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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
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 (350 votes, average: 3.39 out of 5)


• 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.”
• 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.”

239 comments to Episode guide: 1009- Hamlet

  • 201
    touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    IMHO a Ricardo Montalban appearance without at least two “Fantasy Island” riffs might as well not be a Ricardo Montalban appearance at all.

    “Lesbian clown”? That part somehow eluded me.


  • 202
    David J says:

    This episode reminds me of watching a RiffTrax of a popular movie. You end up waiting for certain famous lines with anticipation, wondering what the joke will be.


  • 203
    Kenneth Morgan says:

    Not my favorite episode, but I think it’s OK.


  • 204
    Rachel says:

    I like Hamlet. There, I said it; I’d say it again if I had to.


  • 205
    snowdog says:

    I’ve defended this ep in the past, but re-watching it last night, I couldn’t wait for it to end. They could have at least hired some teenagers to paint a backdrop or two. Nope! Black. Everything must suck in as much of the light as possible. It was like watching Red Zone Cuba:

    “‘Tis a pity, say I, that didst this Griffin run every furlong to Hades, with naught but tupence and a broken cigarette!”

    Btw, is it wrong that MST3K is my only real exposure to Hamlet?


  • 206
    Rich says:

    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. I’m not used to working that hard for my entertainment. Add that to the other problems (well-explained by others) and I find this one to be a chore.


  • 207
    Darkknight says:

    This one is very, very painful to watch. I recently finished watching every episode in order and I was dreading having to watch this one. Many episodes I’ve watched several times. This one I’ve seen twice and that’s more than enough.


  • 208
    Bruce Boxliker says:

    Long blame the King!

    I love this episode! Hilarious all the way through. I can’t understand the hate for it, but too each their own, I suppose. Though, how can anyone think any episode is worse or more boring than Hellcats? I literally cannot watch that episode. It’s not just the awful movie, but the riffs are really lacking, too. I know there’s a reason for that, so I forgive them. I still won’t watch that episode again (maybe if I ever do another full in-order run of the series).

    Also, someone snuck us a Banner-Gram!

    @96 Jake Sisco –
    The actor playing Horatio was Karl Michael Vogler, who played Rommel in Patton. After all of the “you magnificent bastard, I read your book!” riffs (and variations thereof) they did over the years, I was surprised they didn’t pick up on that.

    I didn’t know that! My granduncle is George S. Patton, so I’ve always loved the Patton references.

    We’ll be seeking volunteers to rule Denmark now!


  • 209
    Sitting Duck says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves #201: #203:
    “Lesbian clown”? That part somehow eluded me.

    We have a time traveller in out midst! Actually it’s probably just that Sampo deleted some spammers after that was posted. But now back to our regularly scheduled response. I was referring to the bit where Hamlet is talking to the clowns, and there’s this one who looks like a woman with a stereotypical lesbian hairdo which gets remarked on by the riffers.


  • 210
    sol-survivor says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, given a choice of watching Hamlet or The Final Sacrifice, Hamlet will win every time.


  • 211
    JC says:

    My favorite episodes are the ones where they make something out of nothing, like The Starfighters or Manos or anything by Coleman Francis. This episode doesn’t approach that level of greatness, but it holds its own for the same basic reason. The movie is a dreary, Kafka-esque black hole that sucks all hope and joy out of the universe, so it’s that much more remarkable that there are so many great lines. The host segments are of the “quaint” variety, but Crow’s exasperated “DON’T YOUR RELATIVES EVER DIE?!” is a classic line. Disappointed that they couldn’t do more with the “To Be or Not to Be” speech, and I think they leaned a bit too much on the “bluer” comments Sci-fi was letting them get away with at this point… but I laughed and was entertained, and I didn’t ask for a whole lot more.

    “Halt! Unstaple yourself!”
    “Night fever, night fever/We know how to do it…”
    “Meet the Beatles.”
    “Please pray for me while I shower.”
    “I stuck a fork in the outlet.”
    “Her card tricks aren’t really impressive with sleeves like that.”
    “Oh hi, Cold Water on the Groin. I mean, Polonius.”
    “My head-cake almost fell off!”
    “It’s a herd of Hamlets!”
    “Now… the king peels off his skin and becomes a dinosaur from Mars!! Oh, guess not.”


  • 212
    JC says:

    Also, what’s the deal with the Brains apparently LOVING this episode? It was shown approximately every other week toward the end of MST3K’s run on Scifi, it was one of the first Scifi episodes to be released on home video, it was in the first DVD set of Scifi episodes released by Rhino, and it’s one of the episodes Retro TV got ahold of. I assume the movie is public domain; very weird that the producers wouldn’t want to hang onto the rights to a Maximilian Schell performance.


  • 213
    thequietman says:

    I’ll always consider it a missed opportunity, but I remember when this episode came up for the final time during the reruns on Sci-Fi I was in high school and our English class was studying Hamlet. The thought crossed my mind of taping this and bringing it in to show ‘the lighter side of Shakespeare’ or something. But for whatever reason I didn’t tape it. I think the episode’s release on DVD by Rhino around that same time was a factor, perhaps I thought I could get a better copy. However, I still wonder what my teacher and classmates would have made of it!


  • 214
    GROGNARD says:

    I remember when I heard mst3k was going to do this I figured it couldn’t be that bad….. Then i actually saw it. Wow! Bad set design, bad lighting. But then I heard a voice that said “Moe, Larry and Horatio” and everything was right with the world.


  • 215
    GROGNARD says:

    Mr. Volger was also in “The Blue Max” w/ George Peppard.


  • 216
    pondoscp says:

    It’s all about the Montalban and the Banner, folks. This episode is best served being watched with a group, it helps keep the energy up. I really warmed up to this one on my recent viewing. I do think it’s hilarious that this episode is part of the new syndicated package.

    All in all, it’s really not that bad of an episode. Find an element to latch onto, and go with it. It’s fun, starchy, pork-filled Hamlet!

    And wasn’t one of the final Monty Python episodes “Hamlet”? There you go.


  • 217

    As much as I still consider this to be a kind of boring episode, I find it to be better than some other experiments (Corpse Vanishes, Ring of Terror, Castle of Fu Manchu, WWW of Batwoman) and not even the worst thing they did during the Sci-Fi years (I like Hamlet better than, say, Leech Woman or Thing that Couldn’t Die). Over the years my appreciation of Hamlet has lifted up from a “don’t like it” to the level of a “it has its moments.”

    Hamlet isn’t regular rotation material for me, but watching it every four years or so seems to do the trick.

    The movie is drab and dreary, sure, but no more so than about a dozen other MST episodes. What gets me though is how WORDY the movie is (which Mike and the Bots riff on a bit) and how that creates gaps between some of the riffing, slowing down their usual speed. Up at my post #131, I mention it’s comparable to KTMA, but that’s a bit of hyperbole. It does seem, however, that Mike and the Bots are “watching” the movie a bit more than other Sci-Fi entries, which drags an already draggy movie.

    -Update on my shopping list from four years ago (also post #131): I got my license plates and my brakes fixed, but now I need fluids and hoses replaced, spark plugs too (probably some other things). I decided to not go to grad school (’cause it’s stupid), I paid all my bills (and still do regularly), got a new record player two Christmases ago, and I got that new pair of shoes, although now it is time for another new pair.

    back to HAMLET.

    The Host Segments are okay: the ghost of Mike’s dad in HS#1 is slightly amusing, the percussion Hamlet in HS#2 is “meh,” and HS#3 with the game “Alas Poor, WHO?” is clever fun, but the skit goes on too long. I like the shout-outs to Biz Markie and Nancy Allen (I saw Nancy Allen at a screening of Carrie a few weeks ago; she still looks GREAT!). The “find the lady” bit of distraction in the Opening Segment is good too (“go ahead on”) and Kevin popping in as whatshisname in the Closing Segment is also funny.


    Crow: “Time for starchy, pork-filled, German Hamlet.”

    Crow: “Ladies and gentlemen, Patti LaBelle!”

    Hamlet head nod,
    Mike: “Hey, how’s it goin’, Debbie?”

    Mike: “Hey, c’mon, man, we’ve seen, like, eight ghosts, none of them have been close to my dad.”

    Mike: “Trick or treat for nipples.”

    Crow: “Dad, Hamlet’s looking at me.”

    Crow: “He’s like an Oliver Reed stand-in.”

    Mike: “Run DM-C. Everett Koop.”

    movie: “if Hamlet hits…”
    Servo: “We’ll do a sequel.”

    Servo: “I am so baked.”

    Crow: “Is there a word in the English language he hasn’t said?”

    Now with 50% more Danish Clowns.

    This is my least favorite episode of Season 10,
    but not my least favorite episode ever.
    It’s middle of the road, sure, but still,
    I find myself giving it
    3 out of 5 poor Yoricks.
    Skeleton Skeleton Skeleton


  • 218
    bobhoncho says:

    I kind of have a problem with the “Moe, Larry and Horatio” riff in this movie. Bernardo looks more like Curly to me, and it’s Horatio who looks like Moe. So, the riff really should be “Moe, Francisco and Curly.”

    Sorry to nitpick. I’m done.


  • 219
    goalieboy82 says:

    now is the winter of our discontent
    oh damn wrong play (and movie, which by the way i rented from netflix and will be here tomorrow).


  • 220
    Depressing Aunt says:

    #209 So, this is a reference to when prepubescent boys played the female parts back in Shakespeare’s day, right? This “lesbian clown” is just such an actor, only for this production, they cast a woman. She looks and sounds exactly like a woman, but we’re supposed to buy that Hamlet thinks she’s a boy!

    Well, I doubt I have anything original to say about this episode. I do kind of like the way Mike and the bots play Hamlet as a bratty teenager. I guess if the word “emo” had been around back then, it would certainly have been put to good use here. But really, it’s not a very involving episode, it just kind of washes over me. I think their hearts were in the right place to try riffing Shakespeare. I can’t imagine any of the writers predicting they’d get such an opportunity.

    Hamlet: Speak! I’ll go no further.
    Mike (as ghost): That’s not what I hear, sunshine.

    Hamlet barks something after killing Polonius
    Mike, as growly Mel Gibson movie catchphrase: Give me back my son! Grin

    I will now look over as many comments here as I can, to find out why Danish royal people, apparently, used to put pearls in cups and make toasts with them. I do NOT remember learning the reason why in college or high school, sadly.


  • 221
    Depressing Aunt says:

    I forgot to mention this important fact: On last viewing, I thought the actor playing Laertes looked as much like Jeremy Renner as he did Simon Le Bon.


  • 222
    swh1939 says:

    Just re-read my initial post from almost four years ago. Who knew I could write as well as that? Certainly not me, hehe.

    Thanks, everyone, for all those ‘likes’. Smile Grin Laugh Dance


  • 223
    GonzoRedux says:

    I re-watched it recently for the first time since 1999, having bad memories of it on the first run. I was happily surprised how much I liked it.

    The funny thing is, I don’t think I liked it so much as an MST fan, but as a Shakespeare fan. It’s really the one movie the Brains did (I’m guessing) where they felt the need to show a bit of reverence for the source material. Not that the comedy isn’t always plenty cerebral on MST3K, but here it largely had to be honed towards one particular subject–Shakespearean drama–and they just did a darn nice job of it. It also proved that the Brains’ nerdyness is both wide and deep.

    Definitely not a favorite episode, but I’m glad they were willing to experiment, even towards the end.


  • 224
    JPB1 says:

    My biggest problem with this one is I could barely hear the dialogue of the movie the whole time, so that caused a lot of the riffs to make no sense to me. Maybe I had a bad copy.


  • 225
    Dan in WI says:

    Say what you will about this episode but I really do enjoy the setup. Pearl has her killer virus but just can’t avoid the temptation of three card Monte. And Mike does a wonderful job of selling it. This is easily my favorite opening of the tenth season. But alas, Mike blows it and gives Pearl her choice of which Hamlet to send. Just think, if he would have insisted on a good version we would have had our first Rifftrax Challenge 10 years sooner.

    Now here’s a dumb question: Why dub this into English in the first place. There are so many versions of this who actually said “What this world needs is an English version of the German made for TV version of Hamlet including bad lip sinking and all?” I really want the answer to this one.

    I have to concur with Kevin, Alas Poor Who was pretty week.

    Favorite Riffs:
    A line of dialog is spoken. Crow “That’s from Hamlet isn’t it?”

    The great soliloquy drags on. Htom “Sum up.”

    Mike commenting on the Queen’s hair. “Hail Queen Dilbert’s boss.”

    Ophelia is losing it. Crow “She’s trying to section 8 her way out of the movie.”

    Mike as Harry Carrey sings “Take me out to the sword fight.”

    Mike sarcastically leaving the theater “Nice play Shakespeare.”


  • 226
    pondoscp says:

    This site never fails to make me laugh. All the comments of “this episode is right down there with….,” and every episode that people say is “worse” than this or as “bad” as this, I love those episodes! It just goes to show that no two MSTies tastes are the same, and apparently, most of the time, not even close!

    “I can’t sit through this one” Lightweights! Pearl and Dr.F would have easily conquered the world if you were the ones sent into space! If all it takes is Hamlet to crush your soul, the Mads would have won! You must build up a tolerance! Make those lemons into lemonade! Join in at home if the riffs aren’t doing it for you! We can’t let the Mads win! You would think that after 10 seasons of some really whacked out movies, that a seasoned MSTie would be able to take on Hamlet with no problem, just like M&TB do!

    “But it’s hurting me, the movie is hurting me!” – everyone who does not like this episode needs to go sit through Castle Of Fu Manchu and Red Zone Cuba at least 30 times and grow a thicker skin! Gypsy is counting on us! Let no movie crush your spirit! Raise your leather mug high, and let your freak flag fly, and never ever ever steal something wet, I mean, never let the Mads win! Why, I could do a Coleman Francis marathon wrapped up with Monster A Go Go and Sidehackers on the side and not budge! And I love Kitten With A Whip too! So bring on your worst, Mads, you’ll never stop me! Hahaha!

    “This movie should have been an emotional knee-capping for them, but they thrive on it, they grow more confident!”

    Now excuse me while I go have a Metaluna mixer…..


  • 227
    pondoscp says:

    This may very well be the ultimate “Graduate Level Episode”

    That, or K04. But I kid K04…


  • 228
    pondoscp says:

    Whoops, I meant K05


  • 229
    Erhardt says:

    #226 – Your’e experiencing an observation that Sampo made back in the Nineties that I immediately dubbed “Sampo’s Theorem”:

    For every MSTie who thinks a particular episode is the worst thing MST3K has ever done, there is another who believes it is their finest hour.

    Some people think that I should rename it “Sampo’s Law” because it’s been proven to be true over and over again.


  • 230
    Cornjob says:

    Am I the only one that thinks Pearl’s super virus looks a lot like Herbert West’s Re-Animation fluid?

    As a melancholic disposed towards excessive rumination and concern for unforeseen consequences I can relate to indecision, but I like to think that I can recognize when a decision, even if it’s not the best one, needs to made. Not so our hero this week. Hamlet is certainly no action hero. Even I was wanting to yell at him, “For Crying Out Loud Stop Monologue-ing and DO SOMETHING!!! Kill the King! Kill yourself! Ask your Mom out! Take up Salsa Dancing! Or say screw it and move to Minnesota! Just do something!!!!! Jeez. Oh wait, never mind, everyone’s dead, including you. Good one” I’d hate to go to dinner with Hamlet, he’d never be ready to order. And when he was he’d get an order of poison for both of us.


  • 231
    Duane Zykov says:

    This episode is damn enjoyable. Yeah, there’s a lot of dead space, but that just makes the riffs that hit that much funnier. I do admit the movie is pretty bleak, and the constant audio crackling hurts my ears after a bit.

    One thing I noted on this viewing is that the theater segment after host segment 1 is shorter than usual – it’s only around 13 minutes. Wonder why.


  • 232
    BIG61AL says:

    Hamlet… you either love it or hate it…Is this episode unwatchable? The answer is no but this is a really hard movie to choke down. It’s not their best effort but they tried and that’s good enough.


  • 233
    Creeping-Death says:

    It’s not a favorite, but I didn’t think it was a terrible episode and not worthy of the hate it gets, I’d classify it as “Average”.

    Favorite lines:

    Mike(as Hamlet): How about some spiral cut Hamlet?

    Servo(as Ophelia): This was supposed to be a duck.

    Servo(as Hamlet): Ugh. I stuck a fork in the outlet.

    Mike (as Hamlet): Oh, man. Me and Horatio got blasted on aquavit — woke up on the express bus to Copenhagen.

    Riffs that make you want to slap them:
    Ophelia: My prince…
    Servo (as Ophelia): … are back from Fotomat.


  • 234
    Sitting Duck says:

    Several years back, there was an article in Smithsonian on the whole Who Wrote Shakespeare debate. It was overall very evenhanded in presenting the arguments of both sides. However, it gets noted that the evidence supporting de Vere as the true author is, to put it kindly, purely speculative. I’m not so kind, so I call it wishful thinking. I also like how one scholar points out that the material that can definitely be attributed to de Vere ranges in quality from mediocre to Gawdawful.


  • 235
    pondoscp says:

    I’d say I’m more on board with @233, Hamlet is average


  • 236
    thequietman says:

    I sat down and watched this episode tonight. I too have found it really slow in stretches (particularly the graveyard scene), but then again I’ve never struggled to stay awake and this time around it didn’t actually feel overly long at all. Maybe it’s because I became so familiar with this episode during the final rundown of SciFi airings yet had not watched in a long time, but I enjoyed it. It may not be “Werewolf” or “Mitchell” or even “Laserblast” but it still works.


  • 237
    Cornjob says:


    It is Sampo LAW!!


  • 238
    ready4sumfootball says:

    I wonder if how much one likes this episode is related in any way to how much one can handle Shakespeare. I get in my occasional Shakespeare moods every once in a while, so I think this can be a fun episode to watch. Plus they shortened the play down to less than half of its usual running time, so if you’re familiar enough with watching Hamlet already it actually feels relatively fast paced in comparison.


  • 239
    pondoscp says:

    I was more making a statement about willpower, not such much about liking or not liking. More along the lines of we must defeat “DEEP HURTING.”
    Because, let’s face it, J&TB/M&TB never cared much for the movies they were forced to watch, either.