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Alex Lyon (London)

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Star Wars VI - Return of the Jedi DVD Digitally Mastered
Star Wars VI - Return of the Jedi DVD Digitally Mastered
Dvd ~ Luke Hamil
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: 10.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return, 31 July 2014
Years ago, my friend's accountant used to visit him, occupy the whole of the sofa and (presumably) eat, and it's a good measure of the cultural impact of this film that my friend's sons thought it apt to name the accountant 'Jabba the Hutt'. Jabba is a hell of a creation - fat, slug-like, utterly repulsive - just what the Dr Who designers were aiming for when they made Twin Dilemma, but they missed.

I've also been told that, by this stage, George Lucas was rich enough to need no more investment from Puritans, which is why the princess now wears far fewer clothes. It could of course simply be divisive propaganda, but the first act of the movie - an impudent tour-de-rescue of Han Solo - is in no way less good for having lots more bare Carrie Fisher in it.

It's worth noting - and this is much clearer in the light of the first three movies - that the Empire is implicitly species-ist, with Humans very much the dominant life form, while the Alliance is rather more equitable (though still very human-heavy), the area where non-humans have real power is in crime; in Jabba's court, no humans are in responsible positions, and those that are there stay covered up - Boba Fett and Lando, though obviously not Leia - Jabba the Hutt living the old ways in anceatral splendour, with his doit de signeur, his Rancor monster, his kooky musicians, and his supposedly scary but really quite endearing Gamorean guards, dropping captives to their deaths while picnicing du cote de chez Sarlac; it's almost possible to feel sorry for him as he laughs off Luke's ultimatum, because we all know the stupid fat thing has got it coming. Almost, but not quite. I like it that the film does not shy away from the considerable physicality of his death.

And then back to the plot, and if there is a gap between acts two and three in this, I can't see it; there's something of a curtain raiser in Luke's return to Dagobah, and the big breifing that sets up the rest of the film and reminds us that the Allience does have lots of funny-looking creature in it, before we head off to Endor and the Death Star mk 2 for the final battle...

And it devides rather neatly into three strands of Endor, Stuff in Space and Death Star; of the space bit, what do I know? It looks like space to me, and that very impressive shot with lots of spaceships certainly looks the business as far as I'm concerned - but then I'm not sufficiently accomplished to slag it off for whatever reasons that techies use to slag things off, so there we are.

On Endor we get Stormtroopers, Biker Scouts, AT-ST Walkers and Ewoks, and Warwick Davies, aged 11, began a career.

It's easy to see the Ewoks as a product of a nation that has the term 'lil critter' in its vernacular, and it's impossible to see these short, gutsy, formidable and bloody minded primates without thinking also of tooled-up teddy bears, and calculating their dollar value in the international toy market.

Quite how well the furry guys would really do against Imperial Stormtroopers is debateable (my guess is not well at all) and the Battle of Endor does at times resemble a cross between Gremlins and Home Alone II, but I'm obliged to recall that a low-tech enemy can overcome a high tech one, like the Viet Kong over the GIs or the Afghans over just about everybody. I'm still not convinced about Ewoks though.

Up on the Death Star it's all gong fairly predictably with Darth Vader trying to bullyrag Luke so much that he turns to the Dark Side, and the Emperor being horrid and malevolent until (and it's really the only way that Luke is going to get out) Vader decides where his priorities really belong and chucks the old git down a hole. A proper 'Where is the Other Sith' enquiry at the end of Phantom Menace would have saved an awful lot of trouble.

The denouement makes heaps more sense now, in the light of the the first three films, than it did in 1983, when the old man in the cloak looked really a little bit lame - it's much better now that we know who he was, and how he got like that.

As to the death of Darth Vader, I think it's a shame that they didn't give Dave Prowse the job because, quite apart from it being his part, the replacement turn, Sebastian Shaw was the oldest member of the RSC, and as such far too old to be Vader. I'm glad that Haydn Christiansen has been pasted into the final shots of Anikan, Yoda and Obi Wan. Much better.

And the victory party now extends way beyond Endor to the streets of every civilised world; there is carousing in the crescents of Corruscant, dancing in the deserts of Tatooine, and partying in the Piazzas of Naboo, and after six movies it's important to wrap all of that up, but I do miss the Ewok music that used to be close the film.

Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (Limited Edition) [DVD]
Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (Limited Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mark Hamill
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: 16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am your father..., 30 Jun 2014
I recall one piece of hype for this, listing all the familiar faces and ending with 'and of course, Yoda!' In 1980, I didn't think of Yoda as an improvement of the Star Wars galaxy - Luke seeks out the ancient master from the Kung Fu series and he turns out he's being played by a Muppet that sounds suspiciously like Fozzie Bear. It seems less of an irritation now, but it may be that Mr Lucas has been tinkering with it in the meantime, so I mustn't draw any conclusions about anno domini increasing tolerance. I thought the Dark Crystal was crap when I saw that, all those years ago, though I suspect that still is.

The most striking thing about this movie (I think) is that Imperial advance on the Hoth Base - the AT-AT Walkers coming out of the distant snow - I have the gravest doubts as to how stable and sure-footed those things would really be, but they look great, especially cos they've got Julian Glover in charge. The Empire are definitely thorough too; I can't think of any valid reason for anyone in their right mind wanting to live on Hoth, apart from that the Empire is unlikely to be too much of a pest, but they *still* find the Rebel Alliance. I'm sure the snow looks pretty in the right light, but I'd never want to live there.

The sudden decapitation of the Tauntaun by the Wampa creature is a useful signpost that this is *not* nearly as cuddly a movie as the previous one, and another expectation from New Hope was that the destruction of the Death Star had done for the Empire, but no, that was just one battle station, and the bad guys are still very much in charge, and many of them are played by first class British actors, notably the aforementioned Mr Glover, together with Michael Sheard, Milton Johns, Mark Jones, Oliver McGuire and Kenneth Colley (Jesus from Life of Brian!) - Elstree studios being so handy for RADA actors that can lend proper *tone* to evil - New Hope features Don Henderson and Leslie Schofield for the same reason! I like the scout droid too, and the snow troopers, and the fact that they torture Solo just for the fun of it - I'd like to see just why its economic policies are so bad, although, obviously, its Human Rights record sucks.

The other surprise is that the romantic bit is not between Luke and Leia, rather Leia and the rascally Han, who is trying every trick in his big black book to get into the royal knickers, while Luke is following orders from a disembodied Obi Wan (he obviously learned this from Qui Gon) to go to Dagobah and seek out the little green guy, who (of course) starts off pretending to be a mischeivous little nuisance.

Thus the middle section of the film is Mark Hamil acting opposite a Muppet, a robot and a ghost - it's hard to envy the guy (perhaps this was the inspiration for Red Dwarf) - while on the other side of the plot, Solo and Leia play footsie around Chewbacca and Threepio (the gold guy is earning his corn again) while also playing chase with the Empire - the accidentally landing inside a monster is an entertaining idea, but parking the Falcon on the back of a Star Destroyer takes a whole packet of biscuits.

Which brings us to Cloud City, and the final act and it looks splendid (I especially like the CGI windows in the new one), and the charming Lando Calrisian, who Billy D Williams plays with a plausibility that is just one note short of true perfection and so completely untrustworthy - but it's not easy to decide *why* - and so Vader appears with the whole horrid climax with Solo tortured then frozen (Leia 'I love you'; Solo 'I know' - poetry!), Luke losing his hand just before Vader proclaims himself Luke's father (it makes so much more sense when you've seen the prequels first), and (surprise surprise) Luke has a sister, and it's Leia - that stretched the decency mores in 1980, what with the snog in the previous film (it's been seriously trimmed in the meantime, just in case any thick person says that George Lucas says it';s OK to snog a sibling if you don't know they're a sibling), and the film ends with Luke having his hand replaced with a robot one, just like his dad in Attack of the Clones - spooky eh?

And Ian Mc Diarmid is in it now (the new version that is) providing the voice of the Emporer; I just feel sorry for Clive Revill, who might very well feel himself a bit sidelined.

Star Wars IV: A New Hope (Limited Edition) [DVD]
Star Wars IV: A New Hope (Limited Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mark Hamill
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: 24.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Genre, 22 Jun 2014
Looking back, it's hard to understand the impact of Star Wars when it hit British screens in 1978; it was a combination of factors - sci-fi wasn't unusual, but populist sci-fi with, at the same time, good special FX was, and this was clearly a galaxy you could enjoy exploring, with robots and space ships and aliens and a princess and a scary guy in a black helmet with a slow, dragging breath. It's great, escapist fun - Cowboys and Indians in space if you like - but done with (and I think this is the point) considerable style.

A word here for Anthony Daniels; the film rather depends on him because if his performance doesn't grab the audience's attention from the get-go, they'll just stop watching. It's quite easy not to like Threepio - he's fussy, pompous, smug, self-serving, and a distinct contrast to the impulsive, self-reliant Artoo, but he's the one with the voice and body language, and the most interesting character for the first 20 minutes - it's hard to tell when our sympathies shift to Luke - though my guess would be just after the Sand Person hits him over the head.

Mark Hamil plays a pleasant, if very clean cut, all-American hero, though Harrison Ford clearly has the acting edge in the career-making role of Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher is refreshingly acerbic as the princess - that in itself was something of a first - Leia didn't swoon - she just got irritable when the standard of heroism dropped below what she expected.

Alec Guinness, highly regarded British actor from the same shelf as Olivier, Richardson and Geilgud, and (for some reason, considering all the stuff he'd done) not properly famous, nor rich, til this, and he's only in half the movie, and in the next two films he barely gets a cough and a spit - not even a credit - but suddenly he was a household name and every* teenager knew who he was. Of course he's good - he's Alec Guinness.

On the other arm of the cast is Peter Cushing as Governor Tarkin and it's interesting that, if you didn't know better, you could presume him to be the big villain, and Vader the monstrous henchman, meanwhile James Earl Jones provides the Vader voice because David Prowse sounded like a farmer, while at the same time providing a very impressive physicality - all credit to Mr Prowse and Mr Jones - Darth Vader really is one of the icons of the C20.

The story is simplistic and much of it has to be 'this is where we are; this is who lives here; this is what they do', and the tale is practically legend by now, which is pretty good for a film plot.

(Incidentally, the Emporer gets a mention - just one line - he has just dissolved the remains of the Galactic Senate - remember that huge council chamber full of representatives? That's finally all gone, so the funny-looking creatures have no voice in government any more).

Since then, George Lucas has used the money that he made from the vast Star Wars franchise to improve his original movie, making it more like he wanted it to be in the first place; this has generally been regarded as a bad move and has made a lot of Star Wars fans very angry. Since I am not a Star Wars fan, I am allowed to enjoy his embelishments in the spirit in which they were made - pretty much anyway.

The improved visual quality goes without saying it's lovely to see it looking so spick and span, and I like it that stormtroopers are seen to ride on Dewbacks, and that there's at least one full size one in Mos Eisley (I've no idea what Dewbacks do or eat, but I don't mind that), and the new 'Arrival At Mos Eisley' looks much better (it's 'Arriving in Dodge City' really, isn't it?) , and I do like it that the X Wing pilot is moving as he flies off over Yavin, and I think it's so clever that they've put Jabba the Hutt in it (for all I'd like to see the scene played by Declan Mulholland), my only quibble is all the background stuff going on in the 'These aren't the droids you're looking for' scene, which is just on the wrong side of upstaging - but I'm not going to demand a jihad against Mr Lucas for this.

It's interesting to watch this as the fourth rather than the first movie; the Empire has clearly consolidated power in Humans, rather than letting all those funny-looking things that were formerly represented in the Senate have a democratic say, while closer to home, Artoo and Threepio have obviously been aboard Captain Antilles' ship for twenty years, and in the droid-selling scene, Artoo appears to recognise Owen Lars (though why Lars doesn't question if he's seen Threepio before I don't know). While Alec Guinness is clearly playing an older version of Ewan McGregor, what's all this about Obi Wan not being able to recall owning a droid? What about the devoted R4? Maybe all that communing with Qui Gon drove it from his mind, but it still seems a bit ungrateful.

*That is 'all' meaning 'all intelligent' - there was no way that the thick one at the back of the 1978 maths class, who called Chewbacca 'The Wonker' had a clue who Alec Guinness was, for instance.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (1 Disc) [DVD]
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (1 Disc) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ewan McGregor
Offered by Great Buys Uk
Price: 18.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never mind the CGI, 22 Jun 2014
This was a much-anticipated movie - the final piece of the jigsaw. How does Anakin finally turn into Darth Vader?

Highly effectively. The fall from grace and seduction by evil are masterful and complex and all achieved by love - it's all for love, and it destroys Anakin, the woman he loves, and everything he wanted to protect - almost.

The first movement is the good Jedi stuff we've gotten used to - death-defying dog fighting daring do in space, now complete with Buzz Droids - and I'm damned sure there's plenty of very clever people to tell me these are just CGI, and obviously not real - well, mercy me, aren't they? And Obi Wan and Anakin are just actors pretending, and even the huge space battle isn't real? Well, lan sakes Jemima, what a gullible old chawbacon does that make me! It looks great to me, but then, I liked the heat barrier in The Daemons.

General Grievous seems to be a character created to fill a hole in the story - someone has to lead the bad guys once Count Dooku is dead, and Dooku has to be dead because his death is part of Anakin's fall, but I don't like Grievous, and I get the impression that he's very much a villain for the kids. Turning him into a robot scorpion is a nice idea, but the Grim Reaper look is a cliché used once too often, and he seems way too self-aware to be a robot; maybe the bit that gets opened and blasted, causing his death, is his 'self'. He (or it) dies well, I'll give him/it that.

An awful lot of this is CGI, even a lot of the bits that don't look like CGI, but I really cannot imagine how they'd do stuff like the Mustafar duel or the amphibious assault on Kashyyyk without it. I'm glad that Chewbacca finally made it to the first trilogy (though a little cameo of the five year old Han Solo being grounded for bullying Greedo would have been sweet). I like the guys on Utapau, for all that they're CGI.

In the end it all comes true like a Greek Tragedy, and a dramatic volte-face as the clone army we've all grown to love and rely on slaughter the Jedi (presumably Order 66 was in them right from the start), Anakin's love for Padme finally turns him to the Dark Side, and the senate vote imperial powers to Palpatine. 'So this is how liberty dies; with thunderous applause' - that's really a very good line indeed.

In spite of it all, it's still a very satisfying moment when the young Darth Vader kills the separatist leaders, whatever happens next, the galaxy is better off without Nute Gunray - and of course the head of the Banking Clans was in that lot - good riddance.

In the final act, things start to look just a touch familiar; that ship on which Padme gives birth to Luke and Leia is the same one that will get overhauled by the Empire in twenty years time, and it is Captain Antilles even now.

As the final transformation of Anakin into Vader is completed (and the juxtaposition with the shots of Luke and Leia's births is very neat) the last we see of the Emperor (for a while) is him giving orders to someone tht looks very like a young Peter Cushing. Oh it's good.

I love the sense of a children's story being taken so very seriously and told so damn well. The lesson that love can be a path to the Dark Side is one that seems particularly useful just at present.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones [DVD] [2002]
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Hayden Christensen
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: 3.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous Corner, 18 Jun 2014
I remember being excited by the clone trooper design - 'That's a development of Boba Fett's armour!' - which probably just goes to show that I've spent far too many years in re-enactment, but it's also indicative that somebody, somewhere really loves this galaxy far, far away - somebody has spent a long time working out he details, and for that I'm prepared to forgive the naming of a character 'Ree Yees' (though whether or not Ree Yees is is another question altogether).

The darkness that ended Phantom Menace has spread and deepened and now forms a ubiquitous background, so usual that nobody notices it anymore.

Obi Wan and Anakin seem like cops - there is a cop show feel to the whole of the Coruscant bit - car chase, assassin in the disco, Dex the helpful diner owner, the constant bickering - except that this is not trivial - Anakin is learning the ways of The Force much more than the ways of the Jedi, who were probably right - they didn't start his training early enough. I like the new actor playing Anakin - and the growing forbidden relationship with Padme feels all the wronger because she's markedly older than he is. The sense of monumental, yet irresistible transgression is powerfully portrayed - while Obi Wan sets off sleuthing on one path, Anakin is romancing on another.

I enjoy the Star Wars universe - even if there are creatures with names like Ree Yees - all the worlds have been constructed with real thought; Corruscant isn't just Manhattan gone mad (well, not entirely...), Geonosis is a gothic Wagnerian nightmare, and I love the way that a place as hyper-advanced as Kamino has horrible weather.

And we get to Tatooine, and two names slide into place like vast, tragic icebergs - 'I'm Owen Lars and this is my girlfriend, Beru' - two ordinary, decent people, fated to do a good thing, and to die because of it.

Rather less poignant, but still noteworthy, is the young Boba Fett with his father Jango; you can see that kid's going to turn out a wrong un.

I really like the clone army, not least because I first read of it in 1978, and it's so beautifully explained and realised, and it's so big - computers can make such wonderful pictures.

There's nothing really silly in this, which is a big improvement on the previous picture - and Jar Jar Binks is kept mercifully in the background, where Bail Organa is starting to emerge. Meanwhile Palpatine is starting to exercise his baleful influence over Anakin, and is getting himself voted special emergency powers, which of course he'll relinquish as soon as possible - like a brick! - and getting the clone army ratified. What an old sly-boots.

And both droids are properly in this one, though I like it that Obi Wan has got his own one named R-4. The production line sequence is a lot of fun, with C-3PO's head getting swapped with that of a battle droid ('with hilarious results') though it's hard to be sure which is less dangerous (battle droids being about the least effective fighting machines ever built...)

All building to the arena scene, and the battle of the droid foundries that follows, and it starts with one of those brilliant narrative precepts 'The Exotic Execution' - three horrid monsters - how are our heroes going to get out of this? - and they go on to demonstrate why capital punishment is more usually accomplished by means of poison, firearms or a length of hemp rope by making a laughing stock of the whole thing, an then the Jedi arrive, and then the clone army arrives, and after an entertaining rout of the bad guys, Count Dooku flees to Corruscant in his very pretty private ship, and hands over the secret plans to - can it be the Death Star? - to Darth Sidious, who is now pretty obviously Palpatine, the one with the new special powers. Oops.

Christopher Lee is wonderful, of course (I can't think of many movies he's done and not been wonderful, but his Blind Pew in Heston's Treasure Island wasn't so hot), and how old is he in this? 80? I hope I'm that fit if I get to 80.

I like the increased line up of bad guys too - the separatists - especially Archduke Poggle the Lesser (though it could just be the name), and San Hill of the Banking Clans - you see, they never will be up to any good.

What else is good? The two attempts on Padme's life - especially the one with the snake things - and Anakin jumping out of the air car, and the bloke trying to sell death sticks... 'I wanna go home and re-think my life' - that bit was funny.

A4 Size Parchment Poster Shakespeare Friend
A4 Size Parchment Poster Shakespeare Friend
Offered by Danetre Gifts
Price: 1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh get lost..., 13 Jun 2014
This is not Shakespeare!

Go on - nominate the play or sonnet that this comes from - go on - I double dare you!

And you can't - because Shakespeare didn't write it!

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace [DVD] [1999]
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace [DVD] [1999]
Dvd ~ Ewan McGregor
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: 19.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I feel that I really ought to aplogise..., 22 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I saw the first Star Wars movie at the pictures in 1978, twice; I read the book (not great), collected the magazines and the bubblegum cards, made loads of models, and did passable imitations of both robots. Since then I've seen all the films - at the pictures again, cos a Star Wars movie is always a special occasion - and in a recent internet quiz I scored embarrassingly high marks.

None of this makes me a proper Star Wars fan, because, in spite of all the above, I really rather like this movie.

It's very solid Star Wars product - three acts of hair-raising daring-do on exotic planets, with a straightforward story of the need to stand one's ground and fight one's corner, with goodies and baddies clearly defined, even if the crux of the matter is a touch abstruse. Taxation of trade routes? Just tell me how that works? No, OK, you needn't...

And the bad guys are quite properly repulsive and cowardly, and it's obvious why the viceroy needs a droid army - it's cos if someone punched him on the nose he'd run off crying - that'll also be why he doesn't have a nose. He's quite clearly terribly scared of Darth Sidious - and he's only a hologram. (Those costumes and the voices do make them seem rather Oriental; I do wonder if that is such a good idea, it could be mis-interpreted by people apt to grab the wrong end of a stick) I am prepared to believe that Battle Droids are dangerous to ordinary people and that it's only when hit by Jedi that they fall to bits in a pile of coat hangers and cutlery - mind you, those Droidekas are the business - I'll take two.

Some people bitch about the acting in this. There is nothing wrong with any of the performances, incuding that being given by a ten year old. Obviously Liam Neeson is head and shoulders over the rest, and maybe that is also what he uses on his hair, and makes him look so like John the Baptist - which is basically Qui-Gon's role in this. Brian Blessed is big and shouty, and Ian McDiarmid is as smooth as oiled silk. Queen Amidala travels halfway across the galaxy, and all she does when she gets there is make a speech in the visually splendid Senate, and go home in disgust. If only she'd stayed home, Darth Vader would never have happened.

I think it's very neat that the name Obi Wan Kenobi doesn't get mentioned until about halfway through the film.

In the old days before the Empire, there were more silly-looking creatures in the universe - that's the only explanation I can think of as I put up with some of the daft-looking things in, for example, the pod race, or the daft-looking thing commentating it, and I wonder, open-mouthed at any culture whereby a man could rise to the rank of Lord Chamberlain while being called Sio Bibble, and I wish, how I wish, that Jar Jar Binks was not in this.

It's like Jerry Lewis designed a Hanna Barbera version of Huggy Bear (off Starsky and Hutch) and then nobody ever punched it in the face - and I cannot understand why because, although Jar Jar is clearly supposed to be an adorable dim-witted klutz, he's actually very, very annoying. It's plain to see why the Gungans kicked him out (though they too look a bit HB) so why they ever thought to make him Bombard General is quite beyond me - though you can see why he later did so well in politics - there's a mayor in London at the moment, who doesn't look quite as clever as Jar Jar Binks.

And if it is aerodynamically impossible for bumble bees to fly, can somebody please explain to me how Watto can possibly get his fat bottom off the ground? And he also looks a bit daft. I've just had to check Wikipedia to find out the name of the ethnic group he is supposed to be an insulting parody of - apparently it is the Jewish stereotype - just credible, I suppose. I wonder how Mr Lucas can look Mr Speilberg in the face these days.

The other bit I can't swallow is little Anikan making C-3PO in his bedroom; quite apart from it being contrived (and quite badly too) the 'to help Mom' bit is cutesy and schmaltzy and there are laws against that.

Having said all that, I do like this movie - it's visually gorgeous, and the three worlds are beautifully realised, and I like Darth Maul, and I like those huge transports the Battle Droids ride in, and I like the ending with the villainous Palpatine keeping very quiet. I think this is a good movie.

But obviously, I'm not a proper Star Wars fan.

CHRISTMAS CAROL (1977) (import)
CHRISTMAS CAROL (1977) (import)
Offered by uniqueplace-uk
Price: 10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ghosts, 30 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have never fully understood why Chistmas Carols were always billed as 'X as Scrooge and Y as Marley', when Marley is only in it for five minutes, but here Hordern and Le Mesurier which, I suppose, had to be done really, however much the casting of Alistair Sim and Hordern in the 1971 animation (which rather overshadowed this, even just six years before) might have worked a little bit better, nonetheless Hordern impresses as the famous curmudgeon, while Le Mesurier looks a little bit like the Ghost of Sergeant Wilson with a headache.

It's a concise little production - nothing on location, and a little CSO (CSO in Dickens? Unheard of!) - but it's beautifully played; Paul Copley is an engagingly, unfailingly chipper Fred, and Clive Merrison a lovely Bob Cratchit, and yes, that *is* June Brown as Mrs Dilber.

But it's really the ghosts that drift away with the acting laurels in this - particularly Patricia Quinn (yes, Magenta from Rocky Horror) as Christmas Past, and Bernard Lee (yes, M from James Bond) as Christmas Present, pitch-perfect casting in both cases, and Michael Mulcaster in Yet To Come is properly sepulchral, and yes, the boy playing Ignorance really does look feral. I think those two kids are among the most disturbing characters in the canon.

A pleasing little Christmas Carol; possibly a touch in the shade of the 1971 cartoon version, but still just right for Christmas Eve, together with a glass of port and a mince pie. And Christopher Biggens is in it - always good value!

Hard Times [DVD] [1976] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Hard Times [DVD] [1976] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Carina Wyeth

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short Commons, 30 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've seen Bill Patterson play the lead in two things - 'Wall of Silence' (Screen Two, brilliant, and not on DVD...) and this, and in this he's not even allowed to use his signature Scottish accent - and the budget is *tiny* - it was made for schools.

But it's a good cast for a schools show - Bob Peck as Gradgrind, Alan Bates as Bounderby, Richard E Grant as Harthouse aided an abetted by Patsy Byrne and Timothy Bateson, with Christopher Benjamin doing a nice little cameo as Slackbridge.

Otherwise production is negligible - the story rarely gets outside the studio, and when it does there's not much to see - an empty cobbled street (with a brazier, so we know it's Victorian) , there is no long shot of Coke Town (so beautifully described in the book) and even Sleary's circus is a tent in a field, two extras and a horse. The cast list contains less actors than does Hordern's Christmas Carol - which runs for half an hour less!

What's there is is all in the right place, and the actors are all doing that which might be expected of them, and the book is about a quarter of the length you might expect - very concise for a Dickens - but while I'm not grumbling as such, it could do with a bit more texture.

Bleak House Box Set (BBC 1985) (4 Discs)
Bleak House Box Set (BBC 1985) (4 Discs)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Growlery, 28 April 2014
It wasn't just the Lloyd's bank commercials that make Phillip Franks a star - he's a star in this as well, and Leo McKern's not even in it.

It is a rich mix - satire, horror, murder, melodrama and Dickens' searing indictment of the protracted legal pontification of Chancery - lives are runied because Chancery will not reach a decision on this case or that (the paralel with benefits offices of the 1980s is difficult for anyone that ever visited one to resist), and the case in this story is that of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce - nobody knows what it's about, only that there ought to be a fortune at the end of it. John Jarndyce however knows the case to be toxic and wants no part of it, but it seduces Richard Carstone (Mr Franks), drives him mad, and finally kills him, as it did to Gridley, and many others.

The spider in the middle of all the intrigue is the lawyer, Tulkinghorn, a fine piece of studied nastiness by Peter Vaughn. I especailly like the first shot of him deftly stepping around the pavement dog turds on his way to work, and the vast candle-lit office, when he gets there is highly impressive.

Though the other (and rather surprising) piece of grand villainy in that is from diminutive comic Charlie Drake as the vile mony lender, Grandfather Smallweed, who seems to give off horrible in clouds.

And at the top of the tree is the compromised Lady Dedlock, and at the bottom (by way of the Brickfields) is Jo the crossing sweeper, and somewhere in the middle are the Reverend and Mrs Chadband - two of Dickens very finest hypocrites. And TP McKenna as Skimpole - superb.

It's a story where law is useless and justice uninterested (themes that recur less effectively in Little Dorrit) and the whole thing is controlled by such a degree of cynicism that the decent people just retreat to the Growlery and make the best of what they have. Law, in this, is a dirty business, contaminating and ruining all it touches.

It's not a brisk telling of the tale by any means - Episode One gets off to a particularly slow start with Miss Flyte going on about birds for far too long, but it's quite a good enough story to be worth taking time over, and very well acted.

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