Da'ud Bob's Movie Review
  December 2022

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear,” as the opening announcer for each new episode of the old TV series The Lone Ranger put it. And which “yesteryear” are we talking about? Way back in the depths of time: 1964. And the introduction of a then-new technology: “Electronovision”, a system using a high-resolution videotape process for production, later transferred to film via kinescope for theatrical release.. Something that many of us can now pretty much take for granted, as companies like Fathom Events now regularly broadcast classic movies and productions of The Bolshoi Ballet, The Metropolitan Opera, and stage plays into movie theaters for limited, one or two night showings. But back in 1964, such a thing was unheard of, until this live stage play was filmed over two nights at the at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway in New York City via Electronovision to be shown for a limited run of two days only at 100 movie theaters nationwide. Fortunately for me (and for you!), we also have digital video disks now, and when I saw this production available on DVD, I leapt at the chance to buy it, own it, watch it, and review it for you. So this month, thanks to the twin miracles of Electronovision and digitization, Da’ud Bob reviews for you the 1964 Broadway production directed by Sir John Gielgud and starring Sir Richard Burton in the title role of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.

Starring, as I said, Richard Burton as Hamlet, with Hume Cronyn    as Polonius, Alfred Drake as Claudius, Eileen Herlie as Gertrude, William Redfield as Guildenstern, George Rose as First Gravedigger, George Voskovec as Player King, John Cullum as Laertes, Clement Fowler as Rosencrantz, John Gielgud as the voice of the Ghost, Linda Marsh as Ophelia, and Robert Milli as Horatio, this is the full Shakespeare play about the melancholy Danish prince whose father was murdered by his uncle, following which his mother married her late husband’s murderer, after which Hamlet and a couple of others see the ghost of the late king, leading to Hamlet’s desire to avenge his dead father, leading to the deaths of all of the major characters in the play. In other words, just another production of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. (Shakespeare didn’t really have to tell us in the title that this is a tragedy; we already know that if all or most of the main characters in the play die by the end, it’s a Shakespearean tragedy.)

Good points: It’s all Shakespeare’s words. The stage set is simple, yet versatile. Burton yells a lot, but it’s Burton, and he makes it work. (Reviewers of his performance at the time have said: a “bold and virile” Hamlet; ”a performance of electrical power and sweeping virility”, and that he had never known or seen “a Hamlet of such tempestuous manliness”; another said  that Burton “put his passion into Hamlet's language rather than the character.”) This really is Richard Burton at his peak. He did Camelot on Broadway in 1960; The Longest Day in 1962; Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor, famously having a well-known affair on the set with her, in 1963; and Becket earlier in 1964. As I said, at his peak.

Bad points: Modern, 1960s clothing and hairstyles. Some of the actors appear a little too old for the characters they are playing, especially Laertes and Ophelia are too old to be university students.

Zero breasts. No blood. Five dead bodies, not counting the stage death during the “play within a play” or the ghost, whom we only see as a shadow. Sword fu. Rapier fu. Dagger fu. Poison fu. Polonius rolls. Gratuitous tearing a page out of a book. Gratuitous standing on a table. Gratuitous flourishes of a hat festooned with ostrich feathers. Academy Award nominations to Richard Burton for one of the most athletic and quick-speaking Hamlets, lending an energy to the cadence of his speeches; and to Hume Cronyn as a better-than-average Polonius, making the character unwittingly humorous. A mere 38 on the Vomit Meter. 3½ Stars. Da’ud Bob says, “You should definitely check it out!”

Upcoming movies and miniseries to watch for!

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
March 3, 2023
Plot undisclosed at this time, but like earlier iterations it is based on the tabletop role-playing game. Directed John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, starring Regé-Jean Page, Chris Pine, Hugh Grant, Michelle Rodriguez, and Justice Smith.

I note that someone has already suggested that: "For a real experience, the DnDMovie should just end somewhere in the middle and everyone in the theater has to find a date and time when they can all get together again to finish it." Da'ud Bob seconds that motion.

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