Seeing this DVD was like seeing an old friend again. Leo McKern plays Rumpole so brilliantly that one forgets Rumpole's only a figment of John Mortimer's imagination. The plots are clever and the images unforgettable down to the smallest details : Rumpole quoting Wordsworth as he walks through the leaves on his way to chambers ; "dying" in bed (from a cold) and then when he gets word from his clerk that he's got a brief, jumping out of bed to put on his battered hat, still in his pajamas ; "Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay," he exults.
In court, his 40-year-old wig perilously perched on his head, his collar slipping off, he rolls his R's as he plays to the jury and mutters if the judges attempt to thwart him; he is never inanimate, never unimpassioned.
As rigorously as he defends the rights of his often disreputable clients, he is also unbending in defense of his principles and the truth. In the process he often dismays his wife Hilda - She Who Must Be Obeyed - and his chamber mates who would prefer him to be more malleable, that he dignify chambers by giving up criminal cases and attracting a more presentable clientele,or at the least buy a new hat.
The occasions to laugh are plentiful, but the issues are serious and still current ; there are poignant moments without oversentimentality. Rumpole has the courage to face unpleasant truths, to express what most of us would be afraid to, to lose sometimes. He has the courage to carry on and an invincible spirit.
All the cast is excellent, the characters are well rounded and the writing superb. These series can be watched over and over again with delight. What's more, there is a lovely interview with the author, Sir John Mortimer, included with the episodes.