on 28 September 2006
The original classic Television Mini-Series based on the Novel by the late Irwin Shaw is a wonderful tale which evolves around the contrasting lifestyles and personalities of Rudy & Tom Jordache.
First screened in the UK on three consecutive Wednesdays & Fridays throughout July of 1976, "Rich Man, Poor Man" was a sure-fire winner and set the standard of the new genre of novels for television. The series made international stars of it's three unknown leads, especially Nick Nolte. There are also some great supporting performances in the form of Edward Asner, Dorothy McGuire, Bill Bixby and Ray Milland.
The series takes you on a rollercoaster ride of life from a small surburb of New York at the end of World War II through to the Mediterranean Coast of the mid-60's. You will rejoice, cry, and be totally overcome by the encapsulating story as events are sprinkled with a sudden twist of fate throughout the years.
"Rich Man, Poor Man" was nominated for 23 Emmy Awards and was the winner of Four including a Best Supporting Actor award for Edward Asner who played the brothers' Father, Axel Jordache. The series also received a number of Golden Globe awards and nominations.
It's wonderful to finally own this classic on a DVD set, even though it could really do with a prestigious remastered special edition because it truly deserves it. Finally, just as a word of warning - please make sure you purchase the DVD set that states it is Chapters 1-12 Book One on the cover and not Chapters 1-11!
The weekly serial "Rich Man, Poor Man - Book 2", the sequel, should be released on a DVD Box Set by Universal-Playback in early 2007!
on 29 May 2011
First part of a very good TV mini-series from mid 1970's. I used to watch it on TV every week. Good acting by all, especially Nick Nolte. Peter Strauss also very good. The movie is worth 5 stars but I gave it 3 because after I got the DVD from Amazon.UK, I found it had NO English Subtitles for "Hard of hearing" which I need, so it cut my enjoyment.All DVD movies on ALL Amazon sites, should be clearly marked "NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES" OR "ENGLISH SUBTITLES" so people will know before they buy.Would save much time and trouble for customer and Amazon if this was done.
The DVD was made in 2002.Maybe it wasn't important then to have Subtitles for people with a hearing disability, but most movies have it now. For people with hearing disability, or for those who just like to read text with the movie, look for "HOH" (hard of hearing)or "close captioning" on the DVD box front or back on a close-up before you buy so you won't be disappointed.
UPDATE ON SEPT.13,2011
The above review I did a few months ago was for Book 1 of Richman Poor man (red box)Region 2. Book 1 DVd was made in 2002 as I said above, but somehow my Review of Book 1 was also placed in the Review area here for Richman Poor Man Book 1 and 2 combo which was released in 2010 for Region 1. My comments above are the same for the combo set (Book 1 and 2) pictured above as for Book 1 (red cover) Also, Book 1 and 2 combo have no subtitles the same as Book 1 for Region 2, sold on Amazon.uk. Hope I haven't confused things.
No-one who has ever thought, even idly, of writing a novel should allow themselves to skip this story. There has not quite been anything like it since. It's astonishing; Irwin Shaw, by the time he wrote this, must surely had lived an enviable and pretty awesome life, back in those complicated and hazardous years around the wars.
I remember that I was by no means the only one who discovered the power of this series when I was 16 or so. The story had a powerful resonance with boys of my generation. Odd in a way; that long ago era should not have held such significance for us back then in the mid seventies. But Shaw doesn't worry too much about those kind of specifics, except when they suit his acute observational powers. The story could be set in any time interval at all.
Well then; two boys grow up, second generation immigrants on their father's side. And what different boys they are; Tom, rough, rude, fights anyone who gets in the way, and quite a few that don't - he just fancies giving someone a bruise, and his brother Rudy, who is the apple of his mother's eye.
Just giving you that information might give you an idea of fate and the trajectory of the story for a few episodes; Tom gets into enough trouble to have to leave home when he is still really not nearly ready; and his life afterwards is very troubled.
But after a short while, Shaw, genius that he is, allows us to peel back the superficial gloss of the storyboard you think is his main canvas and see what lays beneath; and what a surprise and astonishment this turns out to be. In fact, this slow revelation of the true character of both boys is what made this so utterly compulsive throughout. None of us, way back then, missed a single episode.
I think that a lot of the boys I knew identified with both of the boys to greater or lesser degrees; for most of my friends, and myself, it was Tom; there was never any doubt about that. Rudy, of course, seems to have chosen a much more obviously better life, and we sort of knew that we ought to have been more like him, and on the side of the angels.
But there is a swift and savage deconstruction that takes place that demolishes this and, I suspect, any other casual thesis. Without giving too much away, by the time the story winds around to it's end, the whole stage, as it were, is in turmoil. Rudy, when it comes to the crunch, is cruel, an empty vessel; in his relationship with his mother, this failure is complete and devastating.
In contrast, Tom is only slowly revealed in his true colours; it is a journey of some complexity that we take one step at a time with him. It appears that, bar some bad temper, it is Tom, in fact, who has the warmth and tenderness; Tom who is there for his mother; Tom, again, who has the better morality; and finally, Tom, who makes the great and terrible sacrifices necessary to try to put things back to calm and equilibrium.
There is a lot of talk about fate with regard to this story; but what really seems to me to be the thing on which all of it hinges is the triumph of good character. Tom is helpless to avoid consequence, but the great bulk of this beyond a certain point is entirely out of his hands. Events transpiring in the end are not originated by him, and in the end, we all know beyond doubt that it is not his fault. What happens to him then, I would argue, is NOT tragedy, but misfortune. Tom... in the end... succeeds.
We are left then with Rudy. What a terrible spectacle he is; his fate, in many ways is far worse than Tom's and indeed, in the second series, we see this with terrible clarity.
One example; he holds off at a distance in his youth the girl that he loves, and in fact, puts everything in front of love for some years. His success in doing so results in his damnation; he has become a cold, calculating, reptilian opportunist. When he finally accepts romance and beds his girl, the effect in the audience is not so much relief as anxiety - by this time we are afraid FOR that girl, who has waited so long. At this late point, this is evidently bad news; and it certainly turns out that way for her. Rudy IS bad news.
It gets worse. Manipulative business deals; politics; blackmail; finally, no feelings are left, even for his mother, who realizes too late that she always neglected Tom, who by this time has been greatly softened, and, for all his fighting ability, is a profoundly gentle person.
So it goes, and if you have any sense, watch this.
The title music is, in itself quite something; a superficially simple theme, with one of the strangest and most unexpected moments I have ever heard; just for an instant the music becomes larger than it was, greater in some undefinable sense and profoundly sad; but only for a heartbeat.
Very, VERY recommended.