Romeo and Juliet (1954)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama, Period Film, Tragedy  |   Release Date - Sep 1, 1954 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 138 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , Italy   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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This version of Shakespeare's oft-filmed Romeo and Juliet is sumptuously filmed and a treat for the eye, but rather less one for the ear -- which fact will likely make it unsatisfying for Shakespeare aficionado. Transferring Shakespeare to film is always a difficult chore, and director Renato Castellani deserves credit for not treating the text as sacrosanct, knowing that what works wonderfully on-stage may not always have the same impact onscreen. Unfortunately, Castellani's cuts and changes have not had the desired effect, as the film tends to drag in spite of the excisions, and while the beautiful location lensing is often glorious, it doesn't add to the emotional or dramatic impact as it clearly intends to. With a brilliant cast, this might not have made so much difference, but Susan Shentall's Juliet is lackluster, uninvolving, and occasionally annoying, if undeniably attractive. Laurence Harvey does much better by Romeo, but he's merely good, rather than special. (To be fair, Romeo is a difficult role in which to excel, lacking the innate drama of a Hamlet or a Richard III.) The supporting cast fares well, with especially strong contributions from Flora Robson and Mervyn Johns, and the whole enterprise looks stunning. For some, that will be more than enough to make this Romeo and Juliet rewarding viewing.