Shakespeare’s stories have delighted generations for over four hundred years now, with countless retellings, both on stage and screen. To celebrate Justin Kurzel’s latest big budget adaptation of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, we decided to take a look at some of the more bizarre re-tellings that have graced our screens over the last few decades. Hold on to ye buttocks…
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Always appearing near the top of “Greatest Musicals of All Time” lists, George Sidney and Cole Porter’s Technicolor spectacular Kiss Me Kate is a charming rehash of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. A meta film before meta was even conceived, it tells of a group of actors taking part in a musical adaption of the play whilst themselves becoming embroiled in the love-lives of the characters they are playing. Featuring an array of classic songs including “Too Darn Hot”, “Always True to You in My Fashion”, and of course “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”. MGM’s masterpiece is still a delight to watch today.
Kurosawa’s final epic, Ran transports the tragedy of King Lear to feudal Japan. Aging warlord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai) decides to divide his kingdom between his three sons (corresponding to Lear’s daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia), resulting in banishment and chaos. With its overarching theme of nihilism, the Oscar-winning Ran remains one of Kurasawa’s greatest films, and certainly one of the most awe-inspiring adaptations of a Shakespeare play to date.
China Girl (1987)
Romeo and Juliet has perhaps seen the most adaptations over the years. From Ziffirelli’s 1968 film and Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster, to the rather dated cheesiness of West Side Story, R&J seems to be the director’s favourite to throw at audiences. One of the darkest and most oft forgotten retellings, however, is Abel Ferrara’s China Girl, a gritty tale transporting our lover to 1980’s Manahttan and the gang wars between the Mafia kids and the Triads. Starring Richard Penebianco and Sari Chang, China Girl is a slick and grim drama that really does bring the old yarn up to date.
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Starring a very young Leslie Nielsen, Fred M. Wilcox’s sci-fi extravaganza Forbidden Planet places the events of The Tempest on the far off planet of Altair IV. Featuring the iconic Robby the Robot (one of the first film “robots”) may look rather hap-hazard and kitschy nowadays, but it remains one of the most imaginative retellings of a Shakespeare story, and certainly the best screen version of his most philosophical romance.
The Lion King (1994)
Disney’s The Lion King is not only one of the greatest animated films of all time, but it’s also perhaps the strangest yet finest adaptations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet ever made. Following the plot also verbatim (save for allowing Simba to survive the final duel with his murderous uncle – I’m not sure we could have dealt with losing Simba as well as Mufasa), The Lion King introduced a generation of youngsters to Shakespeare without them even knowing it. And then, to top that, they gave us an awesome version of Romeo and Juliet in the sequel! God bless you Disney! Now, I challenge you to make a Titus Andronicus starring a family of singing beavers!
Macbeth is in cinemas from October 2nd. Stay tuned for our review coming soon!