Review: ‘Oedipus the King’

This version of Sophocles' play deals fairly superficially with the bare bones of the tragic story of the king, dragged down to degradation after having discovered that, unwittingly, he has murdered his father and married and had children by his mother.

This version of Sophocles’ play deals fairly superficially with the bare bones of the tragic story of the king, dragged down to degradation after having discovered that, unwittingly, he has murdered his father and married and had children by his mother.

It is filmed with dignity, extremely well directed and excellently acted by a small cast of fine thesps.

Director Philip Saville and, indeed, the translation do not harp so melodramatically on the tragic sequences. Done with restraint, physical action is confined mainly to the assassination of Laius and a recap. Nor is the translation sonorously heavy but retains a dignified poetry.

Christopher Plummer as Oedipus gives a sterling performance. His early clashes with his brother-in-law (Richard Johnson) are striking and the latter’s performance is a useful foil to Plummer’s.

Lilli Palmer, as the ill-fated Jocasta, does not fully bring out the tragic personality until the final bitter scene, and Orson Welles is unusually subdued, but all the more effective, as Tiresias, the blind prophet of doom.

The film is superbly lensed with the greens and browns making a soft, yet bleak backdrop to the sombre action.

Oedipus the King

UK

Production

Rank/Crossroads. Director Philip Saville; Producer Michael Luke; Screenplay Michael Luke, Philip Saville; Camera Walter Lassally; Editor Paul Davies; Music Yanni Christou; Art Director Yanni Migadis

Crew

(Color) Extract of a review from 1968. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Christopher Plummer Orson Welles Lilli Palmer Richard Johnson Cyril Cusack
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