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Hamlet (1990)

4.3 out of 5 stars 402 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Hamlet (1990) (DVD)

Mel Gibson leads an all-star cast in William Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, the story of Danish prince Hamlet. Hamlet (Academy Award winner Gibson--Braveheart, Lethal Weapon films) returns home to learn that his father, the King, has recently died and his mother, Gertrude (Glenn Close--The Stepford Wives, Fatal Attraction), has already married his uncle, Claudius (Alan Bates--Gosford Park). Suffering from shock and grief, the young prince is visited by the ghost of his father (Paul Scofield--Quiz Show), who claims that he was murdered by Claudius and who demands vengeance. Now, Hamlet must decide whether this tale told by an apparition is true--and whether he should exact the vengeance his father demands . . . realizing that his actions may destroy the woman he loves, Ophelia (Helena Bonham Carter--Corpse Bride, Howards End), his family and the kingdom he is due to inherit.

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Special Features

Documentaries: Mel Gibson: To Be or Not to Be Introduction: Hamlet: An Actor's Journey (AKA. Introduction by Mel Gibson)Documentaries: Mel Gibson: To Be or Not to Be Introduction: Hamlet: An Actor's Journey (AKA. Introduction by Mel Gibson)Documentaries: Mel Gibson: To Be or Not to Be Introduction: Hamlet: An Actor's Journey (AKA. Introduction by Mel Gibson)

Product Details

  • Actors: Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Alan Bates, Paul Scofield, Ian Holm
  • Directors: Franco Zeffirelli
  • Writers: Franco Zeffirelli, Christopher De Vore
  • Producers: Dyson Lovell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: February 8, 2005
  • Run Time: 134 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (402 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00019072G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,293 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hamlet (1990)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alesha N. Gates on March 29, 2006
Format: DVD
Once again, I'd like to give a half-star rating, but alas . . .

As my by-line indicates, I am a former high school teacher. Without exception, this is the version of Hamlet that is a class-room favorite. (I show 2 others: Branaugh (2nd place) and the film starring Ethan Hawke (everyone hates it).) It is accessible to younger viewers and is just a beautiful film all around.

The filming, camera work and sets are impeccable. One is instantly transported into the world these characters inhabit. As to the script, it IS heavily edited; however, most of what is omitted (see note below) is "shown" to the audience through visual media. This isn't a "filmed version of the play"; it is a film based on the play. In that framework, it is quite well done. I particularly like the beginning scenes that make Hamlet's description of his mother - "Like Niobe, all tears" - come to life.

The acting, to my thinking, is superb. The emphasis here is on Hamlet's relationship to his mother, Gertrude. That comes through quite clearly. Gibson's Hamlet comes across as a soldier - a man of action - who agonizes over the eternal consequences of his acts. He is believable in the role, masterful in some ways. Likewise the supporting cast. Helena Bonham-Carter and Glenn Close provide particularly vibrant portrayals of their characters.

So, why not 5 stars? Without the "Fortinbras" subplot, some of the urgency in the play seems missing. While definitely a secondary story-line, it provides a framework that adds tension to the play as a whole as the war is waged both outside the castle walls and within.

Overall, this production gets an A. Very accessible. Very easily understood. And haunting in its own way.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I just taught a course on Hamlet for Lifelong Learning and this was one of four film versions of Hamlet I used. This is a very good short version of the play. Mel Gibson does a credible job and the supporting cast is excellent. Glenn Close as Gertrude is outstanding - she shows the giddiness and joy of new love which helps to explain the rashness of her remarriage. Alan Bates as Claudius is likeable and you can see why Gertrude violated canonical law to marry him. This is the incestuous relationship at the heart of the play. Think of your mother marring your uncle.

The reason I did not use Olivier's Hamlet is that while it's a good film with great acting - it's a very bad Hamlet. Freud was very much in vogue at the time and Olivier distorted the movie to put overtones of the Oedipus Complex into it. Also the Claudius in this film is obnoxious and there is no reason for Gertrude to marry him or for Hamlet to delay so long.

One of the important points of this play is the struggle between the two "mighty opposites" of Hamlet and Claudius. They have to be seen as equals. The best Claudius I have seen is Derek Jacobi in Branaugh's Hamlet (also my favorite version of Hamlet).

For a short version of the play, I would definately recommend this Hamlet over the Olivier version.

Another point for viewers to note, in Shakespeare's time, a ghost could either be good or evil. Hamlet has doubts about the truth of the ghost's statement until the mousetrap play proves the allegations. At this time Hamlet assumes the ghost is a good, but sometimes an evil spirit can be telling the truth. It is up to the viewer to decide if the ghost is from heaven or from hell.
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By A Customer on November 29, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
It's odd. As I read through some of the negative reviews of this version of Hamlet, I can almost agree with some of the points that are made. But it doesn't change the fact that this is far superior to Branagh's version. I know how much it bothers Branagh fans and many Shakespeare purists to hear that, but that just makes it that much more fun to say. The basic reason for this is that Zefferelli, although he is a bit too carefree with his cuts and shuffling, has far better aesthetic sensibilities than Branagh. The emotions of the characters in this version are far more compelling, engaging, and distinct than the lukewarm indifference that comprised the tonality of Branagh's adaptation. And though I'm no Mel Gibson fanatic, he does an *exceptional* job in his role, and keeps the film compelling through all of its hacks and alterations. Though far from a perfect adaptation, this is an engaging and rewarding movie. I've always thought it was far better than most people seem to give it credit for.
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Format: DVD
We all know the story so there is no need for me to summarize.
It's not a bad rendition but there are a few problems. It suffers mainly from a strong Ophelia and a weak Horatio. Ophelia, as played by Helena Bonham Carter, is played too strong to believe she would go mad and kill herself. Nowhere, in the movie, is there any indication she is ruled by her father, brother and whomever else would try. She herself, as written, is a weak person and needs to be played weakly.
Horatio, as Shakespeare wrote him, is the only one Hamlet trusts. Yet, nearly 75% of his lines are cut and he spends the majority of the movie looking concerned but standing around doing nothing.
The pacing really stumbles until about halfway into the movie. The best part is the dueling sequence. The rest of the time, the pacing doesn't quite make it.
I was also disappointed the "From this time forth, my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth" soliloquy was cut. It, along with the "To be or not to be" speech are two of the most important moments of Hamlet's progression.
Gibson delivered the "To be or not to be" soliloquy extremely well, fortunately. His Hamlet is most believable after he sees the ghost.
However, if you have not seen this version, be prepared for one thing: the director suffers from what I call the "Olivier Complex." Just because Olivier played Hamlet with an Oedipus complex doesn't mean he was right. When Hamlet confronts his mother in her closet, it is an extremely annoying scene in the movie. Much better to portray him as a son who loves his mother as a MOTHER, not as a lover.
Otherwise, the scenery is gorgeous, the costuming was nice, other than Glenn Close's operatic braids--I kept expecting her to break out in a Wagner opera--and the rest of the casting is quite good. Ian Holm plays an excellent Polonius.
All in all, it wasn't bad. It wasn't great but it wasn't bad.
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