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Smiley's People [1982] [DVD]

 Suitable for 15 years and over   DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
Price: £4.62 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Frequently Bought Together

Smiley's People [1982] [DVD] + Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy : Complete BBC Series [DVD] [1979] + The Spy Who Came In From The Cold [DVD] [1965]
Price For All Three: £12.21

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Product details

  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: 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: 2
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: 2 Entertain Video
  • DVD Release Date: 28 Jun 2004
  • Run Time: 349 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001Y9Z9W
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,118 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



The second of the BBC's well-regarded serialisations of John Le Carré's espionage bestsellers, Smiley's People is slightly less compulsively watchable than Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy if only because Tinker, Tailor had a much stronger plot premise (who is the mole in British Intelligence?) than Smiley's People, which takes a very long time to come into focus. Retired spymaster George Smiley (Alec Guinness) wanders around Europe and visits a succession of desperate or eccentric characters as he plays a game which finally leads to another confrontation with and a possible victory over his Moriarty-like Soviet arch-nemesis Karla (an expressive but silent Patrick Stewart).

Directed by Simon Langton and coscripted by John Hopkins and Le Carré this is a leisurely mystery. It offers a cannily generous central performance from Guinness, who never takes off his scarf and does his best to fade into the background while a succession of striking character players hold centre screen; but slowly and by sheer presence he begins to dominate the panoramic view of European treachery, deception, and disappointment. Among the terrific supporting cast are Michel Lonsdale, Mario Adorf, Vladek Sheybal, Michael Gough, Alan Rickman (a tiny, early role as a hotel clerk), Beryl Reid, Ingrid Pitt, Bernard Hepton, Michael Elphick, Rosalie Crutchley, Michael Byrne, Bill Paterson, and Maureen Lipman. Smiley's People is more interested in character than thrills, with each cameo contributing another view of the human cost of the cold war: most of the old friends Smiley seeks out react to his reappearance by saying they never wanted to see him again, and victory is only possible because Smiley discovers that his opposite number has a weakness that makes him almost sympathetic. It was originally broadcast in six hour-long episodes, and its intelligent approach works better if you watch episode-length chunks, letting one sink in before going on. --Kim Newman

Product Description

Starring: Alec Guinness, Mario Adorf, Eileen Atkins, Anthony Bate, Michael Byrne, Rosalie Crutchley, Michael Elphick, Barry Foster. Directed by: Simon Langton. The bespectacled spymaster is once more called from retirement to come to the aid of the 'Circus' - and he returns with a vengeance. The murder of an migr Soviet General who was also a British agent, sends him digging into the past on a twisted trail across Europe that moves, inexorably, towards a final showdown with his old adversary, Karla of Moscow Centre. Sir Alec Guinness, the definitive Smiley, brings John le Carre's greatest creation to life in this acclaimed dramatisation. Compulsive to the end. DVD Extras: John Le Carre & John Irvin (director of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) interview footage (approx 28 mins duration).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
203 of 205 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drama as it should be 21 Jun 2006
By S. Lindgren VINE VOICE
Flawless. And I don't say that about many things. This is what the BBC used to do so well, and quality never dates. Smiley's People, and it's illustrious predecessor remain two of the all-time great dramas. They take an exclusive place amongst the best performed pieces I have ever seen. No, I won't review the story: I don't think that's possible in a few words. Suffice to say former head of the Circus (MI6) is brought out of retirement to clean up the mess caused by the murder of a former associate, and in so doing, is pitted once again against his opposite number in (we assume) the KGB.

The acting is a masterclass. Perfection. Not one jarring note, not one slightly questionable piece, even in the most minor roles. The late Sir Alec Guiness naturally ocupies the most attention, as is right and proper, but the supporting cast were outstanding as well. I hear complaints in some quarters that the role of George Smiley was 'too easy' for Sir Alec. If this is too easy, I'd love to know what difficult is supposed to be. The role is superb, but it required an unique talent to be convincing, and it is a tribute to Guiness's mesmerising ability that he made it seem so natural. Small wonder people thought he made it look easy: he did. That doesn't mean it was though.

The direction is also a statement work. Pacing is slow, as it should be to do this complex and convoluted story justice. If you're expecting something simple, with lots of fights, guns, chases and such like, or have a 2 minute attention-span, look somewhere else. You have to be patient. If you are, you will be slowing drawn in, and it will not let go. It is beautifully shot, beautifully lit, and the audio levels (always very tricky to get right) are spot on and unobtrusive: you just take them for granted.
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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've Run out of Superlatives 19 July 2005
This has to be one of the most masterful pieces of TV drama ever created. Superbly shot, outstandingly scripted (no surprise as Le Carre himself worked on it), brilliantly paced but most of all oh-how-amazingly acted. Even the most minute, fleeting role is played with extraordinary panache - actors like Maureen Lipman, Patrick Stewart, Alan Rickman, Beryl Reid, Sian Phillips make brief but utterly luminous appearances. When this much care is taken over the small roles it is no wonder that the big parts, and the biggest part of all, Smiley himself are such towering performances. This has to be Alec Guiness's greatest performance and it says a lot about the dwindling power of TV as a medium that we have seldom seen is like since. This is a major cultural milestone and should not be missed by anyone.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This will never be equalled. 13 Nov 2006
The Cold War is over, and for those of us that lived through it, this story carries with it a sort of perverse nostalgia. Did the sun ever shine in those days? Even the Western cities of Paris, Bern/Thun and Hamburg seem to be imbued with that grey half light that we (Westerners) always imagined to form the backdrop for all those cities trapped behind the Iron Curtain. The creatures who inhabit this world are scarred with human frailty. Even Smiley has an "off button" for his human emotions when he smells his prey near at hand. It can never be equalled because the memories of those days are fading fast. Anyone who ever visited the divided Europe will testify that the continent is a differnt place now and it is Le Carre's understanding of what this unnatural atmosphere did to the human condition that provides the genius behind his work. I could not recommend it highly enough. It is a first rate history lesson on the effects of a largely forgotten war.


It would be an idea to read or watch "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" first. Although I feel "Smileys People" has more depth and is therefore more challenging and rewarding.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue for release in the 'States 2 Dec 2000
Format:VHS Tape
This series, along with "Tinker, Tailor..." was, is, and will remain the defining work in the Cold War genre. Who better to have played Smiley than Sir Alec Guiness? Who better to have scripted this tour through the dismal, melancholy world of British Intelligence, and the silent fight they waged against the Soviet Union to no applause and less appreciation than David Cornwell? Stodgy and correct; quiet and demure, Guiness' Smiley defined the real-world application of high-stakes spy work as no 007 lark ever could. The screenplay, supporting cast, cinematography and score did what I wouldn't have believed possible: top "Tinker, Tailor."
The die was cast for me as a teenager reading "The Looking Glass War," and has been solidified with these books and the splendid television movies produced since. I watched as our PBS stations aired "Smiley's People" not long after "Tinker, Tailor," and once more in syndication on local channels. I have not seen it since, and that is a great shame. A former American Cold Warrior who saw my share of the clock's chime at midnight in desolate places while watching the Soviet Navy's every move, I ask again -- I implore the holders of the series' rights -- release this (and Tinker, Tailor) in the United States, please! So many here no longer understand or care to know what those years were like, and Smiley's People can in some small way enlighten while it entertains.
Rob Davies
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