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4.6 5

Cast: Laurence Olivier, Eileen Herlie, Basil Sydney, Jean Simmons


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Although criticized by Shakespeare devotees upon its release because of director, producer, and star Laurence Olivier's decision to excise large portions of the text, his cinematic version of Hamlet is widely considered the best out of several dozens (and counting). Hamlet (Olivier) is a medieval Danish prince who's still melancholy over the sudden death of his


Although criticized by Shakespeare devotees upon its release because of director, producer, and star Laurence Olivier's decision to excise large portions of the text, his cinematic version of Hamlet is widely considered the best out of several dozens (and counting). Hamlet (Olivier) is a medieval Danish prince who's still melancholy over the sudden death of his father and the quick, subsequent remarriage of his mother, Queen Gertrude (Eileen Herlie) to his uncle, Claudius (Basil Sydney). Informed by the ghost of his father that Claudius murdered him, Hamlet schemes to take revenge. Unsure how best to proceed, his delays and the horrible secret burdening him eventually lead to the violent snuffing out of several lives in both his family and that of courtier Polonius (Felix Aylmer), whose daughter Ophelia (Jean Simmons) is in love with Hamlet. Greatly influenced by the inventive camera work in Citizen Kane (1941) and by modern, psychological reinterpretations of Shakespeare's play, Olivier's masterpiece was the winner of four Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Actor (Olivier), Best Black and White Art Direction/Set Direction and Best Black and White Costume Design.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
Hamlet might have well have been called Laurence Olivier's Hamlet: he produced it, directed it, starred in it, and condensed it down to a trim 153 minutes. Olivier's hatchet is sharp -- by comparison, the Kenneth Branagh version of the full play runs 242 minutes -- but so is his sense of good storytelling. He is perhaps more brooding and less action that many Hamlets. Nonetheless, he was for the generation that followed him the standard for acting to which others aspired. Good acting distinguishes this production, though some of the performers are clearly too old or too young for the part that they play. The film rarely makes a break visually with its stagebound origins, an interesting bit of conservatism in a version that aggressively trims a good hour-and-a-half of running time out of Shakespeare's original. The tech credits for the film are competent, but this is an area of the film that has been overshadowed by later versions, in which directors have taken more distinctive views of the material.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
[Dolby Digital Mono]
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Laurence Olivier Hamlet
Eileen Herlie Gertrude
Basil Sydney Claudius
Jean Simmons Ophelia
Norman Wooland Horatio
Felix Aylmer Polonius
John Laurie Francisco
Niall MacGinnis Sea Captain
Peter Cushing Osric
Terence Morgan Laertes
Esmond Knight Bernardo
Stanley Holloway Gravedigger
Tony Tarver Player Queen
Russell Thorndike Priest
Patrick Troughton Player King
Harcourt Williams First Player
Anthony Bushell Actor
Christopher Lee Actor
Patrick MacNee Actor
John Gielgud The Ghost
Anthony Quayle Marcellus

Technical Credits
Laurence Olivier Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Helga Cranston Editor
Alan Dent Screenwriter
Desmond Dickinson Cinematographer
Carmen Dillon Art Director
Roger Furse Costumes/Costume Designer,Production Designer
Henry Harris Special Effects
Elizabeth Hennings Costumes/Costume Designer
John Hollingsworth Musical Direction/Supervision
Muir Mathieson Musical Direction/Supervision
Roger Ramsdell Set Decoration/Design
Tony Sforzini Makeup
Paul Sheriff Special Effects
William Walton Score Composer
Jack Whitehead Special Effects

Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. Chapters
1. Logos [:28]
2. Opening titles [1:32]
3. "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." [8:25]
4. "Our sometime sister, now our queen" [6:51]
5. "Frailty, thy name is woman!" [2:22]
6. "To thine own self be true" [5:43]
7. "Foul deeds will rise" [4:33]
8. "I am thy father's spirit" [9:54]
9. "Rest, rest perturbéd spirit!" [5:02]
10. "More matter, with less art" [6:01]
11. "You are a fishmonger" [2:58]
12. "Get thee to a nunnery" [6:01]
13. "To be or not to be" [6:24]
14. "The play's the thing" [3:06]
15. "Here's metal more attractive" [6:43]
16. The Murder of Gonzago [6:25]
17. "O bosom black as death!" [:16]
18. "O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!" [5:21]
19. "Assume a virtue if you have it not" [7:15]
20. "A certain convocation of politic worms" [3:16]
21. "When sorrows come..." [3:19]
22. "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance" [6:05]
23. "Alas, poor Yorick!" [8:00]
24. "But my revenge will come" [8:26]
25. "Rapier and dagger" [5:20]
26. "I am justly killed with mine own treachery" [5:24]
27. "Good night, sweet prince" [9:59]

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Hamlet 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Of course I am no filming or Shakespeare expert (though I read and see as much as I can) so I humbly offer my opinion as to the quality of this production: It's THE BEST ! ! ! ! Laurence Olivier is a brilliant Hamlet. His soliloquies will make you cry even if you're not accustomed to crying during movies. As for the rest of the cast, I have seen a better Laertes (and they cut out some of his more passionate lines) and I can IMAGINE a better Ophelia. I think, though, that Ophelia can be a diversely interpreted role and it was fine, though perhaps not striking, in this version. It is a movie, so don't expect a recorded version of the play. The fact that Fortinbras, for instance, was cut, frankly doesn't bother me because it kept the plot going at a good pace. What was done with the play artisticly was superb - for instance, in 'To be or not to be' Hamlet is situated atop a parapet, knife in hand - ! This is my favorite interpretation of my favorite play! Everyone should get ahold of it and see it somehow, please!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Laurence Olivier's excellent adaptation of 'The Tragedy Of A Man Who Could Not Make Up His Mind' is the definitve version of Shakespeare's classic work of murder and revenge. A haunting score and flawless camera work make this film version all the more compelling to watch. Olivier cut a lot of the text (most notably 'O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown', 'How all occasions do inform against me', etc.) and several minor characters (including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who end up dead at the end of the play), choosing to focus on the central portion of the play, which is Hamlet's dilemma to avenge his father's 'Foul and most unnautral murder.' Olivier earned Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actor for this timeless rendition of the immortal Bard's enduring drama. Top notch performances by everyone. See THIS version before viewing any other film adaptation of this work. This version is Not Rated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Criterion laserdiscs used to be top of the line. Their transfers were solid and their commitment to extra features was very commendable. One didn't mind shelling out upwards of a hundred dollars (or perhaps did, but simply reasoned the issue internally) because what you got for your money was far above what other studios were offering at that time. However, in an age where every major Hollywood studio is putting together deluxe DVD¿s with oodles of extras, Criterion¿s DVD transfers have faired less well. Often Criterion is using the same tired print from their laserdiscs, (ditto for the extras) and this has yielded less than stellar results on the DVD viewing format with its higher resolution. Lawrence Olivier¿s ¿Hamlet¿ is no exception. By now it seems a mute point to have to explain the tale of the Danish prince who would be king, if only he could figure out how to avenge his father's death and kill his uncle. Royalty does have its problems! This Academy Award winning Best Picture - produced, directed and starring Sir Lawrence Olivier is still considered by many (present company excluded) to be the definitive version of Shakespeare's master work. I prefer the Kenneth Branagh version to this one.) The gray scale for Criterion¿s transfer is good but the print lack fine detail and suffers from low contrast in many of the darkest scenes. Age related artifacts are everywhere. Edge enhancement and shimmering of fine details crop up now. The audio is MONO and well balanced, though there is a considerable amount of background hiss throughout. Extras include an audio commentary and some junket stuff that really does not warrant the price tag of this disc. The bottom line with Criterion is that it ought to reconsider the DVD market. With every studio offering special editions there¿s really nothing to support paying the extra cash for something you could get just as easily elsewhere for less.