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4.8 out of 5 stars
Bleak House - BBC (3 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2005]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 April 2012
From Gillian Anderson`s Lady Dedlock counting out the interminable hours in her brooding mansion, to Johnny Vegas as the bibulous Krook heating up to boiling point in his dilapidated tenement, this Bleak House, adapted with assured confidence by the tireless Andrew Davies, while not necessarily eclipsing the superb previous BBC production from 1985 (with Diana Rigg, Denholm Elliott, Peter Vaughan, and a marvellous Charlie Drake as Smallweed) gets nearly everything just about right.
There are so many memorable performances in this well-cast serial, one is lost for words. The divine Gillian Anderson - once a fan of this actress, always utterly devoted - plays the forlorn Lady Dedlock so subtly, one can read a lifetime in the raise of an eyebrow, the flicker of an eyelash. How lucky we are she has chosen to make her home in the UK, where she is now something of a regular in British TV and film (The Crimson Petal, A Cock & Bull Story etc). She is well-nigh ideal in this crucial central role.
Timothy West as her kindly if forbidding husband is pitch-perfect as ever, finding humour even in Sir Leicester`s complacent fustiness.
With his no-holds-barred portrayal of seedy, idle landlord Krook, Johnny Vegas proved he can not only act, but act everyone areound him off the screen. It`s a rounded, touching and darkly funny performance in a none too easy role for anyone, let alone someone with little straight acting experience.
An actor new to me in 2005 was the splendidly named Burn Gorman, who plays the preening, self-deluding Guppy. This is a highlight of the whole production. He offers a performance so detailed, so authentic, it seems as though he has literally stepped from the pages of Dickens onto the small screen. Stunning.
As the overbearing, humourless Tulkinghorn, Charles Dance benefits from having a face and bearing that can seem benign, which renders his sheer nastiness all the more unsettling. His fair hair and skin (almost albino-like) somehow make him even more hissable. Dance relishes this character`s puppet-master tyranny.
Another new face then was Anna Maxwell Martin, whose Esther Summerson - one of Dickens`s too-good-to-be-true young women - is played as a practical, slightly sad but never self-pitying plain Jane. I can`t imagine Esther ever being portrayed with more subtlety. This was an actress to watch, and watch we certainly do.
Carey Mulligan, now well into the big time, had an early role as Ada Clare, one of the two wards of court in the eternal Jarndyce & Jarndyce case which overshadows the whole saga, and is fine in the part, with that odd, winsome half-smile making its first appearance.
Another wonderful, rounded performance is that of Denis Lawson as the patient, lovestruck John Jarndyce. It`s the kind of understated acting that doesn`t win awards, but Lawson gives so many shadings to what might have been a less than riveting character. Superb.
Gentle, bird-loving Miss Flite - what else would she be called? - is played to perfection by Pauline Collins, an actress we see too little of, but who is great value when we do. Whenever she`s on screen, she lights it up; so much so one wishes her story were being told...
The tactless parasite Skimpole is given an uncompromisingly dislikable reading by Nathaniel Parker, and the story is all the richer for it. This is almost as much of a `villain` in his own way as anyone else in the tale. (In the `85 version he was more benign in TP McKenna`s no less apt portrayal.)
Mr Bucket, one of the first fictional detectives - almost matching Holmes himself in doggedness and ingenuity - is embodied by that resourceful actor Alun Armstrong, and he`s a joy to watch.
Wooing Woodcourt is played with twinkly eyed warmth by Richard Harrington, managing to hold one`s interest by his sheer sincerity in what is a not particularly interesting role.
There are highly effective cameos by Tom Georgeson, Sheila Hancock (very funny as Guppy`s daffy mother), Richard Griffiths and Matthew Kelly, the latter having the time of his life as an impossibly foppish Mr Turveydrop (what wonderful names!) and, let us not leave him out, young Harry Eden beautifully understated as tragic Jo, the used and abused crossing-sweeper.
One final word for the marvellous Phil Davis, an actor I`ve long admired, who was obviously encouraged to pull all the stops out as vengeful Smallweed - "Shake me up, Judy!" - and proceeds to give the performance of his career. How else can one play Dickens`s larger-than-life creations other than to just go for it? He goes for it - chews it up, and spits it out, right from his first unforgettable entrance.
Direction, editing (quite a feature of this bite-size, half-hour-chunks serial), design and camerawork are all top-notch, but without the performances to fill out the roles you have nothing. Instead, we have a Bleak House that does justice to its magnificent source in richness, brilliance and storytelling genius.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2006
Like the other reviewers, I agree that this is an excellent dramatization. It boasts a fantastic cast, so believable in their roles that I got totally absorbed into their world. Gillian Anderson, particularly, is wonderful and extremely convincing in playing Lady Deadlock, as well as beautiful to look at. Anna Maxwell Martin as Esther Summerson, Alun Armstrong as police detective Bucket, Timothy West as Sir Leicester Dedlock are also unforgettable. There are some very interesting other faces, in some of the more minor roles, which I found perfectly cast, and which were a joy to watch because of their wonderful expressions which made their characters seem so real.
The tension of the plot is very well maintained, and there is not one moment that I found boring. Indeed,I became so engrossed that at one point I found it impossible to stop watching, as I was interested in following the developments and all the twists and turns. The turning points in the plot are very well done, while not overly sentimental, and extracted some tears. These moments particularly linger in memory when the series is over.
Not to be missed, I'd say.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
After hearing the audio book I was interested in borrowing this from a friend who had it on their shelf. We were complately captivated from the start and ordered our own copy before finishing the first viewing. We then waited two days and watched it all again over the next few weeks.

It is broken down into 30 minute chunks in a similar fashion to the modern soap, although this is as far as the similarity goes thank goodness!! It was originally aired on BBC 1 after Eastenders. A marketing strategy that paid off as it was able to be viewed by more people than would otherwise be the case. Does this say that Eastender viewers are too bone idle to change channels and will watch anything?

Anyway....As with most Dickens adaptations the actors raise their game. Most notable Charles Dance who plays the most wicked villan Tulkinhorne and Anna Maxwell Martin who plays Esther.....

There is so much I want to write but don't want to bore you. This is excellent in every way.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This series looks stunning on Blu-ray, picture quality is exceedinly sharp and smooth with out a flaw.

Sound quality is also very high with the beautiful soundtrack spread across the surrounds and some good directional placing.

Just need the soundtrack releasing now.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 2009
I had recorded the BBC hd broadcast of this fabulous adaptation and was impressed with the HD quality, the BD takes this to to another level! with the exception of a couple of interior shots (looks like SD cameras where used for some reason)the disc are simply tops if you enjoyed the series you will be more than pleased
Viewed Using
Optoma HD80 1080p projector,oppo bdp-83,(MR DVD & BD) ,Extreamer, Onkyo 876,HUMAX FREESAT HDR (UPGRADED to 1TB ) , 8ft 16X9 screen
Paul
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61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2005
This adaption of Dicken's novel is pure brilliance. You would not be wasting money buying this boxset. I'm watching it on TV at the moment, the acting is superb. The last episode we watched had everyone crying. There are funny scenes as well. I think Charles Dickens would be proud of this adaption of his great novel. I've already pre-ordered my copy. If you don't know the story it's about a young women, miss Somerson who doesn't know anything about her family. Another part of the story is about a courtcase about who has the right to some money - this case has been going on for years and ruined many people. The two wards in this case are brought together with Esther Somerson and the story is about their relationships and Esther's search to find out who her family was. It is an intrigue of wonderful stories of peoples lives all brought together. Watch this!!!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2007
Who would have believed a few years ago that the female star of TV's science fiction series 'X files' would have turned in such a captivating performance as Lady Dedlock in Dicken's Bleak House. Yet Gillian Anderson's acting in this production was breathtaking to say the least. All the other actors and supporting actors have to be congratulated for bringing this story to life, and in particular performances by Anna Maxwell Martin, Charles Dance and Phil Davis as the repugnant Smallweed were equally superb.

My only gripe were the rather gimmicky loud thunderclaps and lightning used to usher in each new scene, which was unwarranted. Other than that the DVD is well worth every penny and something you can return to time and again.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2006
Once again Andrew Davies has done an excellent job with a period adaptation. The cast of Bleak House are perfect, with Gillian Anderson standing out above all of them.

The atmosphere is suitably dark and the scenery and choice of locations really make you feel as though you are there.

Filming in half hours, bite size pieces, makes it more palatable for some, but to be honest I could watch the whole lot in one sitting!

I can't recommend this enough. If you like scandal, heartache, top notch acting and a story with many threads and interesting characters, then this is for you! Enjoy!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2006
Every so often the medium of television yields up a masterpiece of acting, direction and adaptation .
The production of Bleak House is just such an occasion.
There have been many fine adaptations of Charles Dickens novels
from the BBC and ITV networks over the years, but nothing compares to the sheer overwhelming class of this latest offering from the BBC.
Bleak House is probably the finest of Dicken,s novels, full of
twists and turns of events involving a myriad of finely drawn characters.
Nothing prepared me for the scale of excellence which the BBC have managed here.
It is quite simply Television drama at it's best.
I shall watch the DVD again and again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2010
An excellent series, both screenplay and acting is fantastic.The Bluray is incredibly detailed and a credit to the BBC for showing how High Def should be done (ITV are you taking notes).I am referring to their poor Bluray of the recent version of Persuasion.
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