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on July 30, 2005
If that name doesn't mean anything to you...don't feel bad. Most are far more familiar with Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' than with his source material, notably the 'Gesta Danorum' (Book of the Danes) by Saxo Grammaticus. 'Royal Deceit' (released in Europe as 'Prince of Jutland') is based on the Gesta, in particular the tale of Amleth, a prince who discovers his uncle murdered his father for his crown and feigns madness to take revenge. Sound familiar? This version is far less complicated and more straightforward than Shakespeare's, but that doesn't make it inferior; rather, it's a refreshingly simple look at the Norse legend behind the famous play.

That said, this film is definitely not for those who insist on sophisticated SFX, fast-paced action, and huge-scale battles. Combat is spare and usually represented by a couple of warriors on either side whacking each other with primitive swords, but realistically this is more in keeping with the sixth century than most of the epic-style stuff found in big-budget pictures. The costumes are extremely simple shifts and tunics, mostly, and are quite accurate for the period if not the most attractive things to look at. (Ethel's gown is a little form-fitting for the period, but's Kate Beckinsale.) It was filmed on location in Denmark, and the scenery is really lovely.

The film is also remarkable for the quality of the performances, which are first-rate all around. Astonishing talents Helen Mirren, Gabriel Byrne, and a young Christian Bale have most of the screen time, but look for truly enjoyable bit parts from the likes of Brian Cox, Kate Beckinsale, Tom Wilkinson, and - my favourite - Andy Serkis, better known as the man behind "The Lord of the Rings'" Gollum.

The action can be slow-paced for those accustomed to quick, cut-and-run pictures, but the story unfolds nicely. The narration in particular keeps well in the spirit of the Gesta, and there are some truly enjoyable scenes, particularly the scenes between Amleth and his mum Geruth and any time Brian Cox's King Aethelwine of Britain is onscreen. (Nobody chews scenery better than Brian Cox.) One warning, though, is in order: since this was primarily a Danish-funded film, it has rather a lot of nudity in it by American standards, including some full-frontal shots. I didn't find any of it offensive or out of place, but some may.

Perhaps I am biased as a Mediaeval Studies major, but I found 'Royal Deceit' enjoyable, for its own merit and as a nice alternative to all the Conan-style 'Mediaeval' pictures to be found elsewhere.
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on December 14, 1998
"Royal Deceit" (being based on the same myth as the Shakespeare play "Hamlet") is a wonderful movie despite it's seemingly "unknown" status. I was VERY happy when I found out that it was going to be released in the U.S. (it was previously released in Europe under the title "Prince of Jutland") and rushed to get it when it finally was. It displays wonderful performances by Gabriel Byrne and Christian Bale, with a small role by one of my favorites, Kate Beckinsale. With the exception of some [usual] Danish nudity, this movie is an all-around excellent film and I would definitely recommend it- like I always say, it takes "Hamlet" (one of my favorite Shakespeare plays) and gives it a happy ending, making it just as suspenseful without the depressing ending!
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on April 22, 2003
This is NOT Shakespeare's Hamlet prince of Denmark, but an attempt to get closer to the tale on which Hamlet was based (as written by Saxo Grammaticus). It suffers (if that's the word) from being quiet, thoughtful, introspective and shot on a human scale, in a pallette of muted colours. For those who want knights in armour and Schwarzenegger lookalikes takin' out da bad guyz wit da sword uv justiss, don't bother. The costumes are pretty accurate for the period, and despite the comments of one reviewer, armies at that time often actually were only a few score men. It's the SIXTH century, not the sixteenth!
For those who would enjoy a serious attempt to present a slice of historical life, it will be a welcome change from the usual formulaic dross that normally fills your screens.
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on September 6, 2005
"Royal Deceit" is an interesting if uneven movie, telling a Danish tale of regicide and revenge that is similar to "Hamlet". The filmmakers have opted for authenticity in the costumes and props and a kind of Passion Play style of acting and direction, with mixed results. While the sheer acting power and amazing charisma of Christian Bale as the Prince, Helen Mirren as his mother, and Gabriel Byrne as the corrupt king, is mesmerizing, their excellent work is frequently undermined by an underwritten and wandering script and occasionally laughable direction. The battle scenes are staged as if being acted on-stage in a small theater-in-the-round, an odd choice given that they are filmed in the great outdoors. Large warriors trot around on tiny moorland ponies to unavoidably comic effect, and there are other elements that, however historically accurate they may be, undercut the force of the drama.

A young Kate Beckinsdale makes a brief appearance as the maiden who weds Christian Bale; it's fun to see them together so young and then see them together again fifteen years later in "Laurel Canyon". You can also see Andy Serkis (Gollum in the LOTR trilogy) as one of the corrupt king's men.

The main reason to watch this movie is if you are a fan of Christian Bale, Helen Mirren, or Gabriel Byrne (Byrne is particularly ferocious in this movie). Christian Bale's versatility is on display here, and this movie makes you realize that the performances he gave in "Empire of the Sun", "Swing Kids", and "Newsies" barely scratched the surface of his capabilities. The dark streak he brings to the mad Prince is a preview of what he would later bring to the characters of Patrick Batemen ("American Psycho"), Trevor Resnik ("The Machinist") and of course Bruce Wayne, in "Batman Begins".

This movie is also interesting in that it manages to bring a different and surprising conclusion to the Hamlet legend; if you are interested in Shakespeare you may find this alternate version of his tragedy worth viewing.
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on November 8, 2004
This movie was originally released as 'The Prince of Jutland'.

I really enjoyed this movie. Gabriel Bryne plays the evil uncle perfectly.

If you look carefully you will see a grown up 'Peter' from 'The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe'as Amled's older brother.

Also an early piece for Kate Beckinsdale.

The way Amled gets rid of some of the nasties using pigs is a bit gross, but I can imagine it happening.

I think the reviewer that criticized the numbers in the army maybe expects it to be like the battles in the 'Two Towers'.

I would recommend it to anyone who loves a movie which has it all - blood, revenge, sex, fairly accurate sets and a clever hero.

For some reason Helen Mirren always does one scene where she gets her kit off.

I really don't think Christian Bale gets enough praise for his work.
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on March 9, 2013
This movie is set in pre-Viking Denmark, and is based on the same old Scandinavian legend which inspired Shakespeare's play Hamlet. If you are familiar with the play, you will recognize many of the scenes and characters in the movie, although the people have different names. Prince Amleth (the character's name in the original legend and in the movie) is the hero of a cycle of legends, of which Shakespeare used only a part. The movie includes some of his adventures which are not in the play, and I actually enjoyed it more than most of the productions of Hamlet I have seen. The costumes, weapons, etc. seem fairly authentic, which was probably not expensive because the society in which it is set was quite primitive. It was filmed on location in Denmark, and has some nice scenery.

I would recommend this movie to Shakespeare enthusiasts, as well as sword-and-spear movie fans. It would be good for an extra-credit report for a class on Hamlet. (There is some brief female nudity).
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on June 24, 2014
A very young Christian Bale Is betrayed by uncle and cousin and seeks revenge, an age old story line and it is actually a retelling of Hamlet without the use of Shakespearian verse.... everyone talks in rather plain English, but as usual Bale IS as intense as A Danish Prince as he was As The Dark Knight.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 27, 2006
This spare film is based on an original version of the Hamlet story. The makers of this film clearly wanted to capture the stark nature of the story and probably the character of life in early Medieval Northern Europe. The actors are a really impressive cast and their performances are quite good. The film is impaired by its limited budget which somewhat degrades the efforts at historical realism. As other reviewers comment, the use of voiceover narration to carry the narrative is not successful. A very good idea but not well executed despite its first rate cast.
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on May 6, 2005
1993 movie, R-rated (for nudity and violence) movie: a.k.a "Prince of Jutland" (European Co-production - France, UK, Denmark, Germany)

DVD Features: The DVD includes the movie, and sneak peeks (trailers).

Credits: Starring Christian Bale (Jute Amled (which, at times, sounds a lot like Hamlet when spoken); "American Psycho," "Empire of the Sun," "Shaft," "Batman Begins"; age 19), Gabriel Byrne (brother Fenge/King Fenge ; "Cool World," Ghost Ship," "Assault on Precinct 13"), Helen Mirren (Queen Geruth; "Caligula," "Excalibur," "Prime Suspect"), Brian Cox (Aethelwine; "Adaptation," "Bourne Identity," "Troy"), Steven Waddingon (Ribold; "Sleepy Hollow"), and a quite young looking Kate Beckinsale (Duke's daughter/Queen Ethel; "Cold Comfort Farm," "The Aviator," "Pearl Harbor"; age 20). Narrated by Oliver Fox ("Finding Neverland). Directed by Gabriel Axel ("Leïla"). Based on the Chronicle of Saxo Grammaticus (born 1150 Denmark, died 1220; "The Normans" (1976), "The Red Mantle" (1967)).


The story of sixth-century royal intrigue in Denmark (tiny kingdom of Jutland), that includes a visit over to England. The movie is based on an a book (chronicle) by Saxo Grammaticus (1150-1220 Denmark). This book is an earlier Danish version of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" (in other words, a source story for "Hamlet"). In this version, the King and his eldest son are killed in a hunting party by two subjects (killed in turn by the King's brother). The Queen is quite unhappy, and the Prince Amled, is made quite mad upon hearing the news (though we learn early on that it is a disguise assumed by the prince).


The movie has a nice opening sequence looking at the land of "Jutland," combined by good music. No mystery here, the opening shows the King's brother giving himself injuries and directing the placement of two dead subjects. The buildings look right for the time, though I'm not an expert. The clothing is drab, the sound is a little hard to hear, and no attempt is made to talk in anything other than modern English (except for the names). Interesting, it appears that the women of the time prance around nude through the village to a bathhouse to use it together.

There always seems to be some idiot at conspiracy gatherings who state that they don't want to join the conspiracy, and end up dead. Too bad they had to include that cliché in this movie. Also too bad is that most of the actors seemed quite passionless in their acting in the beginning, though it does pick up eventually. When they say R for nudity, they really mean it, at least in the beginning (of course I'll later note that the beginning was boring, oddly enough). A short movie in over all length, but it certainly seemed a lot longer. Interesting to see the original story (if it is the original story), which has many similarities and differences between it and Hamlet (though it would be hard to list them without giving too much away). While the beginning is rather boring, the movie does start to become interesting before it ends. (3.40)
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on September 4, 2002
This isn't Shakespeare's Hamlet, but a film based on the tale that became Hamlet. Many things are good - a young Hamlet (18-ish Christian Bale), young, vibrant, powerful warrior king (30-ish Byrne), extensive scenes in England showing Hamlet becoming a hero (all off-stage in the play). And it ends happily - yeah!
On the downside, it's set in rough-and-ready 6th century Denmark, which isn't that pretty to look at. The staging seems static and lifeless and it takes forever to get going. Once Hamlet wakes up, things start moving along to a satisfying end.
The premise - great actors doing an early Hamlet with age-appropriate casting - sounds great, but somehow it just doesn't deliver.
I'll rent this video, rather than buy it.
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