HAMLET AT ELSINORE. TV movie, BBC, 15 November 1964. Christopher Plummer, Robert Shaw, Alec Clunes, Michael Caine, June Tobin, Jo Maxwell Muller, Dyson Lovell. Based on the play by William Shakespeare. Director: Philip Saville.

HAMLET AT ELSINORE Christopher Plummer

   My annual Hamlet-fest last month had its moments, including the 1964 Hamlet at Elsinore with Christopher Plummer backed up by Robert Shaw as a shrewd, virile Claudius, Michael Caine [a year before The Ipcress File] a sardonic Horatio, and Donald Sutherland essaying a Norwegian accent as Fortinbras!

   Quite well done, with some understandable echoes of John Barrymore in Plummer’s performance: he dresses like Barrymore, adopts some Barrymore elocutions, and there are moments in his mad scenes that recall Oscar Jaffe in The 20th Century.

   There’s also a wonderful twist on the Nunnery Scene: Ophelia is not aware her dad and Claudius are spying on her and Hamlet till the scene ends. And when Polonius tells her they heard everything, Robert Shaw flashes her a smile so nasty he should have won a prize for it.

   I also read Henry Treece’s 1966 The Green Man, a retelling of the Danish legends that formed the basis of Hamlet. It recasts the part as Conan the Barbarian, and has its virtues, including vividly-evoked time and place, but overall I was disappointed.

   And you?

HAMLET AT ELSINORE Christopher Plummer