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Hamlet (The Criterion Collection)

102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Laurence Olivier directs himself in this classic rendition of Shakespeare's tale of the brooding Danish prince who decides to exact revenge on his uncle for the murder of his father.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Peter Cushing, Eileen Herlie, Stanley Holloway, Esmond Knight
  • Directors: Laurence Olivier
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 1, 2010
  • Run Time: 153 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780021312
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,195 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hamlet (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 89 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 19, 2001
Format: DVD
Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, at 153 minutes, is no popcorn flick. However, in order to get the film down to this rather long length, Olivier had to make significant cuts to the famous Shakespearean play. As a film that won four Oscars, this is (was) mainstream entertainment. Presenting Hamlet in its entirety (or even close to its entirety) under these circumstances was therefore an impossibility. Olivier's modifications come in three forms: small deletions from speeches and conversations, "streamlining" of main story lines, and cuts of entire subplots. The first, least drastic change, leads to the second, and finally the third, and greatest, of the changes. The cutting of lines has the least effect on the production's ability to tell the story. The removed lines are usually unnecessary and repetitive, and the transitions are smooth. Without a written version of the text in front of him, a viewer (unless he knows the play extraordinarily well) can rarely pick out where a line has been cut. A good example of this seamless cutting follows the ghost's exit in the bedroom scene. Hamlet's speech to the queen (Act III, scene iv, lines 144-159) is cut approximately in half, by cutting 2-3 lines from three different places. Such instances - cutting a line here, three lines there, etc. -- can be found throughout the production, but in order to locate them one must follow along with a written text. Rearranging parts of play adds to the continuity of storylines and makes the story itself easier to follow. Viewers familiar with Hamlet, however, will probably find these modifications more jarring. Most of the time this "streamlining" is logical.Read more ›
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132 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Xeneri on August 10, 2000
Format: DVD
Consider this: Shakespearean films more than other films are dependent upon the director's translation of the text. HAMLET in particular has been adapted roughly 43 times in film. I'll say up front that this version is not my favorite interpretation, but I won't deny that it certainly set the standard back in its day.
For those unfamiliar with the play, Hamlet's father, the king of Denmark, has recently passed away and he resents the speed with which his mother, Queen Gertrude, remarried. It doesn't help that her new husband is the dead king's brother, Claudius. Soon an apparition who is the spirit of his father, the dead king, visits Hamlet. The ghost explains that Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, murdered him in his sleep and tells Hamlet to avenge his death. The remainder of the story primarily revolves around the Prince's struggle to stop thinking and start doing (exemplified by the famous "To be, or not to be" speech. Can Hamlet do what it takes to truly avenge his father's death?
Olivier and his much-celebrated interpretation of HAMLET are considered by many to be the best of all Shakespeare film adaptations -- it certainly bears the indelible stamp of its director/star's personality. Apparently, the Academy agreed rewarding it with Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Costume Design and among others. (Trivia: Olivier's direction was also nominated losing to John Huston for "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" in 1948).
Olivier's take on Shakespeare's story of madness and murder most foul is unmistakably cinematic -- he takes full advantage of the medium, avoiding the trap of merely filming a play as some Shakespeare adaptations do, with monologues delivered as internal thoughts heard in hushed voiceovers.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Silo 51 on November 22, 2004
Format: DVD
Many critics have viewed the Lawrence Olivier version of Hamlet to be the best among the 43 film adaptations of Hamlet. The film won four Academy Awards, and Lawrence Olivier amazingly gained two Academy Awards for both directing and acting. The Jacobi Hamlet, on the other hand, was a BBC TV film put together in a short time with a small budget during the late 70s. (As a side note, Jacobi was actually introduced into Shakespearean acting by Olivier.) Despite this difference in prestige, the films presented two equally valid interpretations of Hamlet. The central issue was if Hamlet was mad, and through manipulations of voices and the degree and timing of Hamlet's violent actions, the audience was faced with two emotionally upset Hamlets, one who had more madness and the other who had more control.

Both Hamlets were emotional in their voices and had bursts of anger, but Olivier was more rational and controlled in his voice then Jacobi, who seemed truly mad. At first, Olivier's voice was calm and determined. There were deep thoughts behind everything that he was saying, and one could sense love in those tender sounds. His voice gradually became more menacing during the "honesty" speech, but it was still well paced and contrived. After the line "get thee to a nunnery ", the voice intensified, yet it was more suggestive than contemptuous. One could at the same time sense a growing tone of disappointment. After questioning the whereabouts of Ophelia's father, Olivier suddenly flooded out a stream loud, angry and disdainful words against Ophelia's virginity and women in general. It might be that Olivier noticed the presence of the King and Polonius, and increased his voice only to trick them. The emotions, however, were deep and real.
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