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Brimstone And Treacle [DVD] [1987]

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Product details

  • Actors: Denholm Elliott, Michael Kitchen, Patricia Lawrence, Michelle Newell, Paul Williamson
  • Directors: Barry Davis
  • Writers: Dennis Potter
  • Producers: Kenith Trodd
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: 2 Entertain Video
  • DVD Release Date: 31 May 2004
  • Run Time: 73 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001P1BA2
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 70,951 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Starring Denholm Elliot and Michael Kitchen. Dennis Potter's controversial black-morality play is a major work from his early years, challenging established concepts of good and evil. A curious youth inveigles his way into a couple's home, and turns out to be the very devil himself.

Customer Reviews

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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Budge Burgess on 21 Dec 2005
Format: DVD
Dennis Potter's 1976 contribution to the BBC's 'Play for Today' series was famously banned for eleven years. A young Michael Kitchen plays the part of a demon seeking sport in the streets of London. He inveigles himself, by trickery and manipulation, into the home of Denholm Elliot, the father of a badly disabled girl. Kitchen's obsequious interloper in places echoes Tim Curry's role in the "Rocky Horror Show", without resorting to anything camp or over-stylised.
Potter describes the play as a parable. Evil can be unctuous - it is not obviously evil, but can seem to be kindness and generosity, can seem logical, an worm its way into the hearts and minds of people. Religion, he feels, has been reduced to a sanctimonious function - too many people use religion to justify actions and beliefs which are truly evil. And this is Potter in the 1970's! Little has changed.
The play is a dissection of white, middle class values - of the whitened sepulchre image of suburbia. But the banning of the play was not because of its cynical take on religion or its gentle chiding of the middle classes. Rather, the play involves the rape of a disabled woman by the demon - it's implied rather than seen, there's nothing graphic or salacious.
The DVD offers some interesting extras: when the play was eventually shown some eleven years later, a discussion programme was aired on the subject of its banning - you get to see this, with contributions from Potter. Interestingly, by the time it was shown a film of the play (starring Sting) had already been made and released. An absorbing production, a reminder that television drama used to be risky and low budget, not slick and hyped up. Well worth watching.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Oct 2004
Format: DVD
Dennis Potters controversial play, was originally scheduled for broadcast on 6th April 1976 as part of BBC1's Play For Today. It wasn't however shown until 25th August 1987, when Michael Grade (then controller of BBC1), allowed it to be aired as part of a Dennis Potter season. This play is even darker than the film version that was made in 1982, and is essential viewing for all fans of the film. The performances are excellent, especially from that of a young Michael Kitchen who plays a more devilish Martin.
This fabulous DVD includes "DID YOU SEE?" - a discussion show broadcast after the play was first aired in 1987 which featured an interview of Dennis Potter.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Oliver Twist on 10 Feb 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is top-flight Dennis Potter - perverse, scathing, claustrophobic and trenchant. In truth, 'Brimstone and Treacle' does build quite slowly, but I can assure you that by the end all debts - to both audience and characters alike - are well and truly paid. The play is complex and brilliant, the cast are distinguished and the performances are uniformly excellent.

Other reviewers have already dealt quite effectively with the history of 'Brimstone and Treacle' and with the interesting 'Extras' which the disk contains. The interviews with Potter - although brief - are especially useful and to-the-point. I would add that 'Brimstone and Treacle' takes you back to a time when British television looked to the theatre for its template, as opposed to Hollywood cinema, and was so much the better for that. By comparison, today's slicked-up and dumbed-down television drama is revealed for precisely what it is.

For me, it was also a thrill to hear the old 'Play For Today' theme again. How I regret its loss, and how I wish it would return. There is no genuinely experimental, original and challenging British drama on television today. And that is our loss.
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