It took producer-director-star Orson Welles four years to film Othello, which prompted hot debate upon its release in 1952. Welles took acting jobs, including the classic Third Man, to finance the film, which was shot in Rome, Venice and Morocco. Cost cutting and cast changes resulted in erratic dubbing and camera work that wreak havoc with the film’s grace notes, even in this lovingly wrought fortieth anniversary restoration (the original negative was found in a New Jersey warehouse).
There are times when Welles’s Othello is more ham than tragic hero, when Micheál Mac Liammóir’s Iago is more impotent toad then evil genius, when Suzanne Cloutier’s Desdemona is more ice queen than fiery lover. There are also times when the film achieves the expressionistic miracles Welles demanded of it. Othello is a monument to his tenacity. A folly perhaps, but a grand one.