Shakespearean actors are like opera stars; if they can perform, their age and appearance are of secondary importance. In this 1978 production, the two leading actors -- Helen Mirren as Rosalind and Brian Stirner as Orlando -- are more than suitable verbally but less than suitable physically. Mirren, 33 at the time of filming, is attractive enough, but she lacks the girlishness to portray a rhapsodic teenager. On a theater stage before myopic or back-row spectators, her ripe countenance and faux-naif demeanor would not matter. But in a video production, in which camera lenses are close to within an inch of a mole or a gesture, a young lady ought to look and act young. Her inamorato, Stirner, resembles a pool cue. But in a wrestling match, he defeats a colossus twice his size and Rosalind chalks him up for her own. Audio and visual deficiencies also mar the production. What viewers see and hear is only a notch above the quality of a home-video recording. However, if viewers can abide these shortcomings and settle back for the long haul (150 minutes), they will see a well-acted play that features some of Shakespeare's most memorable lines, including the famous "All the world's a stage" speech in Act II. They will also discover that love -- a many-splintered thing in Shakespeare's plays -- has a way of triumphing in the bard's comedies, even when it involves scrawny Stirner and almost matronly Mirren.
by Mike Cummings review