Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dieselpunk Shakespeare: Richard III (1995)

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. In 1995, Sir Ian McKellen took Shakespeare’s play Richard III and reimagined it into a powerful dieselpunk play and movie.
In the dieselpunk play and movie, the setting of Richard III is changed from Britain of the 1480s to Britain of the 1930s. The film combines a wide variety of uniforms and weapons to create a yet very believable alternate universe. Early in the film, the uniforms and equipment are largely British however, they do at times still have a Soviet element (note the helmets of the soldiers at the train station when the young princes arrive). As the film progresses, and Richard rises to power, the uniforms turn more and more fascist until it achieves a full SS appearance.

The acting of Ian McKellen is extraordinary in this movie. Deliciously evil is the term that comes to mind whenever I watch it. Rickard III has a powerful cast including Annette Bening as Queen Elizabeth, Jim Broadbent as Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, Robert Downey, Jr. as Rivers, Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Anne Neville and Maggie Smith as The Duchess of York. The acting, direction and cinematography are superb.

The overall effect makes Richard III into an extraordinary movie. Roger Ebert included it in his list of Great Movies and described it as “perversely entertaining.”

I highly recommend Ian McKellen’s ‘Richard III’.

To read a great dieselpunk review of Richard III check out this article by Cap’n Tony at

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