for that alone. This movie would have been very difficult to follow, had I not already known the story. The chorus actually made it more difficult to hear as they weren't quite in perfect unison and the audio was sub-par for movie quality but I'll let it go since it was made in the '50's and they did at least do it in color. Having seen many live plays, I've seen a lot of "strange" acting but I still think I would've had trouble not laughing at this, if I weren't watching alone, due to the far over-the-top acting. Even though this acting was sometimes necessary due to the actors faces being covered by masks, there was no reason for Oedipus to be talking in the high-pitched, almost moronic voice that he did, the mask didn't affect his voice as the masks were modified to not cover the mouths and the actors jaws were often painted to blend in as part of the mask. Greek masks, however, had very large mouths to amplify voices. This would've appeared strange to modern audiences but what I'm getting at is that if they weren't going to follow the tradition exactly for the sake of quality, adding some music would've improved the quality greatly. The point is that, while I like what the filmmakers were trying to do, I don't like the movie as much as I had hoped I would and feel this is primarily due to the pacing. It was slow and boring. While I may have been ecstatic to see something like this live, as anybody who's been to the live theatre can tell you, something just doesn't survive in film, that something is usually recreated through a soundtrack but never perfectly duplicated in a movie.

Jack Linhart
Jack Linhart

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