- Format: NTSC
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
- ASIN: 0780021312
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,324 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Criterion Collection: Hamlet [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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In the opening scene of Hamlet, Laurence Olivier describes the play in a voice-over as "the tragedy of a man who couldn't make up his mind". But Olivier's screen adaptation is considerably more thoughtful and complex than this thesis would suggest. The contradictions and ambiguities of the title character, who prowls cavernous sets filled with vast, ancient corridors and winding staircases, emerge as if from a dream. The plethora of tracking shots--precise enough to impress Stanley Kubrick--encircle Olivier and his tightly constructed geometry of demise. Drawing on his experience playing the Prince on stage at Elsinore in 1937, the legendary thesp provides the film with the patina of greatness and shows how the constitution of the formerly cheerful Prince weakens increasingly under the burden of his own thoughts and inability to accept his mother's o'er-hasty marriage to uncle Claudius (Basil Sydney). Indeed, if emotions could possess ghosts, Olivier's Hamlet shows how they would manifest themselves. There is even a dollop of Freud, suggesting that Queen Gertrude (Eileen Herlie) has perhaps loved her offspring too closely--thus providing the fuel for Hamlet's actions. As Ophelia, Jeans Simmons captures the character's early spirit better than her gradual disintegration (Helena Bonham Carter fares better in Franco Zeffirelli's fine 1990 remake). Purists may bemoan the loss of Fortinbras, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but these choices allow Olivier to focus more squarely on Hamlet's plight. His monologues, many held in secret enclaves, glow with the dramatic markedness of a Dostoevski novel, with all of the master's irony, allusions and witticisms in place. The winner of four Oscars (Best Picture, Actor, Art Direction, and Costumes), this is a Hamlet for the ages. The rest is silence. --Kevin Mulhall
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Top Customer Reviews
On my DVD player, at least, it is impossible to turn off the subtitles.
Dark, with somewhat unnecessarily over complicated camera work.
The story is so well known that it doesn't need much repeating. A son's father dies. He suspects murder by the man who subsequently married his mother. The ghost of his father seems to confirm this. He is determined to pursue vengeance. He eventually succeeds but at a cost of many lives lost due largely to his own demons. "...the ghost and the prince meet, and everyone ends in mincemeat," is how lyric writer Howard Dietz put it. The story is a gripper. Shakespeare's words aren't bad, either.
What do I like about the movie? First, Olivier's ruthless approach. He believed people should remember that Shakespeare wrote for the stinking, scratching, fornicating masses (and, of course, to curry favor with the Tudors). The groundlings might appreciate a good weeper tragedy, but if they didn't come to fill the standing area and pay the entrance fee, William Shakespeare wouldn't have much of a career as a playwright. Olivier edits, cuts and rearranges the text because he's taking a centuries-old stage play and turning it into a strongly-paced, dramatic...movie. There's no time or room for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and "Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I" gets the heave-ho, among other soliloquies.Read more ›