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The Barchester Chronicles [DVD] [1982]

Price: £6.40 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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The Barchester Chronicles [DVD] [1982] + Middlemarch (Repackaged) [DVD] [1994] + Wives and Daughters (Repackaged) [DVD]
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Product details

  • Actors: Nigel Hawthorne, Alan Rickman, Donald Pleasence, Janet Maw, Angela Pleasence
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: 2entertain
  • DVD Release Date: 2 Oct 2006
  • Run Time: 399 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,368 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Seven part adaptation of two Trollope novels set in the fictitious Victorian town of Barchester. Reverend Septimus Harding commands the respect of his parish, and with his son-in-law installed as the Archdeacon, intends to keep religious authority within the family. Zealous reformer John Bold comes into town to rail against Harding's ecclesiastical monopoly, creating unease amongst the reverend's hitherto devoted flock.


The first two episodes of this BBC miniseries only hint at the delights to come. A lawsuit aimed at church reform in the town of Barchester forces a decent middle-aged clergyman (Donald Pleasence) into a moral crisis and a conflict with his son-in-law, a pompous archdeacon (Nigel Hawthorne, The Madness of King George). The gracefully written and acted narrative shows glimpses of dry wit--but in episode 3, the arrival of a new bishop (Clive Swift, Keeping Up Appearances), his imperious wife (Geraldine McEwan, The Magdalene Sisters), and his devious chaplain (Alan Rickman, Truly Madly Deeply, the Harry Potter movies) launches The Barchester Chronicles into a satirical power struggle all the more mesmerizing because of the smallness of the territory. The scheming of the citizens and clergy of this British town is both Byzantine and wonderfully comic as the tempestuous personalities claw and dig at each other.

Rickman, in one of his first film or television roles, turns in a tour de force of oily ambition. McEwan's ferocious machinations are downright terrifying, while the sputtering Hawthorne seems constantly in danger of bursting a vein. At the center of it all is Pleasence. Making goodness compelling has always been difficult, since wickedness is always more dramatic; but Pleasence brings a deep and stirring passion to his role that proves as engaging as all the back-biting that surrounds him. And these are just the more familiar faces; a host of lesser-known actors give equally superb performances. The final episode (of seven) will have you on pins and needles. The Barchester Chronicles, adapted from two novels by Anthony Trollope, is one of those marvels of British television, a skillful production that proves intelligent fare can be hugely entertaining. --Bret Fetzer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Aledcar on 7 July 2005
Format: DVD
With my video copy of this superb production nearly shot to pieces through repeated viewing I am delighted that this jewel in the BBC archive has been repolished into DVD format.
Over the years the BBC have succeeded in bringing to the wider public the talents of younger actors who have subsequently gone on to great things - Anthony Hopkins (War and Peace), Colin Firth (Pride and Prejudice), and (hopefully) Richard Armitage (North and South). While the whole cast in The Barchester Chronicles bring off performances that wonderfully pull the emotions every which way, one of the highlights has to be that of a young Alan Rickman as the 'slippery' Slope. Possibly with that in mind the original video production has been slightly re-edited to include from the cutting room floor, one particular short but exquisite scene involving Mr Slope and the Quiverfull children.
As the story unfolds around the crusade aimed at the kind and honest Warden with his dilemmas of conscience, you are drawn by the interaction of the superbly played characters with their individual values into an emotional but thoroughly enjoyable experience. For me it is simply BBC drama (not to mention Anthony Trollope) at its very best.
The DVD is better than the video in every way. As an extra it includes a warm 30 minute portrait of Peterborough Cathedral which was used in the production.
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136 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 25 Aug 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Who would have thought that the minor indiscretions of mid-nineteenth century English clergy would prove so entertaining?
This dramatisation first introduced me to Trollope when broadcast in the early 1980s and remains hard to beat. I've since grown to love this author, with his gentle chiding humour, something brought out wonderfully by Donald Pleasance as Septimus Harding in this TV version of the first two "Barchester" novels.
Pleasance alone would make this production memorable, but when you have co-stars of the calibre of Nigel Hawthorne (superbly pompous as Archdeacon Grantly), Geraldine McEwan as the insufferable Mrs Proudie, with Clive Swift doing an early turn as a hen-pecked husband (Bishop Proudie) you know you are in for a real treat. Adding a young Alan Rickman as the delightfully oily chaplain Obadiah Slope becomes merely icing on an already sumptious cake.
The transfer to DVD is excellent and makes you realise the limitations of VHS. Only in the extras department is this a little deficient, with just a short documentary on Peterborough Cathedral where the series was filmed. Surviving cast, screenwriter (Alan Plater!) or director's commentaries would have been good, but alas are not available. Don't let this put you off, though. Buy this classic anyway.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Jan 2001
Format: VHS Tape
The video series of the Barchester novels certainly serves the written versions justice. A particular suprise is seeing a younger Alan Rickman at his finest, alongside a great cast of UK talent. A pleasure for those who have read the Trollope novels!
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By S. Väpnargård on 18 Jan 2009
Format: DVD
This televised series from 1982 (although it must have been recorded in 1981) has so many winning streaks-it is almost impossible to name but a few. The actors are all marvellous-and very recognisable, too.
Fantastic Alan Rickman is the smarmy, ambitious and scheming Obadiah Slope (a predecessor to latter days Severus Snape of Harry Potter fame-indeed a kindred spirit to the same!)
Clive Swift the hen-pecked bishop one wonders how he'd ever made a point at church meeting, Nigel Hawthorne, overlooked for the position as anything but archdeacon but increadably just and very coleric, and the fierce Geraldine McEwans as a VERY bossy bishops wife.

Of course the rest of the cast also make it a wonderful viewing.Not least, Donald Pleasence who in his portraial of Mr Harding shows that the meek, indeed, shall inherit the earth!
Susan Hampshire as Signora Neroni-one of three "compulsive liars" of children to the Stanhopes-is very good also.

Photographically it is in parts, televised theatre-but one dismisses this lightheartedly since it is so well executed overall!

How this nearly 150 year old story set in the clerical intrigues of an english cathedraltown and all it's different turns still feels so inspiring- is beyond explaining-but watch it and you'll be as hooked as I was!
This is a series with a subtext that is a heady brew of bigotry, prejudice and good old-fashioned naked ambition, surely the church must have changed by now! But alas, I am not too convinced!
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92 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Brack on 8 Mar 2008
Format: DVD
This adaptation of Anthony Trollope's Barchester novels seems to be best remembered now as the television serial that made the name of Alan Rickman. Certainly I suspect that many of the people who have picked up this DVD have done so because of the presence of its breakthrough star. Those who do will discover the charms of this serial stretch far beyond its breakthrough star who is just one member of an excellent cast.

You will not see his face anywhere on the packaging but Donald Pleasance plays the central role in the piece of Reverend Harding, a mild-mannered and fundamentally good man who gets caught up in a row about the administration of a Church-run hospital. He becomes a pawn in the machinations of those around him and begins to question his own moral position as well as that of those around him.

Pleasance's performance is a little theatrical but it is also heart-warming. The actor's gravitas comes over well and he manages not only to make his character thoroughly sympathetic but also to make us respect him for his strong moral character. Trollope's story is fairly scathing about the clergy, essentially portraying them as being primarily interested in their own ends - Reverend Harding is apart from them and is the voice of the 'good Christian man', a concept that is overdone a little at the end in a Tiny Tim moment of obnoxious sentimentality.

The remainder of the cast are excellent with Nigel Hawthorne being a particular delight as Archdeacon Grantly, a figure who is not unreminiscent of Sir Humphrey from Yes, Minister. Pompous with an uncanny ability to persue his own ends, Grantly provides much of the early conflict and a strong character contrast with Reverend Harding.
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