Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead: 25th Anniversary (Blu-ray Review)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are DeadWinner of the prestigious Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion Award (Best Picture), Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead is based on Tom Stoppard’s award-winning play. It’s the inventive tale of Hamlet as told from the viewpoint of two of the work’s supporting, but certainly more outrageous, characters. In this cleverly inspired version, however, the Shakespearean equivalents of Laurel and Hardy get a chance to take the lead roles in a dazzling setting where illusion and reality overlap! Critically acclaimed and featuring witty performances by Richard Dreyfuss, Tim Roth and Gray Oldman, this brilliant motion picture delivers exceptional one-of-a-kind entertainment! 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


It’s been 25 years since Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead hit cinemas – winning the coveted price of Golden Lion in Venice – upstaging Goodfellas, which was the favorite to win. Tom Stoppard’s irreverent play-turned-film about a couple of minor supporting characters in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet has hit the Blu-ray format in a “25th Anniversary Edition.”

Rosencrantz (Gary Oldman) and Guildenstern (Tim Roth) are minor characters in Hamlet but this film version is about them living and interacting through the events of Hamlet from their respective points of view. As they travel to Elsinore contemplating life and its complexities and a weird coin that Rosencrantz has found on their way that always seems to fall on heads. Yes, the lads sense that life and their world isn’t what it’s really cracked up to be.

As they travel onward they come across a troupe of tragedians. The tragedians are led by “The Lead Player” (Richard Dreyfuss) and before they know it are transported to the castle and meet up with Hamlet himself as he is on the verge of madness. Since they’ve just been thrown into this complicated mix of events – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have to figure out what is going on with the Prince and what they’re to do.

This, of course, will lead to many instances of hijinks, with sprinkles of irony, deceit, and dry humor. I remember the title of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead growing up and during high school but never watched the film until I got the Blu-ray for review. That’s a roughly 20+-year timespan. I was aware that Dracula and Mr. Orange were in the film but back then I was not a fan of Shakespeare or his works. I didn’t care enough. Now, as an adult, I can appreciate the man’s works.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is based on writer-director Tom Stoppard’s play of the same name that was written and performed back in the mid-1960’s. Tom Stoppard took the reigns and decided to adapt the play into a film and remains his only directed feature.

The film is great. It is hilarious watching Rosencrantz and Guildenstern navigate through what will become the seedy underbelly of Elsinore. The fact they’re almost clumsily childlike adds to the hilarity, because they’re nice chaps in way over their heads or even dropped into events that are not fully in their control. One of the funniest gags is that of the coin that always lands on heads. The neat thing is that the film plays as a play within a play within a play, etc. – if that makes sense. It’s almost a meta-Matrix, if you will, 10 years before the fact. Our leads know something is wrong and can’t figure out what it is let alone fixing whatever problems they face.

The overall production is minimal as the production design used a lot of natural settings and environments and whatnot. Roth and Oldman embody their characters and you will be part of their troupe when you reach the end. Of course, if you’re familiar with Hamlet then you already know tragedy awaits. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is recommended.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead is presented in glorious 1080p. Contrast and sharpness levels are natural – there are scenes where the image softens up a bit. It’s nothing distracting but it ‘s there. Edge enhancement is also present – I’m thinking that this version was taken from an old transfer but cannot confirm it, because this Blu-ray version is my first introduction to the film – it’s my only point of reference.

Depth: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead was shot in 35mm – and there’s a nice grain structure to the film. Yes, it was eons before the introduction of digital but the Blu-ray captures it wonderfully.

Black Levels: Black levels crush slightly but it’s not a big deal on that front.

Color Reproduction: The color palette is quite muted and rather cold. The cinematography and production tint has an almost sepia toned quality to it, which is great.

Flesh Tones: Everyone looks nice and grungy unless you’re one of the wealthy aristocrats running about.

Noise/Artifacts: There are instances of debris and scratches but it’s not too distracting considering the source.

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Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead is given a DTS stereo track and it’s a nice and hefty one. Even for a film that has lots going on I never felt that anything was missing due to the limited sound field. Dialogue, action, etc., are all mixed well enough through the front channels that it never feels cluttered or canned.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue levels are terrific and I had no trouble understanding what was being said by our actors.


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They didn’t load up the Blu-ray wit newer special features, which sucks, because it’s a 25th Anniversary edition and all but what they did load it up with is worthy of purchase of alone. There’s a brand new 55-minute interview with writer-director Tom Stoppard that is pretty darn cool. He talks about the play, the film, and various other topics of great interest. He talks about Star Wars and Indiana Jones and his involvement in those pictures. He’s got a great sense of humor and is witty beyond belief. The rest of the special features include lengthy interviews (from a previously published edition) from Stoppard, Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, and Richard Dreyfuss. The new Tom Stoppard interview is presented in HD but the older interviews are presented in SD.

  • 25th Anniversary Interview with Tom Stoppard (HD)
  • Interview with Tom Stoppard (SD)
  • Interview with Gary Oldman (SD)
  • Interview with Tim Roth (SD)
  • Interview with Richard Dreyfuss (SD)


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead


Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead breezes on by on Blu-ray. Our two leads are charming and the film is quite entertaining, as well. The Blu-ray edition is the best that we’ve got at the moment made better by the new interview with writer-director Tom Stoppard. The price is right and highly recommend!



Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead: 

25th Anniversary is now available on Blu-ray!


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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