Following Roof-Dirk’s CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT piece, it seemed reasonable and fitting to do a Shakespeare themed Friday 5. Unfortunately, the whole endeavor proved far too daunting for the Dirk collective. There are far too many to choose from. How can we differentiate between the high camp of WEST SIDE STORY (1961) and Baz Luhrmann’s ROMEO AND JULIET (1996) or the intensive adaptations such as OTHELLO (1952) and the sturm und drang of HENRY V (1944).
It proved too difficult, so we have been more specific and created a Friday 5 based on the original Great Dane. More than any other of Shakespeare’s great plays, Hamlet has infused culture and the modern idiom like an Elizabethan STAR WARS. To make matters even easier, we have excluded adaptations and gone for parody, homage and pastiche.
It would be too easy to go for HAMLET (1948) with Olivier as a dignified loon and our very own Moff Tarkin flapping around with a hat; or, Kenneth Branagh’s unabridged, Victoriana version of the play which one scholar described brilliantly as ‘noir, with the lights switched on’; or, Zeffirelli directing the Dane as a jew-hating nutter.
Instead, we have looked for the presence of Hamlet in unlikely places. The play’s the thing!
1) THE LION KING (1994) There’s a little bit of Macbeth thrown in here too if you look hard enough. If music, tom cats and T.S. Elliot create CATS and cash, then it made sense for the business brain of Jeffrey KATzenberg to apply the Tim Rice plus literary allusions and lions formula to make box office history. It was the first Disney animated feature that was based on an original screenplay, after all, the Grave Diggers don’t sing Hakuna Matana.
2) HAMLET GOES BUSINESS (1987) This is an entertaining Finnish comedy transfers Elsinore to a board room where young Hamlet takes a position on the board of a company run by his uncle who is pushing into the rubber duck business.
3) WITHNAIL AND I (1987) A wonderful moment as Withnail delivers the ‘what a piece of work is man’ speech to wolves in London zoo. Not a dry eye in the house.
4) EVERYTHING THAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX* (*BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK) (1972) Allen’s randy jester meets a ghost who encourages him to get in the knickers of the queen, only to discover that they are locked!
5) THE LAST ACTION HERO (1993) It was meant to be a post-modern, meta-textual comedy gently satirizing the cliches of the action movie. It was a sign that the moribund genre was disappearing up its own arse, “takin’ out the trash!’
The thing I like about that final scene in Withnail is it harks back to the Uncle Monty’s “I will never play the Dane” speech earlier on. Brilliant use of it.
THE BAD SLEEP WELL
A loose adaptation with Mifune in the title role. Famous beard-wearing filmmaker Francis Coppola thinks that the opening twenty minutes is the greatest twenty minutes of film ever shot.
ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD
Lots of critics said it didn’t work as a film but I like it, especially the various scientific discoveries Rosencrantz almost makes (the apple, the bathtub…)
THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN
I love this scene.
“I’ve seen it. Shakespeare, right?”
“Right, and double right!”
Although Shakespeare’s greatest achievement is probably inspiring the name of the Half Man Half Biscuit song ‘Something’s Rotten In The Back Of Iceland’.
I’ve never seen THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN. That’s a great clip. Love and peace!