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Hamlet

Laurence Olivier , Jean Simmons , Laurence Olivier    Unrated   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

In the opening scene of Hamlet (1948), Laurence Olivier's voice-over describes the play 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. Drawing on his experience playing the prince on stage at Elsinore in 1937, the legendary thespian 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 hasty marriage to uncle Claudius (Basil Sydney). As Ophelia, Jean Simmons captures the character's early spirit better than her gradual disintegration. Purists may bemoan the loss of Fortinbras, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, but these choices allow Olivier to focus more squarely on Hamlet's plight. 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

Product Description

Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, Sir Laurence Olivier's Hamlet continues to be the most compelling version of Shakespeare's beloved tragedy. Olivier is at his most inspired-both as director and as the melancholy Dane himself-as he breathes new life into the words of one of the world's greatest dramatists. Criterion is proud to present Hamlet in a luminous black-and-white digital transfer.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The play's the thing. May 4 2005
Format:DVD
"Hamlet belongs into the theater," says Mel Gibson, the star of the tragedy's 1990 adaptation by Franco Zeffirelli, in an interview on that movie's DVD. And while primarily expressing regret over a lacking opportunity to explore the role's complexities by nightly slipping into the prince's skin on stage, he also has a point regarding any screen adaptation's validity: the many facets of Hamlet's character have, after all, been debated by literature's greatest minds since the Bard's very own time. For that reason, too, any newcomer is well-advised to first read the play - not see it on stage, nor watch any of the myriad movie versions - but keep an open mind and let the Bard's words speak for themselves. All these centuries later, Shakespeare alone still remains the one true authority on Hamlet's character; and while reading, too, necessarily creates an interpretation in the reader's mind that others may or may not agree with (as does any staging of the complete tragedy), the interpretative element is enhanced even more if this complex play is reduced to somewhat over half its length to comply with cinematic necessities. Nothing proves this better than Sir Laurence Olivier's 1948 movie, which won him Best Director and Best Actor Academy Awards, in addition to the film's Best Costume Design and Best Set Decoration honors.
Without question, in his day Olivier was considered *the* quintessential Hamlet; the actor who owned the role like none before and few, if any, afterwards; not least because of this movie and his participation in the 1937 Helsingor (= Elsinore) staging.
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3.0 out of 5 stars overrated Oct. 19 2003
Format:VHS Tape
the text is butchered worse than elsewhere. And Olivier is just not the best Hamlet. The thunder during the tobeornotobe soliloquy that accomponies "ay theres the rub" and him shouting that line(?) are just plain corny and yuck. Branaghs a much better blonde and makes this film completely obsolete and useless.
I also never like seeing that soliloquy come AFTER the fight with Ophelia, as it does here. The H+Gertrude exchange is a little sexier than most, and I like it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hamlet's Greatest Hits April 23 2002
Format:DVD
It seems almost heretical to say over fifty years after Olivier's Oscar-winning film has passed indisputedly into the realm of "classic," but the fact of the matter is that this is a badly butchered and tolerably performed adaptation of Shakespeare's play. Olivier and text editor Alan Dent cut the script to the bone, eliminating not only the character of Fortinbras (who is a common casulaty of the editor's pen), but Rosencrantz and Guildestern (who are indispensible to depicting a complete version of the story).
Most of the acting is forgettable, with only Academy Award nominated Jean Simmons making any impact as the tragic Ophelia. Olivier is frankly wooden in the role, making one realize that Hamlet was never really his part and that posterity would have been better served if he's left this play alone and instead filmed one of his stage successes such as Macbeth or Titus Andronicus.
Olivier's success comes as a director rather than an actor, depicting Elsinore as a gloomy and forbidding haunted castle. The drum representing the ghost's heartbeat is a masterfully effective device and the look of the film can only be described as wonderfully Shakespearean.
While the virtues of the film are spotty, one scene must surely be ranked as among the greatest ever committed to celluloid: the duel between Hamlet and Laertes in Act V. It is hard to imagine any other production (stage or film) competing the excitement or tension of this compelling action, and Olivier's celebrated leap from a high tower to finally do away with Claudius is worthy of every platitude it has received.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unviewable Feb. 16 2011
Format:DVD
Unfortunately, I can't view this DVD: it's in the wrong format, even though I am almost sure I checked this before I bought it. I would suggest that every effort possible be made to signal when a DVD is viewable in North America, or elsewhere.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of Olivier's best Nov. 2 2009
Format:DVD
I have now seen Olivier's Shakesperean roles in As You Like It, Richard III, King Lear, and Hamlet. Other than Richard III, where he played a perfectly devilish Richard, this would be my favourite Olivier role. He captures the prince's intelligence, wit, and melancholy. The other actors offer solid performances too and the directing and choice of set (a very creepy, gloomy Elsinore) are also brilliant.

The only reason I wouldn't give this play 5 stars as I do the Branaugh and Burton versions is because of the large cuts made to the text. While I certainly understand wanting to make some cuts, particularly in a play this long, some of the cuts are just too drastic. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are gone...completely. A few of Hamlet's key soliloquies, such as "Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I..." and "what a creature is man...", are also completely gone. Some of these soliloquies are key to understanding Hamlet's character. Again, I understand why directors may want to make SOME cuts. Branaugh's four hour movie may be too long for some viewers (not for a bard addict like me). Burton's version at just over 3 hours is an excellent example of a version in which cuts were made where key soliloquies and characters were not eliminated.

Still, despite that complaint, this is still an excellent production of Hamlet and I would reccommend it to anyone who appreciates superb acting.

Matt
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Another good Lawrence Olivier adaptation of Shakespeare
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
In this release Olivier's second adaptation of a Shakespeare play, Olivier again plays the title role. Read more
Published on May 30 2004 by Ted
5.0 out of 5 stars Olivier is fantastic!
A film by Laurence Olivier
The word "masterpiece" is thrown around far too often these days, but for years I have heard that this version of "Hamlet" is Olivier's masterpiece. Read more
Published on May 6 2004 by Joe Sherry
4.0 out of 5 stars "Dead for a ducket! Dead!!!"
With those words spoken with a maniacal glare, Lawrence Olivier had my complete attention. He is both director and the lead in this classic version of the celebrated play. Read more
Published on April 27 2004 by D. Knouse
4.0 out of 5 stars Overplayed but still classic
This used to be the definitive "Hamlet," but I fear it has become quite dated with its painfully obvious Freudian interpretation of the characters and their... Read more
Published on Feb. 5 2004 by Daniel S. Russell
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Vesion Of Hamlet
I watched this with pure pleasure, enjoying every minute of it. Although Laurence Olivier at forty had been criticized (rightly) as too old for the part of Hamlet, the soliloquy:... Read more
Published on Dec 31 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars TO RESTORE OR NOT TO RESTORE - THAT IS THE QUESTION!
Criterion laserdiscs used to be top of the line. Their transfers were solid and their committment to extra features very compelling. Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2003 by Nix Pix
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST OF CLASSICS
A few weeks ago I felt like watching a classic movie. The movie rental store offered a wide selection of classics but I remembered Hamlet with Sir Laurence Olivier from many years... Read more
Published on June 24 2003 by Boris Zubry
5.0 out of 5 stars The indispensable film version
There have been many film Hamlets and Sir Laurence, even after he won the Academy Award for his performance here, felt that he was far from ideal. Read more
Published on May 27 2003 by J. Ott
3.0 out of 5 stars I don't get it
Olivier's Hamlet has worthwhile parts, but also some very awkward and stagey moments that make it hard to watch for the modern viewer. Read more
Published on May 10 2003
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