Hamlet (Criterion Collection)

Directed By: Laurence Olivier Starring: Jean Simmons

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Olivier - but not at his best

by maxfl100@gmail.com on 5/25/2007

This mini-version version of Hamlet is beautifully filmed and heavy with Freudian imagery. The supporting cast is superb, especially Polonius, and the costumes and setting are exactly right. But too much has been taken out from the full text and the wonder of the play is largely lost. Olivier's performance adds to the sense of loss; his Hamlet doesn't bring out the acute moral burden his character should feel; his actions are incoherent and you won't end up loving him and being weighed with the sense of tragedy that Shakespeare so magnificently develops in the full text. A very worthwhile piece of movie history, but if this is your first Hamlet, don't make it your last. Read More

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Product Overview


Studio Criterion Collection
SKU 40141545
UPC 037429128428
UPC 14 00037429128428
Format DVD
Release Date 9/19/2000
Stage Play
Theatrical Release
Editors Note
Note Before Kenneth Branagh, before Mel Gibson, Laurence Olivier gave the definitive portrayal of "the man who could not make up his mind." In 15th-century Denmark, young Prince Hamlet is racked by torment and indecision after seeing a vision of his deceased father. The late king's ghost informs his son Hamlet that Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, was responsible for murdering the king. When the murderer married Hamlet's mother--the king's widow--scarcely two months after his funeral, he also took the throne that was his brother's. The ghost beseeches Hamlet to avenge him--yet Hamlet procrastinates, unsure of how best to accomplish his task. In what was only his second directorial effort, Olivier uses his misty, moody set and long tracking camera shots to complement his indecisive prince tortured by the murder of his father. Olivier's version of the Shakespeare tragedy eliminates the characters of Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Fortinbras.
Plot Summary
Summary Critically acclaimed and beloved by the academy, Laurence Olivier's Shakespearean masterpiece delves deep into the story of a desperate prince seeking revenge for the secret murder of his father by his uncle. Though the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern scenes were cut, the authentic setting (shot in Elsinore, Denmark) helped it earn seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, and four awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Olivier), Best Art Direction, and Best Costumes.
Memorable Quotes
Quote "To be or not to be...that is the question."--Hamlet (Laurence Olivier) to himself
Quote "And this, above all, to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, then that thou canst be false to any man."--Polonius (Felix Aylmer) to Laertes (Terence Morgan)
Quote "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."--Hamlet to Horatio (Norman Wooland)
Quote "Alas, poor Yorick!"--Hamlet to Horati
Quote "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."--Marcellus (Anthony Quayle) to Horatio
Entertainment Weekly Rating: A 08/26/1994 p.120
USA Today "...Subsequent screen HAMLET outings haven't significantly improved on this version..." 09/22/2000 p.10E
Laurence Olivier
Jean Simmons
Cast & Crew
Jean Simmons - Star
Harcourt Williams - Star
Stanley Holloway - Star
Laurence Olivier - Star
Norman Wooland - Star
Esmond Knight - Star
Basil Sydney - Star
Felix Aylmer - Star
Anthony Quayle - Star
Peter Cushing - Star
Niall MacGinnis - Star
Patrick Troughton - Star
John Laurie - Star
Terence Morgan - Star
Sterling Holloway - Star
Helga Cranston - Editor
Roger K. Furse - Production Designer
Alan Dent - Screenwriter
William Walton - Composer
Paul Sheriff - Special Effects
Desmond Dickinson - Cinematographer
Tony Sforzini - Makeup
Carmen Dillon - Art Director
Eileen Herlie - Featured
Laurence Olivier - Producer
William Shakespeare - Story
Laurence Olivier - Director
Technical Info
Original Release Date 1948
Catalog ID 020
UPC 00037429128428
Number of Discs 1
Running Time 155 minutes
Color Color
Original Language English
Available Audio Tracks English [CC], English
Name Laurence Olivier
Award Category Best Actor
Award Status Winner
Award Year 1948
Award Giver Academy Awards
Name Carmen Dillon
Award Category Best Art Direction - Set Decoration (b&w)
Award Status Winner
Award Year 1948
Award Giver Academy Awards
Product Attributes
Actor Olivier,Laurence
Music Format DVD
Video Format DVD

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Olivier - but not at his best by maxfl100@gmail.com on May 25, 2007