Three Sisters 1970
Put celebrated actor Laurence Olivier in charge of directing an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters", and there's a guarantee of quality seldom seen in the stage-to-screen tradition. Preserving his work on the material for the Royal National Theater, Olivier shows immense respect for Chekhov's writing and the needs of cinema with this endeavor, part of the American Film Theater's efforts during the 1970s to bring theater to the masses.

Nearly a thousand miles away from their beloved Moscow, Chekhov's Three Sisters live in virtual exile. Olga, a schoolmistress, attempts to support her siblings and the home that is the sole legacy of their late army officer father. Masha finds relief from her empty marriage in an affair with a passionate young colonel. Irina, the youngest, wills herself to return the affections of an ardent suitor in the hopes that he will whisk her off to the city before it is too late. Intoxicated by yesterday's triumphs and heedless of tomorrow's disasters, the Three Sisters are left to sift through the debris of their shattered dreams on the eve of the social and political upheaval that will transform Russia forever.

Olivier delivers a lengthy but alert interpretation of "Three Sisters" that benefits tremendously from a game cast, which includes Joan Plowright, Alan Bates, and Derek Jacobi. The ensemble is committed to the powerful emotionality of the play, but they join Olivier's interest in screen construction, mindful of the bigness of the frame and the power of the close-up, adjusting performances to preserves intimacies otherwise impossible to achieve in a theatrical setting.

Directors: Laurence Olivier, John Sichel
Cast: Jeanne Watts, Joan Plowright, Louise Perinell, Derek Jacobi, Sheila Reed, Kenneth MacKintosh, Daphne Heard, Harry Lomax, Judy Wilson, Mary Griffiths, Ronald Pickup, Laurence Olivier, Frank Wylie, Alan Bates, Richard Kay, David Belcher, George Selway, David Munro, Alan Adams, Rob Walker, Harry Fielder
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Drama, Romance

DVD9 | NTSC 16:9 | 02:42:01 | 7.39 Gb + 3% rec
Language: English
Subtitles: none

-- Interview with Star Alan Bates (40 min)
-- Theatrical trailer
-- "Anton Chekhov and Three Sisters" - an essay by Michael Feingold, Chief Theater Critic, The Village Voice
-- The AFT Cinebill for Three Sisters
-- Stills Gallery
-- The American Film Theatre scrapbook

Download Three Sisters (1970) DVD9 Kino Lorber:


BD50 | 1080p AVC | 02:42:21 | 44.8 Gb + 3% rec
Language: English
Subtitles: none


-- Interview with Alan Bates is a 2003 (the year of his passing) discussion of a few career highlights, including his work on "Three Sisters." Bates shares interesting information about the peculiarity of his prominent billing, interpretation of the original play, and offers a few anecdotes about his time working for Olivier, celebrating his special way with actors. The talk soon switches over to additional American Film Theater efforts such as "Butley" and "In Celebration," and Bates shares his feelings on a need to record theatrical presentations for posterity. (39:32, SD)

-- Interview with Edie Landau (also recorded in 2002) covers the history of the American Film Theater, from its concept to its release strategy. Producing challenges are also detailed, with AFT's creative ambition coming up against limited budgets and interest from a wider audience. (26:16, SD)