Hamlet (1948) (Blu-ray)

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Released 1-Dec-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Gallery-Production Stills (4:05)
Gallery-Promotional Material (1:14)
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1948
Running Time 153:33 (Case: 158)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Laurence Olivier

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring John Laurie
Esmond Knight
Anthony Quayle
Niall MacGinnis
Harcourt Williams
Patrick Troughton
Tony Tarver
Peter Cushing
Stanley Holloway
Russell Thorndike
Basil Sydney
Eileen Herlie
Laurence Olivier
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $19.95 Music William Walton

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Linear PCM 48/24 1.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Hamlet is possibly William Shakespeare's most famous and most performed play. The play has become a modern challenge for actors who desire professional credibility for playing the lead role of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. William Shakespeare wrote the play between 1599 and 1601 (no-one quite knows when!) and it exists in three known forms, each with differing dialogue and scenes from the others. Hamlet tells the tale of the Prince of Denmark who plots revenge on his uncle Claudius for killing his father (and Claudius' brother), old king Hamlet, and then taking his mother Queen Gertrude in marriage. The play covers Hamlet's wide range of emotions from grief to rage and deals with themes which are corrupted by circumstance such as revenge, betrayal, incestuous lust and religious piety.

     Sir Laurence Olivier (knighted in 1947), made Hamlet after directing and starring in Henry V in 1944. It was his second directorial feature, winning four academy awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Olivier), Best Art/Set Direction (Black-And-White) and Best Costume Design (Black-And-White). Olivier's version of Hamlet was generally well-received by the public but drew mixed critical reception because of Olivier's omissions, such as excising the main supporting characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and omitting two hours worth of material from the four-hour play. By removing the political and comic elements from the play, Olivier focused on the relationship between Hamlet and his mother, thereby turning the movie into a thriller or film noir.

     In contrast, Tony Richardson's 1969 film and Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 film (starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close) included parts that Olivier left out at much the same running time. Kenneth Branagh, for his 1996 version, included everything that Olivier left out, but updated the play by setting it in the 19th century. Branagh's film was a critical success but a box-office disaster and is best remembered as the last film to be shot entirely on 65mm film stock (due to its expense).

     Apart from Olivier in the title role, there is a wealth of accomplished actors who support the film such as Basil Sydney (King Claudius), Jean Simmons (playing Ophelia, although not in her most remembered role),Esmond Knight, Anthony Quayle, Christopher Lee (as soldiers), Peter Cushing (as Osric) and Stanley Holloway (as Gravedigger). The previous DVD release from 2005 by Magna Pacific in Region 4 has been eclipsed in terms of video and audio transfer by this Blu-ray release.

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Transfer Quality


     Unlike The Red Shoes, Hamlet has not received an extensive restoration on Blu-ray so there are still film artefacts present in the transfer. Similarly to The Red Shoes, this Blu-ray comes on a single-layered Blu-ray disc, so the total content on the disc is no more than 25 gb in size.

     The aspect ratio is 1:37:1, full-frame. The 1080p/24 video transfer uses a MPEG-4 AVC codec with an average bitrate of 16.49Mbps. On Blu-ray the image looks much more defined than it ever looked on DVD, however film grain is still present. In terms of the black-and-white image, shadow detail is now sharper and the contrast is more consistent, looking much brighter on Blu-ray. Film artefacts consist of mainly white lines across the image, dust marks and scratches. These fluctuate in intensity.

     Subtitles are available in English and are easy-to-read.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The audio transfer of Hamlet on DVD was always weak, only a full restoration could restore the original elements. On Blu-ray the audio is still soft and lacks the dynamic range of other restored films from this era.

     The main soundtrack is a Linear 48kHz/24-bit 1.0 mono track encoded at 1152 kbps. Dialogue is mainly clear and is synchronised.

     William Walton's score remains his most famous work apart from his score for Olivier's Henry V in 1944, but this soundtrack doesn't do it justice.

     There is no surround channel usage as the main soundtrack is in mono. The subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Production stills gallery (4:05)

     Production stills from the film are included here in black-and-white in high-definition.

Promotional Material (1:14)

     The original advertising brochure for the film is reproduced here, again in high-definition.

Theatrical Trailer (2:25)

     The original theatrical trailer is included in high-definition but not of the same visual quality as the main presentation.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Hamlet has been released by ITV in the United Kingdom with a Region B transfer and with identical specifications as the Region B Beyond Home Entertainment Australian release.


     Once considered the best cinematic expression of Hamlet, it may not be so considered since Tony Richardson's and Franco Zeffirelli's versions came along in 1969 and 19990 respectively (or Kenneth Branagh's four-hour faithful version from 1996 for the purists). Having said this, Olivier's version of Hamlet is still a fine piece of filmmaking and this presentation on Blu-ray is the best version in which we've ever had the chance to see it.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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