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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Barchester Chronicles [DVD] [1982]
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119 of 121 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2005
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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141 of 144 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2005
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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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2009
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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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2001
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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95 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2008
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.

The plot meanders and becomes a little slow in its middle parts before speeding up towards its predictable ending. That said, it does so with humour, warmth and moments of genuine drama.

Like much of Trollope's work this occassionally feels a little over-long but despite that it hangs together well, courtesy of strong scripting and performances. Certainly the shooting style is dated with scenes feeling long and talky but like many shows of this period it carries that off well.

Sadly I suspect The Barchester Chronicles will be forever remembered primarily for whose career it launched rather than its strengths as a piece of television drama. However, for those who do investigate it and who have the patience to enjoy 1980s period drama they are in for a treat and will find a story that balances humour, conflict and moral questioning effectively and entertainingly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2012
For me, this definitely ranks up there with the BBC adaptations of Pride & Prejudice, The Forsyte Saga and The Pallisers, as well as ITV's Inspector Morse as one of the top 5 TV series ever. I have just watched it for the 3rd time (over 10 or more years) after my third read of the books, and continue to be impressed with the faithful adaptation and brilliant direction. To see Donald Pleasance as a benign old clergyman, when one was so used to him as the anti-hero of favourite horror movies was just one of the delights of this wonderful cast. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 4 February 2009
There is only one word suitable to describe this feast - rich. The acting is superb, the costumes and scenery divine and the whole experience is like a long, warm, scented bath. If you like your TV where you have to listen, concentrate, marvel and enjoy - this is for you. Rarely have wit and pathos been married together so well. Don't just sit there - buy it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2011
I find it so sad that the BBC very rarely produce such gems these days and Trollope seems to have gone "out of fashion" for some reason.

This is brilliantly watchable and with such people as Nigel Hawthorne, Donald Pleasence, Alan Rickman and Geraldine McEwan in it then it really couldn't go wrong. It's the first time I've seen a young Alan Rickman but he gave a perfect performance as the devious Curate. Nigel Hawthorne was at his best and Geraldine McEwan played her part to perfection as the poor Bishop's interfering wife. It was lovely to watch Donald Pleasence, such a fine actor and like Nigel Hawthorne sadly missed.

If you like period dramas and Trollope, as I do, then I thoroughly recommend this one as it's Trollope at his best.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2002
This series is a faithful adaption of the novels by Trollope and all the actors starring in it do a fantastic job, particularly Alan Rickman and Donald Pleasance. Nigel Hawthorne in also on top form. My original reason for watching was my interest (obsession?) with Rickman, but I found the whole experience extremely enjoyable and very funny in places. my only question is: when will it be on DVD?
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2006
This is a gentle, engrossing drama, set in the fictional English cathedral town of Barchester (Peterborough Cathedral stands in) and dealing with the personalities, politics, and conflicts of a group of Church of England clerics. They are (for the most part) good men, but clearly insulated from the wider world and taking it for granted that society will safeguard their position and they may not all have to work hard for it - the original books were a satire on the state of the established church at the time.
There are some very fine performances. Donald Pleasence is a delight as the decent middle-aged slightly-unworldly cleric pitch-forked into conflict with the real world when all he wants to do is worship God as he knows best (through his church music). The role was originally meant for Arthur Lowe but his untimely death sadly robbed us of the chance to see him in it. Nigel Hawthorne is in good form as his splenetic and ambitious son-in-law the Archdeacon, and Alan Rickman as slimy as only he can be as a politicking chaplain. Add the world’s wimpiest Bishop, a frighteningly domineering Bishop’s wife, and some entertaining female relatives of all sorts and we have an excellent cast.
The series shows its 1980s origins in direction techniques and production values, but we can live with that. An extended visit to Barchester is a delightful and entertaining experience.
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