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Sampo & Erhardt

Sci-Fi Archives


Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode guide: 1009- Hamlet

Movie: (1961) A dour production of Shakespeare’s play produced for German TV. A prince returns home for his father’s funeral and doesn’t like what he finds.

First shown: June 27, 1999
Opening: Tom Servo is now Htom Sirveaux
Intro: Crow has a name change too; Mike interrupts Pearl’s plan with Three Card Monty — which she loses, allowing Mike to pick the movie. He chooses unwisely
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom’s plan to be the ghost of one of Mike’s dead relatives quickly unravels
Host segment 2: Crow and Tom give Mike a preview of their percussion version of “Hamlet”
Host segment 3: Time once again to play “Alas Poor Who?”
End: Crow and Tom show off their Hamlet action figure, with real soliloquy action; in Castle Forrester, a snotty Fortenbras demands his due
Stinger: Claudius does a double take
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (404 votes, average: 3.48 out of 5)

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• I’m going to come right out and say that this episode is not nearly as bad as its reputation. Yes, the movie is particularly dour, but Kevin, in his comments on this one, is right: You can’t hurt this thing no matter how hard you try. As happens every time I see this one, I got drawn in to the classic tale, which for me was made all the more fun by the overlay of some pretty solid riffing. The host segments, aren’t bad either. I know plenty of you can’t wait to start trashing this one, but I’m not on board. That said, I don’t have a lot else to say about this one.
• Kevin’s thoughts are here.
• This episode was included in Rhino’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 4.”
• Callback in the opening host segment: “You think you can take me? Go ahead on.” (Final Justice)
• I like segment 1 a lot. It’s fun, fast and it’s over quick. Really liked it even more this time.
• Segment 2, on the other hand, is a pretty good example of the more-clever-than-funny segment. Clearly they wanted to say something about the many many avant garde stagings of “Hamlet,” and they did say something, but I’m not sure it added up to a comedy sketch.
• Yes, that’s an uncredited Ricardo Montalban doing the voice of Claudius and John Banner, of “Crash of the Moons” and “Hogan’s Heroes,” doing the voice of Polonius. Happily, the Brains noticed. They made two John Banner jokes and one Montalban reference.
• Segment 3, feeling very season two-ish, goes on a little long. But it’s a cute idea.
• Kevin is hilarious as Fortinbras in the end bit.
• Cast and crew roundup: Nobody involved in making this movie worked on any other MSTed movie.
• CreditsWatch: Directed by Mike.
• Fave riff: “Hamlet faxed me a sililoquy!” Honorable mention: “Nice play, Shakespeare.”

284 Replies to “Episode guide: 1009- Hamlet”

  1. jay says:

    I have it on good authority that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.

       4 likes

  2. Johnny Drama says:

    “Cast and crew roundup: Nobody involved in making this movie worked on any other MSTed movie.”
    What about John Banner?

       5 likes

  3. jjk50 says:

    This is a love it or hate it episode, and I’m guessing the hate side has a big lead over the love it side.

       2 likes

  4. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    HAIL QUEEN DILBERT’S BOSS

       4 likes

  5. goalieboy82 says:

    i wish they did other bad movies base on Shakespeare play’s.

       1 likes

  6. jay says:

    goalieboy82:
    i wish they did other bad movies base on Shakespeare play’s.

    Every movie is based on Shakespeare’s plays. “All the world’s a stage, …”

       2 likes

  7. Sitting Duck says:

    Johnny Drama:
    “Cast and crew roundup: Nobody involved in making this movie worked on any other MSTed movie.”
    What about John Banner?

    John Banner’s IMDB profile doesn’t include it. Neither is the dubbing cast listed in the movie’s entry. Obviously the Brains thought it was him (hence the, “I know nothing!” riff). But there doesn’t appear to be any hard evidence that it was him.

    jjk50:
    This is a love it or hate it episode, and I’m guessing the hate side has a big lead over the love it side.

    Some time ago, I did a count of the love it or hate it posts in this topic in response to a similar comment. As it happens, the positive posts exceeded the negative posts by a comfortable margin. Obviously this only applies to our little internet community, and there’s the possibility of a single person making multiple posts under different names (and there were a few I found suspect). Still, I believe the idea that the Hamlet episode being widely loathed is overblown.

       1 likes

  8. Lisa H. says:

    I find it kind of a drag overall. The film being visually very dull doesn’t help. I wouldn’t say I hate it, but it’s among my lower-rated episodes.

       2 likes

  9. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Well, the host segments didn’t feature any bigoted rants or goosecides, so it’s better than Final Justice, anyway. IMHO.

       3 likes

  10. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Colossus Prime:
    The ghost of Mike’s father isn’t bad but it does run a bit dry.It is silly how many of Mike’s obscure relatives (and their friends) Tom is familiar with and seeing the bots moving beneath the sheet is entertaining.

    Tom and Mike have known each other since 1993, why wouldn’t Tom know plenty about Mike’s family? Maybe Mike discusses his family on a semi-daily basis when we’re not around and Tom remembers more about that than Crow does.

    Which is of course ironic since via time travel Crow lived with Mike’s family for eleven years, from 1993 to 2004, and should thus know WAY more about them than Tom does. Meaning that at series end, when Crow and the others relocated to Earth, Crow was already there.

       3 likes

  11. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves:
    Well, the host segments didn’t feature any bigoted rants or goosecides, so it’s better than Final Justice, anyway. IMHO.

    Ahhh, you’re Maltese!

    Now I get it

       6 likes

  12. Ray Dunakin says:

    It took me several viewings to warm up to this one, mainly because the movie is dull and the dialogue a bit hard to follow. But now I love it! The riffing is great, and the host segments are pretty good too. I really enjoyed the “three card monty” bit, and the “alas poor who?” sketch.

       1 likes

  13. GareChicago says:

    Bill Bryson’s “Shakespeare: The World as Stage” (and the much improved update – “Shakespeare – The Illustrated and Updated Edition”) is, to my mind, the last word on the whole topic of his plays’ “parentage”.

    Obviously there’s a bit much to go into here, but Bryson lays out the case in a thorough and reasonable manner, scrutinizing even the smallest detail, and ultimately concludes that the only obvious author of these works was Shakespeare.

    I highly recommend you pick this up if you’re so inclined.

    Gare

       4 likes

  14. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    We can make discussion thread suggestions to Sampo in any thread, right?

    If so…

    HEY SAMPO
    HEY SAMPO
    HEY SAMPO

    My topic suggestion is: Which film sub-genre would you most like to see the Brains tackle more often? Relatively random examples include:

    blaxploitation
    ninjas
    spaghetti westerns
    women in prison
    Hong Kong vampires (or jiangshi)

    and there are many others. Thank you and good night.

       2 likes

  15. Johnny’s nonchalance: Ahhh, you’re Maltese!
    Now I get it

    Well, guess the old joke was right, we do know how to make a Maltese cross… ;)

       0 likes

  16. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Terry the Sensitive Knight:
    HAIL QUEEN DILBERT’S BOSS

    Who’s Queen Dilbert?
    ;-)

       1 likes

  17. eegah says:

    Ray Dunakin:
    It took me several viewings to warm up to this one, mainly because the movie is dull and the dialogue a bit hard to follow. But now I love it! The riffing is great, and the host segments are pretty good too. I really enjoyed the “three card monty” bit, and the “alas poor who?” sketch.

    I agree. I hated this one when it first aired, but I’ve liked it more with each viewing. I’d put it in the “above average” category.

       0 likes

  18. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Wait a minute, no griping about so many characters having non-Danish names? Am I in the correct forum?
    ;-)

       1 likes

  19. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Finnias ‘Critter’ Jones:
    The MSTies do protest too much, methinks.

    Yeah, that’s kind of a thing we do around here. No points for noticing.
    ;-)

    thedumpster:
    “Hamlet” is better than “Santa Claus”, “Zombie Nightmare” and “Racket Girls” by far. For these three the riffing was flat

    But in all three cases at least one-third of the riffing was performed by (and who knows much of the total script co-written by) Trace Beaulieu. Which, as I’ve already remarked on what I know is an annoyingly large number of occasions, makes a big difference to me. ;-)

    Wilford B. Wolf:
    I’ll even play “The Starfighters” before I’ll pull out Hamlet.

    Well, at least Starfighters has more music. Not necessarily better music, just more of it.

    HamletFan:
    I like this episode. Mike introduces the film as “drab and dreary.”

    Technically…no. Pearl introduced it as “dark [and] dreary.”

       1 likes

  20. Kenneth Morgan:
    ….It’s not my favorite version of “Hamlet”, though.That’d be a tie between the Gilligan and the Schwarzeneggar versions.

    I still sing along with “Carmen.” “I ask to be, or not to be …”

       3 likes

  21. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Creeping Terror:
    The Germans always have identified with the Bard–even to the point of Hitler claiming that Shakespeare was really a German(!).

    At least minimally related bit of trivia from IMDB:

    “Much to Fritz Lang’s dismay, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels were big fans of [Metropolis (1927)]. Goebbels met with Lang and told him that he could be made an honorary Aryan despite his Jewish background. Goebbels told him “Mr. Lang, we decide who is Jewish and who is not.” Lang left for Paris that very night.”

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0017136/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2

    This Guy:
    Of course, Hitler’s claim was completely preposterous–everyone knows that Shakespeare was really a Klingon.

    Bemusing fact: The guy who invented the Klingon language, Marc Okrand, deliberately decided that the Klingon language contained no equivalent to the English verb form “to be” to make it more “alien.” Then along came Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and what was one of the first phrases that needed a translation into Klingon…?
    ;-)

    The Toblerone Effect:
    Before anyone gets on my case, I just want to say that I’m not trying to ruffle any feathers here.

    Well, that’s the beauty of it, you don’t need to try. Everyone’s feathers are already ruffled.

    cue the chicken-chorus version of “In the Mood”

    ;-)

    swh1939:
    >How’s lesbianism going?

    I can imagine this becoming how lesbian MSTies greet each other but I have no idea if it in fact did…

    Rich:
    I just realized that another problem with Hamlet is the sheer density of the dialog. I had to pay attention to have any idea what was going on.

    Well, that itself is hardly unheard of in a MST3K film. And AFAIK this is the only MSTed film for which one can find Cliff Notes for the plot.
    ;-)

       1 likes

  22. docskippy:
    Regarding the “who wrote Shakespeare?” controversy, treating it as though it has two sides of equal merit is GROSSLY misrepresenting the strength of the anti-Stratfordian position. The reality is that there is not one scintilla of convincing evidence to suggest anyone other than William Shakespeare wrote the plays that bear his name. You can dismiss this so-called controversy with a simple application of Occam’s razor.

    It’s generally the same crowd as moon hoaxers, 9/11 truthers, the mafia/the CIA/Russians/Cubans/Lyndon Johnson/tramps/The Dallas Police Department/you name it killed Kennedy. The actual truth is so mundane and obvious that it takes a Very Special Genius to perceive that what all the Sheeple think is the truth is actually the opposite of the truth, and understanding (and endlessly proselytizing) that fact is what marks one as a Very Special Genius.

    (I think it was all of them put together. How else would it be possible for the conspiracy to remain a secret unless everyone was involved? There has never been a book written about this theory, which proves that it’s true, because it’s the one conspiracy theory They really don’t want to get out.)

    Wait a minute, someone is knocking at my door, I’ll finish when I get back.

       3 likes

  23. Cornjob says:

    Hamlet is the sort of fellow that would drive off a cliff because he couldn’t decide whether turning left or right was a better choice. As much as I hate to dis a fellow suicidal melancholic, Hamlet is one of the lamest archetypal heroes in literature. Samson might have been an idiot, but at least he could act when the time came. Hamlet is perhaps the world’s greatest inaction hero.

    BTW: in an early draft there was a brief scene in which Hamlet was charged with Polonius assault.

       2 likes

  24. Yeah, part of what makes this hard to watch is that Hamlet is just so darn unlikeable as a character.

       0 likes

  25. Sitting Duck says:

    Endoplasmic Reticulum: It’s generally the same crowd as moon hoaxers, 9/11 truthers, the mafia/the CIA/Russians/Cubans/Lyndon Johnson/tramps/The Dallas Police Department/you name it killed Kennedy.

    You forgot Jackie.

    Jeremy Zharkov:
    Yeah, part of what makes this hard to watch is that Hamlet is just so darn unlikeable as a character.

    That trait makes it fit in with a whole bunch of other MST3K films.

       0 likes

  26. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Viewers who want a clearer idea of what “happens” in Hamlet (and Macbeth, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, et cetera) may want to consult “Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare,” by Dr. Isaac Asimov, available by Interlibrary Loan and, obviously, other sources.

    There’s an “Asimov’s Guide to the Bible,” too, clarifying what actually “happens” in the Bible, but that’s literally another story.

       1 likes

  27. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Cornjob:
    Hamlet is the sort of fellow that would drive off a cliff because he couldn’t decide whether turning left or right was a better choice. As much as I hate to dis a fellow suicidal melancholic, Hamlet is one of the lamest archetypal heroes in literature. Samson might have been an idiot, but at least he could act when the time came. Hamlet is perhaps the world’s greatest inaction hero.

    Hamlet’s seeming inaction is because he doesn’t JUST want to kill Claudius, he wants to kill Claudius and GET AWAY WITH IT so he can also become king.

    Ordinarily, in the case of a king’s death, the prince becomes king. However, Hamlet was away at school when Claudius killed Hamlet’s father. But Claudius married Hamlet’s mother Queen Gertrude and thus CLAUDIUS became king instead. Hamlet can’t kill Claudius on nothing but the word of a ghost, he needs to be able to point to a reason for doing it.

    Claudius’s motivation is pretty much the same. He wants to kill Hamlet but he ALSO wants to get away with it. Each is waiting for the other to give him an excuse, for neither may live while the other survives.

    That’s why Hamlet pretends to be insane, because during that era, it was considered taboo to kill insane people, who were thought to have been touched by the gods.

    Hamlet arranges the play so the actors will re-enact Claudius’s crime of killing Hamlet’s father. That’s why “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” Being confronted by his own crime, Claudius is overwhelmed with guilt and he rushes off to pray for forgiveness.

    That was the whole point of arranging the play, it was a calculated effort to make Claudius demonstrate guilt (which everyone else at the play saw him do) that would (by the standards of the times) justify Hamlet killing Claudius in what would seem to be a moment of unfettered rage, as if Hamlet himself had only just then caught on that Claudius had murdered his father.

    That was Hamlet’s plan, and it worked PERFECTLY.

    But Hamlet refused to kill Claudius while he was at prayer because he felt that would mean sending Claudius to Heaven. He had the chance to achieve everything he wanted…and he threw it away. Because by thinking past Claudius’s death, to Claudiu’s theoretical afterlife, he gave the situation TOO much thought.

    You’d know all this if you’d read “Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare.” ;-)

       2 likes

  28. touches no one’s life, then leaves: Ordinarily, in the case of a king’s death, the prince becomes king. However, Hamlet was away at school when Claudius killed Hamlet’s father. But Claudius married Hamlet’s mother Queen Gertrude and thus CLAUDIUS became king instead. Hamlet can’t kill Claudius on nothing but the word of a ghost, he needs to be able to point to a reason for doing it.

    Claudius’s motivation is pretty much the same. He wants to kill Hamlet but he ALSO wants to get away with it. Each is waiting for the other to give him an excuse, for neither may live while the other survives.

    That’s why Hamlet pretends to be insane, because during that era, it was considered taboo to kill insane people, who were thought to have been touched by the gods.

    Hamlet arranges the play so the actors will re-enact Claudius’s crime of killing Hamlet’s father. That’s why “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” Being confronted by his own crime, Claudius is overwhelmed with guilt and he rushes off to pray for forgiveness.

    That was the whole point of arranging the play, it was a calculated effort to make Claudius demonstrate guilt (which everyone else at the play saw him do) that would (by the standards of the times) justify Hamlet killing Claudius in what would seem to be a moment of unfettered rage, as if Hamlet himself had only just then caught on that Claudius had murdered his father.

    That was Hamlet’s plan, and it worked PERFECTLY.

    Until, of course, it all went haywire with the poison-sword thing, and bodies littered the floor at the end–Hence Shakespeare’s larger moral point that Revenge Digs (at least) Two Graves.
    The old philosophical Digger-Smolken character with Yorick’s skull is going to be pretty busy once Fortinbras arrives to clean up. (As he does in the complete play’s ending).

    You’d know all this if you’d read “Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare.” ;-)

    Or if you watched the seriously-pretty-darn-good Mel Gibson version. From Franco Zefirelli, the 60’s-Shakespeare director who was kicking Kenneth Branagh’s hinder when he was still in short pants, and was STILL kicking Kenny’s twenty years later where Hamlet was concerned: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOGjVUa_iIE

    If you’re going to have a (seemingly) Mad Hamlet, it helps to have a real-life barking-looney actor who can play from the benefit of experience.

       1 likes

  29. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    And now, something else entirely:

    The knowledge that Goosio is evidently not a genuine Maltese children’s character (in hindsight I’m not sure if they specified that he was supposed to be a TV character; he could just as easily have supposed to have been from a series of children’s books), that he was in effect created just for MST3K, has made his apparent death at the Bots’ hands more troubling to me (always keeping in mind that’s all just fiction, of course, and it’s hardly as if other correspondents haven’t fixated on MST3K “plot points” of their own).

    I recognized the distinction in this episode’s “killing” of Fortinbras, because Fortinbras was of course NOT created just for MST3K; he was created by William Shakespeare over 400 years ago and MST3K’s version is just one of many interpretations that have been developed by other writers over the centuries. He does not “exist” solely in the MST3K fictional universe (in fact, he stars in a play of his own: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortinbras_(play) ) and is thus as immortal as (random examples) Dracula, Allan Quatermain, Tom Swift, James Bond, and any other pre-existing fictional character…including Nuveena, Torgo, Pitch the Devil (“That’s a Devil.”), Ortega, Jan in the Pan, and so on.

    However, if Goosio has no fictional universe of his own (whether on TV, in books, or elsewhere), if he “exists” nowhere except within the MST3K universe, that means that “killing” him is no different than killing Mikey the Mike Sprite, The Little Amish Boy, or any other character created just for MST3K, meaning that if he “dies” within the MST3K universe, he is indeed really most sincerely “dead.” :-|

    Unless he revived and flew back to Earth, of course, as I theorized in the discussion of the previous episode.

    Incidentally, I’m pretty sure that no characters were killed on the show during the Comedy Central years (except for Frank, of course). IMHO Crow and Tom tended to be much more cheerful and kindly characters back then. They weren’t perfect of course. I’m not saying that they were.

    Joel would probably have developed an entire history of Goosio to entertain or at least bemuse us.

       2 likes

  30. docskippy says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves:
    Viewers who want a clearer idea of what “happens” in Hamlet (and Macbeth, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, et cetera) may want to consult “Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare,” by Dr. Isaac Asimov, available by Interlibrary Loan and, obviously, other sources.

    There’s an “Asimov’s Guide to the Bible,” too, clarifying what actually “happens” in the Bible, but that’s literally another story.

    Or they might want to read the plays. Or see them performed. Or both.

       1 likes

  31. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    docskippy: Or they might want to read the plays. Or see them performed. Or both.

    Yes, but if all one wants is a summary of events, consulting “Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare” would be far less time-consuming.

    That seemed so…mind-numbingly obvious to me…

       2 likes

  32. Jason says:

    “Now Hamlet, about your report card…”

    While not as bad as its reputation, the overwhelming dullness of this particular production does kind of defeat the gang here. I do like that they were willing to try something off-brand despite (or maybe because of) being at the end of the line. I do always crack up at Crow’s reaction to the dramatic build-up to Hamlet attacking Claudius that ends with a whimper.

       0 likes

  33. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Endoplasmic Reticulum: I still sing along with “Carmen.”“I ask to be, or not to be …”

    Wait a minute, that’s not “Carmen,” that’s from the Hamlet A-Go-Go episode of “Gilligan’s Island.” Or both, I suppose.

       1 likes

  34. Tim Delaney says:

    I feel it should be noted that Karl Michael Vogler, who played Horatio in this version, was also in “Patton.” Where he played Rommel. I think that name came up a few times in “The Sidehackers.”

       0 likes

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