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directed by Laurence Olivier
U
K 1948

Before Kenneth Branagh, before Mel Gibson, Laurence Olivier gave the definitive portrayal of 'the man who could not make up his mind'. In 15th-century Denmark, young Prince Hamlet is racked by torment and indecision after seeing a vision of his deceased father. The late king's ghost informs his son Hamlet that Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, was responsible for murdering the king. When the murderer married Hamlet's mother--the king's widow--scarcely two months after his funeral, he also took the throne that was his brother's. The ghost beseeches Hamlet to avenge him--yet Hamlet procrastinates, unsure of how best to accomplish his task. In what was only his second directorial effort, Olivier uses his misty, moody set and long tracking camera shots to complement his indecisive prince tortured by the murder of his father. Olivier's version of the Shakespeare tragedy eliminates the characters of Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Fortinbras.

 

Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, Sir Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet continues to be the most compelling version of Shakespeare’s beloved tragedy. Olivier is at his most inspired—both as director and as the melancholy Dane himself—as he breathes new life into the words of one of the world’s greatest dramatists.

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 1948

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Comparison:

Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC vs. ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC RIGHT vs. ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray LEFT

 

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 82 - Region 0 - NTSC ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Also available in a three pack with Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), Henry V (1944) and Richard III (1955) on Criterion DVDs.

         

Runtime 2:33:30 2:33:33.829
Video 1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.73 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

1080P / 23.976 fps Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 23,665,821,589 bytes

Feature: 22,797,717,504 bytes

Video Bitrate: 16.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Criterion DVD

Bitrate:   Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• 6-page liner notes with essay by Terrence Rafferty

DVD Release Date: September 19th, 2000

Keep Case
Chapters: 27

Release Information:
Studio: ITV DVD

1080P / 23.976 fps Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 23,665,821,589 bytes

Feature: 22,797,717,504 bytes

Video Bitrate: 16.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• Stills Galleries (Restored Production/Behind the Scenes/Advertising Stills in HD!)

• Un-restored Trailer (2:24 in HD)

Blu-ray Release Date: October 19th, 2009
Standard thick (UK)
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 15

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: ITV - Region 'B' Blu-ray - October09:

Wow!

I never know what to expect with ITV hi-def releases. They can be hit-and-miss but this is a far beyond the Criterion DVD edition from 2000. Most notable is detail and contrast. The transfer must come from a restored print with good range. Shadow detail is exceptional. Grain is very visible and quite even and there are still many minor scratches - mostly beneath the surface. It is brighter than the Criterion and this 1080P transfer is one of the best I have seen from a film this old - regardless of it being single-layered. I was reminded of the appearance of the, nine-years younger film; The Seventh Seal as rendered to Blu-ray. I now see some information missing from the frame - mostly the bottom edge. Contrast still fluctuates but not nearly as prominently as on the Criterion.

Audio has always been problematic in association with Oliver's Hamlet and the Criterion had some major issues on this front with over-filtering. Much of this seems to have been 'cured' and the linear PCM track of the ITV release is superior but still has instances where is remains scattered or weak from 'damage'. Both releases offer optional English subtitles and my Momitsu tells me this disc is region 'B'-locked.

While extras on the new high-definition release are sparse - they still eclipse the Criterion which offered nothing but some color bars and 6-page liner notes leaflet. The Blu-ray has an un-restored trailer in HD and some brilliant image galleries with Production/Behind the Scenes/Advertising photos - also in 1080. My only complaint is the forced ITV advert trailer to start the presentation.     

If you have access to region 'B'-coded Blu-rays then this is an easy purchase. The film is an unrivaled masterpiece of the Bard's most famous work - and Oliver's performance will be revered for as long as Shakespeare is performed.

***

On the Criterion: This is a little soft, and heavy noise/grain, with fluctuating contrast. Those black levels may have been boosted but it didn't bring up detail as much as many would like. Subtitles are excellent and no extras (aside from the liner notes). Beautiful cover and a lower tier priced Criterion. Magnificent achievement in drama and a worthy purchase.

NOTE: there have been many complaints that the audio on this Criterion DVD is over-filtered and sub-standard.

Gary W. Tooze

 


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Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


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Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


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Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 82 - Region 0 - NTSC ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray




 

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