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Hamlet, Act I: Scenes IV and V (1933)

 -  Short | Drama
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 5 users  
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A 1933 screen test for a proposed, but never filmed, movie version of "Hamlet" in Technicolor, starring John Barrymore - this is the Ghost Scene.

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Title: Hamlet, Act I: Scenes IV and V (1933)

Hamlet, Act I: Scenes IV and V (1933) on IMDb 7.6/10

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A 1933 screen test for a proposed, but never filmed, movie version of "Hamlet" in Technicolor, starring John Barrymore - this is the Ghost Scene.

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Short | Drama

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(2-strip Technicolor)

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1.37 : 1
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An invaluable collector's item
21 June 2000 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This fascinating bit of film history sometimes turns up on documentaries about Barrymore and/or about productions of "Hamlet". So far, it has been virtually impossible for both Shakespeare buffs or the average viewer to see this short film complete--I myself have not been able to. Some day, if we're lucky, an imaginative distributor of rare film footage will have the foresight to release this complete on videocassette.

This is more than just a screen test. This is the actual Ghost Scene from "Hamlet", performed in full make-up and costume, by the legendary John Barrymore, re-creating an excerpt from his most acclaimed 1920's stage performance, the title role in "Hamlet". As an added bonus, it is filmed in Technicolor. (There are other actors in this scene--it is done presumably the way it would have been done if Barrymore had made a real film version of the play---but the identity of the other actors, as far as I know, is a mystery.)

An invaluable document like this should not be permitted to gather dust in the vaults. Barrymore, as expected, gives a towering performance,loaded with charisma and stage presence. His rich voice reciting the familiar lines is enough to send chills down any viewer's spine, but with this film, we can see his facial expressions as well, and, no, they don't come across as unintentionally funny. If his Hamlet seems rather overdone in comparison to Olivier, Branagh, or any of the other Hamlets we have become accustomed to, that still does not diminish the excitement we get from actually being able to see AND hear some of it. We are left with a sense of both loss and frustration that Barrymore finally decided he was too old for the role (he was 51 at the time this test was made,and looks at least 40). But, at least, this excerpt does give us the only permanent visual and aural record of the greatest American stage performance of the 1920's,and as such, deserves to be made more available to the viewing public.


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