Let the Devil Wear Black (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

 ... or, as I like to call it "Lisa Boyle's Hamlet"


Well, it's a modern day retelling of Hamlet, featuring Lisa Boyle. Does she play Ophelia? No, that's Mary-Louise Parker. Boyle plays a stripper named Bobo, and I must say it is good to see the character of Bobo the Stripper restored to the script. Most interpretations of Hamlet, saddled with a running time of more than four hours, have eliminated the scene in the nude bar, and it has always been one of my favorite parts of the play. Call me lowbrow, but I love it when Shakespeare played to the groundlings. Here's part of the original scene:

Hamlet and his college chum, Fellatio, visit Ye Hen and Rooster 

Hamlet: (in fervent hope of lap dances, waving over two wenches)

Ah, that this too, too curvéd flesh should flash.

Flesh, flash. Mere words, Fellatio. Now open thee thy lap,

That these sweet hips should brush against thy fly,

And bid thy manhood sing with liquid breath



Done, lord. Now dost thou, perchance, have any singles?


Hamlet: (upon receiving a lap dance)

Begone, damned flirtation with "not to be".

Wake from vacillation, and cry "to be".

Yes, to be, to be, oh yes, yes, to be

To tell you the truth, this film is not a complete failure, although it had the potential to be.

It does not purport to gussy up Shakespeare's characters in modern dress, but rather attempts to show what Hamlet might be like if it were written today. That's a worthwhile activity, if a mite too ambitious for the talent on hand here. After all, there must be a good reason why this play has endured so many years, and that must be something beyond the thoughtful poetry of Shakey's words. There is a true film noir sense to Hamlet that can't be conveyed to modern audiences with Elizabethan blank verse.  


Lisa Boyle is seen topless as a stripper, in two scenes, one of them prolonged

Mary-Louise Parker is seen topless while she talks on the phone.

The melancholy Dane is filled with a truly modern level of angst. His dad was bumped off, and now the murderer is humping his mom while grabbing for assets which Hamlet himself would have expected to inherit upon his father's passing. It seems that everyone is against him. His own girlfriend, his dad's former advisor, his old college chums. It seems to him that everyone is on his uncle's payroll. He doesn't know who he can trust, and has to sort everything out before he can take any action. I think this film manages to capture his anguish and his deliberation without turning him into a wimp, a fop, or a nerd, as previous versions have done.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Full screen version only

  • The US and international trailers

Unfortunately, the film ended up 100% atmosphere and 0% logic. It has a hip look and score, and a murky noir ambiance, but it's filled with characters who have inexplicable motivations, and the plot is filled with things that just don't seem to make sense, and aren't explained. Does Hamlet now own half of the business and his Uncle the other half? His mother said that she made the uncle executor of her half, but ..... ???? What kind of deal did Hamlet strike with the Mexican mob on his deathbed? Surely that handshake was going to end up meaningless in court? Or will Hamlet live through this one? How in the world could the hired assassin kill Hamlet's mom instead of Hamlet just because he wore a grey suit instead of his usual black, while his mom wore a black dress? You mean the guy would have killed anyone wearing black? Anyone from Danny DeVito to Helen Hayes to Macaulay Culkin to the Olson Twins?

I think this might have been an excellent movie with just a little more work on the script. I found myself liking it occasionally, sometimes even liking it a lot. Alas, however, it is a jumbled mess. Stylish, sexy, often intelligent, but jumbled nonetheless. 

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it a weak 5.6
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Interesting attempt, but not quite there.

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