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With director-adapter-star Laurence Olivier’s Freudian approach to the title character and his liberties taken with the text, this 70-year-old adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic seems startlingly contemporary. Even Desmond Dickinson’s black-and-white photography (Olivier was feuding with the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation at the time and therefore the film was shot in black and white) remains timely with its use of deep focus and tracking shots, which were influenced by German Expressionism and Citizen Kane (1941). Olivier ‘s greatest achievement was to make the two-and-a-half-hour tale of a prince out to avenge his father’s murder as exciting as any contemporary film noir. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recognized his achievement with Oscars for Best Picture, Actor (he was the first person to direct himself to an acting Oscar), Costume Design and Art Direction. It was the first British film to win Best Picture and the only Shakespeare adaptation to receive that honor. Despite later versions starring Nicol Williamson, Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh, this is still considered among the definitive screen adaptation of the play. Its influence is so far reaching that The Addams Family sitcom even modeled a character (Morticia’s sister Ophelia Frump) on Jean Simmons’ star-making performance as the prince’s doomed love. (d. Laurence Olivier, 154m, Digital)

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