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.Read more ›
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.
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. (Compare this to the ludricrous display of Kenneth Branaugh throwing a magic rapier from across the palace to hit a super hero's bulls-eye into Claudius' heart in the vulgar and miscast 1996 film and you'll see what I mean.Read more ›
In this release Olivier's second adaptation of a Shakespeare play, Olivier again plays the title role. Read more
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