“Chimes at Midnight is a clumsy adaptation of Shakespeare that nontheless contains several brilliant flashes. Tempering the innovation though, are the usual latter-day Wellesian vices of hasty cinematography, poor synchronization, and audio recording, etc.
One wonders why, if he wanted to make a telescoped version of the plays, he did not spare the time and patience to make it better.” ~ Film Guide by Leslie Halliwell
Much has been written about Citizen Kane, his first picture, and almost nothing about his final film.
A mini-epic based on several Shakespeare tragedies, Chimes was perfect source material for Welles because the Bard’s story seemed to echo his personal decline. By the 1960s the onetime “Boy Genius” had become an overweight despot. His youthful idealism gone, Orson now socialized with tyrants like Franco and washed-up old Nazis living in Madrid. In essence he had become an ex-patriate version of William Randolph Hearst, the stylized subject of his first movie.
Ironically, Orson’s cinematic downfall was authored by a new edition of Hearst: modern-day newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell.
Welles was apparently so outraged by Maxwell’s sleazy press coverage about him in the mid-1960s that he tried to convince Astor House, the media centre that owned The London Times, to buy out Maxwell’s newly chartered British newspaper chain.
While this War-of-the-Words was happening, Orson’s unusual life with his young mistress, Oja Kodar, represented Euro trash at its finest.
While the U.K. tabloids libelled Welles and his Marion Davies-like consort without remorse, Chimes aka Falstaff belatedly limped into American movie theatres in 1967. But the rosebud wilted.