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C'mon, man. We've seen like eight ghosts, none of 'em have been even close to my dad.
  — Mike Nelson


Hamlet is the 9th episode of the tenth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the 194th episode overall. It premiered on June 27, 1999.

The Movie

Synopsis

Maximilan Schell in Hamlet

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, returns home to find that his father the King has been murdered, and that his mother has married the King's brother (the murderer). The ghost of Hamlet's father instructs him to seek revenge.

Hamlet is overcome with melancholy and seems to be insane, though this may be an act. He hesitates to kill his uncle Claudius, who discovers that Hamlet is planning revenge.

Hamlet becomes increasingly unhinged and kills Polonius, one of the king's advisers. Polonius' daughter Ophelia (Hamlet's girlfriend) becomes crazed with grief and drowns herself. Polonius' son Laertes demands revenge and Claudius arranges a duel between Laertes and Hamlet.

Hamlet, his mother, Claudius, Laertes, and several others end up dead.

Trivia

  • Claudius' English-dubbed voice was recorded by an uncredited Ricardo Montalbán.
  • The Paul Verhoeven in this film is not the controversial filmmaker Paul Verhoeven.
  • This movie originally had a runtime of 152 minutes. By contrast, Kenneth Branagh's 1996 feature film version of Hamlet (one of the few times anyone has filmed the entire, conflated text of the play without edits) runs 242 minutes. 
  • One of the most common tactics used to reduce the length of this play is to omit the character of Fortinbras, which this version does (see below).

The Episode

Host Segments

Tom introduces his new name

Prologue: Tom reveals that he's changed his last name from Servo to the identically pronounced but differently spelt Sirveaux. He also reveals he's added a h to his first name, changing it not to the expected Thom but to Htom. Crow suggests Htom hlick him.

Segment One: While Crow introduces his new name change, Pearl puts the finishing touches on her deadly virus. Fortunately Mike is able to distract Pearl with playing three card monte to decide the choice of today's movie. Easily winning the rigged game, Mike selects Hamlet, but makes the mistake of allowing Pearl to have the choice of which production of Hamlet she could send up for him.

Crow pretending to be Mike's dad

Segment Two: Crow & Tom's plan to scare Mike by pretending to be the ghost of his dead father falls apart due to the fact his dad isn't dead. Neither are any of the other relatives that the pair can name.

Segment Three: With the dreary German version covered, Tom & Crow attempt to come up with their own alternate productions of Hamlet. Their percussion version isn't much more successful than their scuba diving, buckethead, or all-furniture versions.

Fortinbras (Kevin Murphy) visits Castle Forrester

Segment Four: It's time once again to play "Alas Poor Who?", the game where players have to guess the identity of the person based on a single bone from their body. Crow loses because he guesses accurately but keeps forgetting to answer in the show's proper format.

Segment Five: The Bots have made their own Hamlet action figure, with a voice box that has a really, really long string to activate it. Meanwhile down in Castle Forrester the character Fortinbras resents being dropped from this movie's version of Hamlet and demands his scene be re-enacted, giving Pearl a worthy test subject for her virus.

Stinger: Claudius does a double take.

MST3K cast

Regular cast

Guest cast

Trivia

  • Unusual Credits: The "to be or not to be" speech plays over the ending theme.
  • This episode is divisive among fans, with many claiming that the movie is too plodding, slow, intellectual, dreary and boring to make for a good episode (thus affecting some of the riffing and host segments as well), along with the numerous cuts required to make the episode the regular duration of a MST3K episode (about 90 minutes). However, there are fans who find this episode to be enjoyable (especially when seen as a bold attempt from the crew at doing something different).
  • At the time this episode aired, all the individuals mentioned in the "Alas Poor Who?" sketch were still alive.
  • In 2016, the episode came in at #74 in the official Top 100 Episodes of MST3K poll, as voted on by donors to the Bring Back MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 campaign.

Callbacks

Obscure References

  • "San Quentin Prison presents Shakespeare."
San Quentin State Prison is a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation state prison for men, located north of San Francisco. Opened in July 1852, San Quentin (called "The Arena" by prisoners) is the oldest prison in California.
  •  "Night fever, night fever/We know how to do it!"
"Night Fever" is a 1978 song written and performed by the Bee Gees. It first appeared on the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever on RSO Records.
  • "He's memorizing Tim Allen's book."
In comedian Tim Allen's 1996 book I'm Not Really Here, he shares his observations on why things are the way they are while sharing his offbeat opinions about the meaning of life and his personal role in it. It is heavy on the topics of philosophical thinking and quantum physics.
  • "Hurray! Garrison Keillor's leaving Denmark!"
The soft-spoken and dry-witted Garrison Keillor is best known as the creator of the Minnesota Public Radio show A Prairie Home Companion, which featured monologues about the fictional Minnesota town Lake Wobegon. In 1987, Keillor moved from his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, to Copenhagen, Denmark, due to unwanted media coverage of his personal life. Two years later, however, he left Denmark to live in New York City, and in 1992 he moved back to St. Paul.
  • "Run-D.M.C. Everett Koop!"
Run-D.M.C. is regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of hip hop culture and one of the most famous hip hop acts of the 1980s. The group pioneered new school hip hop. C. Everett Koop was the Surgeon General of the United States during the Reagan administration. He had a beard similar to the character here.
  • "Rap artist, The Notorious K.I.N.G."
A play on words referring to the rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls) and to Claudius' large chains and necklaces.
  • "Woah is me..."
Tom Servo gives the "Woah" inflection similarly to actor Joey Lawrence from the 1990s NBC sitcom Blossom.
  • "And now, the tragedy of King Vitaman."
King Vitaman is a defunct brand of sweetened breakfast cereal produced by Quaker Oats from 1968–2019. The mascot was sometimes an animated king and at other times portrayed by actor George Mann.
  • "Oh, shoot, Frank Rich is out there."
Frank Rich is an American essayist who served as chief theater critic of The New York Times from 1980 to 1993, earning the nickname "Butcher of Broadway" for his supposed power over the prospects of Broadway shows.
  • "Laertes immediately bites his ear off!"
On June 28, 1997, during the Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II boxing match, Mike Tyson was disqualified in the third round after biting both of Evander Holyfield's ears, removing a chunk of the right ear in the process.
  • "Hamlet will return in Thunderball!"
A reference to the "James Bond will return in..." taglines that frequently appear during the closing credits of James Bond movies. Thunderball is the fourth Bond film, released in 1965.

Memorable Quotes

[The first scene takes place in what looks like a barred room.]
Mike: San Quentin prison presents Shakespeare.
[The members of court are performing a dance.]
Servo[singing] "Night fever, night fever/We know how to do it!"
[A disheveled Hamlet with mussed hair ominously approaches Ophelia.]
Servo [as Hamlet]: Ugh. I stuck a fork in the outlet.
. . .
[Hamlet stares intently at Ophelia, then puts a hand to his head.]
Mike [as Hamlet][in stoner voice] Oh, man. Me and Horatio got blasted on aquavit — woke up on the express bus to Copenhagen.
Crow [as Hamlet]: Stepdad, could you help me with my science fair project?
Servo [as the Ghost]: SCROOGE! Oh, wait, wrong story.
[Hamlet talks with Ophelia in her "closet".]
Ophelia: My prince…
Servo [as Ophelia]: ...are back from Fotomat.
. . .
Hamlet: I never gave you aught.
Crow [as Ophelia]: Tscha!
Ophelia: My honored prince… you know right well you did.
Servo [as Hamlet]: Right well did not!
King Claudius: I like him not...
Crow [as Claudius]: I like him. NOT!
Hamlet: To be or not to be...
Mike: The literary equivalent of "Da-da-da-dunnn!"
Hamlet: That is the question.
Crow: I'll take "to be" for 50, Alex.
Hamlet: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...
Servo: Starring Shelly Long and Bette Midler!
Hamlet: Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?
Mike: Ow, my shin's right on the edge of a stair.
Hamlet: To die: to sleep.
Crow: Yeah, that's what we're doing right now, Bub.
Hamlet: No more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to...
Mike: Okay, we need a predicate, now.
Hamlet: ...'tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd.
Crow: Especially with Ophelia, man! [snickers]
Mike: Oh, you...
Hamlet: To die, to sleep.
Servo: To SLEEP!
Mike: Whoa, that's an old chestnut.
Hamlet: To sleep...
Servo: To SLEEEEEP
Hamlet: Perchance to DREAM?
Servo: The impossible DREAM?
Hamlet: Aye, there's the rub.
Mike: I knew I had some rub left...
. . .
Hamlet: ...When he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?
Crow: Heh, he said "bare bodkin," hehe.
Hamlet: Who would fardels bear...
Mike': Ha, fardels...
. . .
Hamlet: And makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others—
Servo: SUM UP!
Hamlet: —that we know not of?
. . .
Mike: So I'm a chicken for not stabbing myself—that's all you needed to say!
[Having stabbed an intruder behind Gertrude's tapestry, Hamlet discovers it is not the King, but Polonius.]
Hamlet: Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool!
Crow [as Polonius]: Oh, right, it's my fault you killed me.
Hamlet: Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum.
Servo [as Hamlet]: Fifty thousand, maybe.
[Hamlet and Laertes prepare to fence.]
Hamlet: Give us the foils.
Servo [as Hamlet]: We shall some potatoes bake.
[King Claudius holds out a cup of poisoned wine to Hamlet.]
Claudius: Here, to thy health.
Servo [as Claudius]: ...coming to a sudden end.
[Claudius can only stare helplessly as Gertrude drinks the poison meant for Hamlet.]
Mike [as Claudius]: Oh. Great. Well, not looking forward to the Danish singles scene again...
[As the film ends, a card is shown reading "You have seen Hamlet by William Shakespeare."]
Mike: Hamlet will be back in Thunderball.

Video Release

MST3K DVD Cover (2011 single version)

  • Commercially released on DVD by Rhino Entertainment in November 2003 as part of The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Volume 4, a 4-DVD set with Space Mutiny, Girl in Gold Boots, and Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, the set went out of print in January 2010 due to Rhino no longer holding the rights to distribute MST3K.
  • The episode was released as a DVD single in 2011 by Shout! Factory.
  • The full set was re-released by Shout! in January 2017.
    • The disc in the re-released box set features a new intro by Mike Nelson. He acknowledges the slow pacing, general dreariness, and the amount of time that needed to be cut out of the film.
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