The character of Falstaff appears in three of Shakespeare's plays. Orson Welles takes on the daunting task of portraying tis complex comic villain in this compilation from the different plays (Henry IV and V and MWW), bound up in a seamless plot. This is one of the best screen adaptations of Shakespeare. Elizabethan England is brought alive in this boisterous mosaic which takes us through taverns, brothels and the court. Even more than the central characters of Falstaff (played by Orson) or the young and dissolute Prince Hal (later to blossom into the charismatic Henry V) or his antagonist Hotspur, or the aging Henry IV (played by the seasoned Gielgud) is the galaxy of secondary characters, who have a dickensian vitality even though they are cardboard creatures. Perhaps the most brilliant is Justice Shallow, played by Alan Webb.
The brilliant b/w photography has shades of Citizen Kane with shafts of light streaming in diagonally through skylights or ventilators in darkened interiors. The battle scenes are unusually realistic in their brutality. Falstaff is played with aplomb, but it seems Welles all the way--the identification is uncanny.