Shakespeare Hamlet play. Kenneth Branagh directed this motion picture in 1996 in widescreen 70mm. It was released in Blu-ray in 2010, and it still looks wonderful in 2017. Stars Riz Abbasi (Attendant to Claudius), Richard Attenborough (English Ambassador), David Blair (Attendant to Claudius), Brian Blessed (Ghost of Hamlet's Father), Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet), Richard Briers (Polonius), Michael Bryant (Priest), Peter Bygott (Attendant to Claudius), Julie Christie (Gertrude), Billy Crystal (First Gravedigger), Charles Daish (Stage Manager), Judi Dench (Hecuba), Gérard Depardieu (Reynaldo), Reece Dinsdale (Guildenstern), Ken Dodd (Yorick), Angela Douglas (Attendant to Gertrude), Rob Edwards (Lucianus), Nicholas Farrell (Horatio), Ray Fearon (Fracisco), Yvonne Gidden (Doctor), John Gielgud (Priam), Rosemary Harris (Player Queen), Charlton Heston (Player King), Ravil Isyanov (Cornelius), Derek Jacobi (Claudius), Rowena King (Attendant to Gertrude), Jeffery Kissoon (Fortinbras's Captain), Sarah Lam (Attendant to Gertrude), Jack Lemmon (Marcellus), Ian McElhinney (Barnardo), Michael Maloney (Laertes), John Spencer-Churchill, The Duke of Malborough (Fortinbras's General), John Mills (Old Norway), Jimi Mistry (Sailor Two), Sian Radinger (Prologue), Simon Russell Beale (Second Gravedigger), Andrew Schofield (Young Lord), Rufus Sewell (Fortinbras), Timothy Spall (Rosencrantz), Tom Szekeres (Young Hamlet), Ben Thom (First Player), Don Warrington (Voltimand), Perdita Weeks (Second Player), Robin Williams (Osric), Kate Winslet (Ophelia), and David Yip (Sailor One).

There's a lot of information on this single disc. The movie lasts 242 minutes and there are several mildly interesting extra features. The default language setting is an English soundtrack in 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio surround. There is a French soundtrack in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. In addition, there are German, Castilian, and Spanish sound tracks in Dolby Digital stereo. So take your pick of sound tracks and then you can also have subtitles in English, French, German, Castilian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, or Finnish! Finally, you can watch the whole show with a running commentary from Branagh and expert Russell Jackson, a feature that is popular with motion pictures but unusual for fine-art HDVDs.

While neither the packaging nor the disc has a statement made about region restrictions, the American release seems region-free and should play just fine on any player. But Warner Bros. has released separate German, French, and Spanish language versions for those markets and maybe other versions we don't know about. These other versions might not be region-free. So buyer beware. Grade: A+

This stupendous movie is Hamlet heavy. It has every line of the play that is found in any Shakespeare source. I don't have expert knowledge of Shakespeare, but I've probably read and seen the play as many as 15 times. There was quite a bit in this movie that was new to me as well as scenes I know of that are often cut. So this version is likely to be the reference for all of us Shakespeare amateurs in the future. The movie is exemplary in every way and still looks and sounds great after 20 years. It's fun to try to spot all the famous actors that appear, many in bit roles. (At the end of this review we have a game for you to play - see how many famous actors you can identify.)

This came out some time ago, and about 850 amazon.com customers in the U.S. have written reports, mostly highly favorable. But there was also criticism of Branagh's acting and the length of the work. I also wonder about the updating to the era of the Industrial Revolution. Modern times are inconsistent with plot elements such as the ghost, the poisoning, the sword fight, and the executions of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by the English based on a letter. But these are quibbles. This HDVD should be in the collection of anyone who wants to tackle Shakespeare, and it gets an A+. (Having said all these nice things about Branagh's film, I also think there's room in the market for a Hamlet movie shot in a medieval setting.  And, of course, we also should have HDVDs made of stage productions of Hamlet. )

Now for a few screenshots and our trivia game. Below we see the Ghost of Hamlet's Father, an imposing figure with suitably eerie lighting as a backdrop:

The main court of the palace on full display for the wedding of Claudius and Gertrude:

Meanwhile, Hamlet sulks alone:


Hamlet begins to go "mad" with a skeleton mask:


And the camera slowly zooms out on Hamlet alone among the mountains (I don't think there are mountains like this in Denmark):

Laertes and Hamlet duel in the palace:


In the end, all is chaos. Compare this to the earlier wedding shot and see how far Denmark has fallen:


And now for our quiz. Below are labeled screenshots of different famous actors. Can you name them all? The answers are in at the end of the article.

Screenshot A:


Screenshot B:

Screenshot C:

Screenshot D:


Screenshot E:

Screenshot F:


Screenshot G:


Screenshot H:

Screenshot I:


Screenshot J:

Screenshot K:

Screenshot L:


Screenshot M:

A: Jack Lemmon
B: Brian Blessed
C: Derek Jacobi
D: Julie Christie
E: Charlton Heston
F: Rosemary Harris
G: Dame Judi Dench
H: Gérard Depardieu
I: Kate Winslet
J: Billy Crystal
K: Simon Russell Beale
L: Robin Williams
M: Richard Attenborough