Vittorio Gassman talks about the director and notes that he was a master of melodrama. Indeed he was, and one of the problems with his telling of the tale of Ludwig is that Visconti foregoes most of that melodrama, which perhaps makes his feature a bit more rigorous but in the end much less compelling.
Helmut Berger what is undoubtedly the finest performance this pretty-boy actor ever gave. Herr Berger is surprisingly good: His road from eccentric to full-out nut-case to sad specimen of abused royalty is played with genuine feeling and an acute sense of the specifics of aging and deterioration.
In this longer, four-and-one-half-hour version, we get some of the detail and precision that was missing from the shorter versions. These include more of the history and politics of the time and of the various relationships between characters. This current and fully restored Ludwig is a fuller, richer version of what came before.
Trevor Howard and Silvana Mangano still shine darkly as as the scheming Richard and Cosima Wagner, while Romy Schneider (above) makes princess Elizabeth as difficult and coquettish as ever. As Ludwig’s best and most trusted friend, Helmut Griem (shown at right in final photo) provides the film’s moral ballast, while John Moulder-Brown (below) makes the sweet, boyish and very sad character of Prince Otto come to fine life.
Arrow Academy/Arrow Video and released here in the USA via MVD Entertainment Group, Ludwig arrives on high-definition Blu-ray -- the 4K restoration is from the original film negative -- and standard def DVD in a four-disc set this coming Tuesday, April 11.
Suso Cecchi D’Amico, a brand new interview with Helmut Berger (the contrast between then and now is simply staggering), and the film's theatrical trailer. There are several viewing options, as well: in the full theatrical cut or as five individual parts as shown on Italian television, with an English soundtrack with optional English subtitles, and in the original Italian soundtrack with English subtitles.