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Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003]


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Frequently Bought Together

Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] + A Perfect Spy: Complete BBC Series (3 Disc Box Set) [DVD] + The Spy Who Came In From The Cold [DVD] [1965]
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Product details

  • Actors: Tom Hollander, Toby Stephens, Rupert Penry-Jones, Samuel West, Stuart Laing
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: 2 Entertain Video
  • DVD Release Date: 2 Jun. 2003
  • Run Time: 200 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00009PBTC
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,410 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Product Description

This is the story of Blunt, Burgess, Philby and Maclean, the most notorious double agents in British history. In 1934 at Cambridge University, they establish a spy ring fuelled by youthful idealism, passionately committed to social justice and to fighting fascism. The four become embroiled in obtaining and passing on vital information, betraying their country to fight the evils of fascism. Enigma secrets and atomic details are given to Russian contacts as the careers of the four take them from Guernica to Vienna, New York and Washington - and a final, desperate flight to Moscow. During almost 20 years of counter-intelligence, despite their personal journeys, the four are bound by their beliefs and their secrets. This is a thriller spy story that begins with a profound closeness based on a passion for a cause, and then moves on to shared sacrifices, stress, strain, and eventually breakdown and betrayal.

From Amazon.co.uk

Cambridge Spies, the BBC's moody 2003 dramatisation of the most notorious debacle in the history of the British Secret Service, raises the spectre of the treachery of Philby, Burgess, MacLean and Blunt for a generation of viewers who can only imagine the shockwaves generated by their duplicity.

Inevitably the story suffers from the basically repellent quality of its raw material. Determinedly non-judgemental, it frequently stumbles along a precarious path between romantic eulogy and fact-based fable of the perils of idealism. For all the handsome casting, the characters have little charm to compensate for their deeds. Their motivations are sketched only vaguely. Even in moments of personal vulnerability, however poignant the performances, sympathy is at a premium. But it has its high points as an atmospheric soap opera: the recreation of a period that stretches from the radical aspects of 1930s university life at Cambridge to Cold War London, dipping into the Spanish Civil War and the Washington diplomatic circle en route, is vivid. The acting, too, is fine. Tom Hollander's rampantly dissolute Burgess verges constantly on parody. But Toby Stephens (Philby), Samuel West (a frosty Blunt) and Rupert Penry-Jones (an emotionally wrung-out MacLean) work wonders with Peter Moffat's insubstantial script.

On the DVD: Cambridge Spies is a handsome production with a cinematic quality enhanced by an appropriately edgy soundtrack and widescreen presentation. The main extra is the commentary shared by director Tim Fywell, producer Mark Shivas and writer Peter Moffat. It's a rather self-congratulatory affair, but includes some interesting insights: attempts to film some events in their real location met with refusal, suggesting that in some quarters, the outrage and embarrassment that Burgess, Philby and MacLean left in their wake is still very close to the surface. --Piers Ford

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

149 of 155 people found the following review helpful By F. S. L'hoir TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Feb. 2005
Format: DVD
At the risk of having my name added to the non-existent list of a 'non-existent' organization, I strongly recommend director Tim Fywell and writer Peter Moffat's "Cambridge Spies" as television drama at its finest. The portrayals are brilliant: the subtle nuances of Toby Stephens' Philby; the ambiguity of Samuel West's Blunt; the vulnerability of Rupert Penry-Jones' Maclean; and finally, the brilliance of Tom Hollander's Burgess. Hollander's portrayal of the outrageous original is so convincing that when one reads Guy Burgess' actual quoted words, one 'hears' Tom Hollander.

Moody and suspenseful, the drama dwells on a theme worthy of Sophoclean tragedy: the conflict between the obligations to oneself (friends and family) and the obligations to the State. Each of the characters, tragically flawed, reaches what seems to be the pinnacle of success, only to suffer a reversal of fortune and be cast down by outside events (here, the intrusion of the Cold War). The tragedy in Mr. Moffat's drama rests not in the fact that Philby, Blunt, Maclean and Burgess spied for the other side. These are mere plot points in an Aristotelian sense (although the repercussions on the State cannot be denied). The tragedy derives from the fact that as each man is compelled to betray his ideals, friends or family, he recognizes the enormity of that betrayal.

We can only hope that Mr. Fywell and Moffat are planning a second series (The film-makers have already hinted at Philby's affair in Moscow with Melinda Maclean.). There are at least four more absorbing episodes: Philby's relentless grilling in London by MI5, his subsequent adventures in Beirut, his defection and miserable reception in Moscow, where he, like Burgess and Maclean, had to face the even colder reality of Russian Winters and the frost-bitten remnants of his utopian dreams, and finally Blunt's secret confession, promise of immunity, and eventual unmasking in London. Then the tragedy will be complete.
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143 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Andrey Kirillov on 27 Oct. 2003
Format: VHS Tape
“Cambridge Spies” is a new drama hit from BBC. It portrays the story of the famous (or infamous) Cambridge Five: Kim Philby (Toby Stephens), Guy Burgess (Tom Hollander), Anthony Blunt (Samuel West), Donald Maclean (Rupert Penry-Jones) and John Cairncross.
The four-episode film certainly deserves your close attention thanks to the solid BBC production, good acting of the four leading actors, a thorough historical examination of relationships between the men, and a near-perfect integrity of the whole project. The film has its strong sides, as well as some minor drawbacks. It has got mixed reception from the critics, but who ever listens to critics when it comes to a gripping story narrated with the traditional excellent type of sets and cast that has never left BBC dramas recently. It is fortunate that the story was first put to the screen by BBC, rather than some Hollywood studio. The Americans would certainly make it a melodramatic epic movie, claiming that they are the sole winners of the WWII and that they were badly deceived by the British and the Soviets.
“Cambridge Spies” covers roughly the 20-year period from 1934 to 1954, from Cambridge where the four future geniuses of espionage (Philby, Blunt, Burgess and Maclean) meet, through the war in Spain, Paris shortly before invasion, London during war time, Washington DC, to the white cliffs of Dover that Burgess and Maclean see for the last time in their lives on leaving England for ever. It touches upon such pages of history as pre-war warm attitudes to Hitler among English aristocrats including the Royal Family, Enigma codes, A-bomb secrets.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By D. Haigh on 26 Nov. 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Read F. S. L'hoir's review where he states at the end "We can only hope that Mr. Fywell and Moffat are planning a second series (The film-makers have already hinted at Philby's affair in Moscow with Melinda Maclean.). There are at least four more absorbing episodes."

I couldn't agree more - I can't understand why the production stopped where it did? There was plenty of the story still to tell, leading up to Thatcher's denunciation of Blunt in the House, and indeed now with the publication of his papers in July 2009 held in secret for 25 years by agreement.

Excellent apart from that though - I also loved Hollander's performance. While reading around the subject, I am a huge fan of Le Carre, I had not realised that David Cornwall's career had been impacted by Philby and co.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By W. Rodick TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 23 Aug. 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Five stars without hesitation had it not been for my feeling that their were scenes missing. I could have sworn that the Queen spoke to her Head of Art about Titian and spoke of fakes and deceit to this key Cambridge spy but not in this DVD edition.
Compelling viewing in the light of recent events in the evolution of State control and accountability. The script is dripping with insight not always black and white. The characters have a dream-like quality to them, a vivid intensity so often lacking in humans these days. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jamboaa1 on 26 July 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This series missed me when it was first transmitted but, after watching it, I was surprised I had never heard of it. This is a very well acted programme with moments of wit, pathos and excitement. It revealed the characters who I had known about for many years but had not fully understood how they found themselves portrayed as traitors.
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