Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

July 7, 2020

genre-film adaptations of HAMLET

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:07 am
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It’s always refreshing to be watching some “crime” or “western” or “adventure” or whatever kind of genre film and realize part-way through that it is a re-write of HAMLET, or MACBETH, or RICHARD III, or SISTER CARRIE, or CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, OR GREAT EXPECTATIONS or NATIVE SON or MOBY DICK or SILAS MARNER or some other classic of literature. Not only are the plots and characters time-tested with audiences spanning centuries and multiple cultures, they can provide a kind of template/foundation on which the screenwriters can build their own edifice. I’ve chosen two of my favorite re-writes of Hamlet below and linked to the entire film online. STRANGE ILLUSION never shows its hand–if you did not know Hamlet, you’d never know the film’s reliance upon it. You’d just think it was an excellent mystery with a creepy man who gets involved with someone’s father. JOHNNY HAMLET, on the other hand, even if you saw it under another title (as many did), shows its hand from the first scene, with the Shakespearean acting troupe and the actual lines from Hamlet itself. After that, though, it goes on its merry way re-casting Hamlet as an Italian western….and doing it very well.

Undoubtedly, many screenwriters were literature majors (as I was), and it’s good to see them getting some use out of those courses in Shakespeare or comparative literature or The Novels of Dickens and Eliot and keeping these precious archetypal stories and character types alive and refreshed.

Enjoy!

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strange

STRANGE ILLUSION (PRC Pictures, 1945), directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, starring James Lydon, Sally Eilers, and Warren William  (genre: mystery-crime)

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Johnny Hamlet

JOHNNY HAMLET (aka The Wild and the Dirty, aka Quella sporca storia nel West….Italy 1968), directed by Enzo G. Castellari, starring Andrea Giordana, Gilbert Roland, and Horst Frank. Genre: Italian Western. In the US release of this, The Wild And The Dirty, which I used to own 20+ years ago, Giordana was billed as “Chip Corman.” That version was shorter than the version here, but it was entirely in English. Certain sections here which are in Italian with subtitles were in English in that version, although the drawback was that the copy of that version in circulation (I had a VHS from Grapevine Video, presumably taken from 16mm….it has not been in their catalogue for 20+ years now) was “stretched” in that it was transferred without using a widescreen lens/proper aspect ratio. It was a great version, but the people were eight feet tall. This European version (linked to below) has scenes not in the American version, and those scenes are visually rich and do add a lot to the experience of the film, however. The American version was trimmed to make it more action-oriented.

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