The Baron Watches Hamlet

Coming up next, I've decided to watch all seven of the versions of Hamlet that I have on disk. For the record, these are:


1)Hamlet (1948) - Olivier

2)Hamlet (1964) - Burton

3)Hamlet (1990) - Gibson

4)Hamlet (1996) - Branagh

5)Mystery Science Theater 3000, Show 1009: "Hamlet" (1961/1999)

6)Hamlet (2000) - Hawke

7)Hamlet (2009) - Tennant


Depending on how "Hamlet"-ed out I am by the end of this, I may throw in a few other things as well.


Obviously, I'm not always going to be able to watch these all "one per night", the Branagh version particularly may be spread over as many as three nights.


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  • Honestly, I doubt there are many people in the world who could write dissertations on Godzilla and Gamera and then off-handedly refer to "all seven of the versions of Hamlet that I have on disk."
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    Hamlet (1948):

    Directed by Laurence Olivier


    Main Cast:

    Laurence Olivier - Hamlet, a Great Dane

    Norman Wooland - Horatio, Hamlet's running buddy

    Basil Sydney - Claudius, a.k.a. Uncle Creepy

    Eileen Herlie - Gertrude, Hamlet's mother/aunt

    Felix Aylmer - Polonius, stooge to Claudius

    Terence Morgan- Laertes, son of Polonius

    Jean Simmons - Ophelia, daughter of Polonius


    Does It Got Any Doctor Who Actors In It?:

    Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor, played the Player King

    Peter Cushing, "Doctor Who" in the two feature films, played Young Osric


    Other Notable Cast Members:

    Stanley Holloway played the Gravedigger. The Old Man used to have an album of him singing old British music hall songs. He was quite good. I mostly remember him for this song.

    Christopher Lee, Desmond Lllewelyn and Patrick Macnee all apparently had uncredited bit parts.


    Thoughts About the Film:

    I found the sets to be very atmospheric, and the film has a good score and was well-shot. The acting was mostly good, but I have to say that while I thought Olivier was good as Hamlet, I did not find this to be the "transcendent", "performance by which all other performances will be judged" performance I had sort of exepcted.  Olivier seems a little "washed-out" at times. I always imagined that it must be difficult to direct a picture and act in it at the same time.  Plus I wonder if it's possible to maintain the sort of objectivity about your own performance that I would think would be necesary. I notice that Olivier made small changes in the dialogue, changing "they clepe us drunkards" to "they call us drunkards", that sort of thing.  He also left out the characters of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, and Fortinbras.  I gather he's caught some heat for that over the years. I don't know - unless you want to be Branagh and do all four hours of the play, you've got to cut something out, and this being Hamlet, whatever you cut out, it's going to be something good.  Apropos of nothing, once I saw this picture, I finally realized where the character of "Ophelia" in The Addams Family came from.


    Overall, I'd say that this is an acceptable take on the play, in alot of ways reminiscent of many of the horror movies from that period that I used to enjoy as a kid.


    Coming Up Next: Shouty Hamlet!






  • I don't have any versions of HAMLET in my collection, but oddly enough, 2 of my favorite movies involve the play.


    TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942) has Jack Benny as a ham actor doing Hamlet, who's infuriated by someone in the 2nd row getting up and walking out JUST as he starts the soliloquy, "To Be Or Not To Be". The reason for this is, he's going to be onstage for some time, and this gives the guy walking out time to see Benny's wife backstage.


    THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN (1969) features a scene where Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) and his adopted son Youngman (Ringo Starr) arrive late for a performance of HAMLET. They're sitting down just as the soliloquy is about to begin. Laurence Harvey, onstage, begins, "To be..."  Youngman says, "I've seen it."


    Then, as the scene continues, the band begins playing some really raunchy music as Harvey does a striptease on stage while continuing the recite his lines. (Though not obvous the first time you watch the film, Guy has actually PAID Harvey to do this, in order to 1)prove everyone has their price, and 2)enjoy observing the shocked reactions of the audience.)

  • Never seen To Be or Not to Be. It's on the list.
  • I would very much like a "Muppet Hamlet." I can't think of a single reason why this would be bad.
  • "Hi-ho, Hamlet the Dane, here!" or "It's not easy being Dane..."
  • I have to say that while I thought Olivier was good as Hamlet, I did not find this to be the "transcendent", "performance by which all other performances will be judged" performance I had sort of exepcted.

    I think that would be Olivier on stage. The movie version was for those unable to see it on stage, but I wouldn't necessarily expect it ti be any better than the movie version of a Broadway musical. (I've never seen this one.)
  • That could be - I've never seen Hamlet live. That's on the list, too.
  • Here’s an anecdote my college Shakespeare professor told me. (I make no claims as to its veracity.) Olivier was playing Macbeth onstage when the leading lady’s dog got loose from her dressing room and wandered out on stage. Without missing a beat, Olivier ad-libbed, “Is this a puppy I see before me, its tail toward my hand?”
  • "Never seen To Be or Not to Be. It's on the list"


    Just keep in mind it's been filmed twice. Both are funny, but, the Jack Benny original is MUCH better than the Mel Brooks remake.

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