3 Stars
Year Released: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

This episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ tends to be dismissed by many fans, but it’s not a bad one. I can’t say I’ve ever seen an episode of the show that left me thinking “Well, that sucked.” And especially by the time the final tenth season aired, the Mike years had long since hit their stride, so you can expect copious amounts of hilarious riffing.

I think the problem is that a 1961 German TV production of Hamlet isn’t the type of film that was typical of this series. After so many seasons full of Godzilla films, Roger Corman productions, ill-conceived low-budget sci-fi and horror films, and the hilarious misadventures of Joe Don Baker, the decision to riff on “Hamlet,” even a poor version of it, seems odd. But given the rights issues “MST3K” faced, this one was probably a breeze when it came to getting clearance for it. Hell, the producers were probably thrilled that this thing was going to be immortalized in a cult TV series, rather than rot on a shelf somewhere.

And, honestly, this version of “Hamlet” isn’t awful the way, say, “Mitchell” bungles the “misfit cop fights the bad guys against all odds” trope; it’s simply mediocre, despite the presence of Maximilian Schell in the title role and Ricardo Montalban’s passionate dubbing (the dubbing certainly detracts from the experience). As Kevin Murphy says in his comments on the Satellite News web site: “[We realized] we can’t really break the play, can’t even hurt it. The Germans already tried and yet I still love the thing, long and wordy as it is. So go ahead and try your own clown makeup version of Hamlet. It’ll be around long after you croak. Not the clown makeup, the play.”

Unfortunately, like Shout! Factory’s other recent standalone “MST3K” releases, this one contains no bonus features. I’m surprised they didn’t try to include something, especially since there’s so much to work with here: a discussion of all the other poor versions of “Hamlet” over the years; Maximilian Schell and Ricardo Montalban’s participation; perhaps some comments from the original producers, or someone else involved with this production; and so forth. Ah well. To be or not to be: Well, if you’re a die-hard Mistie, you’ll probably want this one if you didn’t buy Rhino’s MST3K Collection Volume 4, where it was originally found; if you’re more of a casual fan, you could probably get by renting this or looking for it to show up on Hulu or another streaming site with “MST3K.” On a per-disc basis, “MST3K: Hamlet” is also more expensive than the four-disc collections Shout! has been issuing.

Posted on June 21, 2011 in Reviews by

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