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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 6 May 2008
I was reading "The Owl Service" on holiday in Wales (1978) when, as a total coincidence, I first saw this series. At the time it seemed otherworldly and slightly confusing to an impressionable 13 year old boy. The phrase "She wants to be flowers and you make her owls" has haunted me for 30 years. Finally I can see it all and appreciate that which I was too young to fully understand at the time.

I'm glad to say that the passing of time has not diminished the slightly off-kilter atmosphere of this classic series. Unlike much of "children's TV drama" these days, "The Owl Service" keeps you off-balance and intrigued as to what's actually going on.
This is an intensely claustrophobic story of relationships within a very English (step) family and the staff of their holiday home. Set in an oppressive Welsh valley it focuses specifically on the experiences and tensions between three teenagers who are forced to relive an ancient "mythical" conflict. Using a tale from "The Mabinogion" as the basis for the conflict it explores the difficulty of growing up and dealing with attraction, jealousy, alienation, the pressures of family, responsibility and even national identity but places it all within a subtly creepy supernatural setting.

The acting may now seem slightly stilted and the patronising "Granada-enforced" recaps do somewhat spoil the deliberate ambiguity of certain events but the meaning and power of the story has survived intact and "The Owl Service" provides some of the most "adult" children's TV you will ever have the good fortune to see.

edit: A special honourable mention must be paid to Roger's shorts :)
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on 19 January 2012
Several reviewers have already laid out The Owl Service more elegantly than I can. I can only reiterate - this is, along with Potter's Pennies From Heaven and Burnham/Ray's Children of the Stones, a shining moment in independently-minded british tv broadcasting from the 70s (OK first broadcast in 1969 in mono but I saw it last in colour in 1978). It has aged well - good yarns never go out of date, whatever the age of the supposed "target audience". They think we're all remedial now and can't handle complexity of narrative and theme, let alone ambiguity.

There's a welcome little booklet with the double dvd, and a superb period interview with its much underrated writer, Alan Garner, in the extras. Kudos to network for bothering to include these items.

I thought the original film grading could have been much improved - lots of underexposed / overexposed scenes that could have been recovered with modern digital processing - maybe this is part of the charm for some though. And it's not PC - slightly too much flesh is shown for the weather conditions. Depth and breadth is what you get if you look past these flaws though.

Trivia - the father/stepfather played by Edwin Richfield is also the very annoyed government minister in Quatermass and the Pit (took me a couple of nights to remember where I'd seen him last.)
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on 1 June 2012
I read the book first when it was originally published and found it fascinating. Then I saw the series and the later repeat. And now there is a chance to watch it again with older and wiser (one hopes) eyes. Garner weaved a fascinating story that left an impression on me from the novel and the TV drama series.

I saw Alan Garner lecture at a course in South Wales in the 1990s and was impressed by the way he talked about his works. Both he and his books are of great interest. He has an interest family and background and his books tell quite fascinating stories. The Owl Service particularly blends both the present (of the time production, though dated now) and the ancient past, reality and legend. That the drama was produced in North Wales and on the Wirral is nice since I live in that part of the world myself. I was in my late teens when I read the novel, in my early adulthood when I watched the TV drama and now in middle age seeing the TV drama in DVD form. And in all three periods the story continues to haunt. Today it is less scary than it was originally but nevertheless haunting and memorable.

An aside is that the Stone of Gronw was made special for the series and set up by a river. Years later in the different valley in North Wales a stone with a hole cut through it was found in a river by archaeologists.
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on 23 April 2008
And about time too! Made in 1969, but never released on Video or DVD till 2008. This, the TV adaptation of the award winning novel is a major feat of television. One of the first series ever to be made in colour in the UK, this 8 part story is a magical delight from start to finish. It's quite traumatic in parts and I would recommend caution to younger viewers. Fantastic performances from all - the best ever for a supposed "children's" show and a wonderful feel to the whole thing, which is beautifully shot on location.

The leisurely pace of the episodes adds to the characterisation in a way that I felt the book needed. I first saw this in the late 80s and was about the same age as the main 3 characters and was compelled by them.

The really great thing about this series is that it stands up well to repeated viewing - in fact, it's essential, each time reveals a new layer and a deeper understanding - so it's perfect for a DVD release.

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on 11 September 2010
It all looks so old fashioned now, younger viewers may not have the patience to stick with it but I watched this first time round in the 60s when I was about 8 years old and read all of Alan Garner's books.Had a massive crush on Gillian Hills too.I have wanted to get hold of a copy of this for years, it's every bit as good as I remember it.
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on 3 February 2013
This is a breath of fresh air to someone my age, 58, who fondly remembers this adaptation of Alan Garner's great book. It was a very forward-thinking production, with just the right amount of atmosphere and edginess, not an overly-wordy script and very good production values. I have always thought of it as a classic and I am very happy to add this DVD to my collection. The interview with Alan Garner is especially thought-provoking and informative and I would recommend this DVD to anyone who hankers after the good old days of quality television, let alone childrens' productions. They don't make them like they used to and this DVD pays good tribute to that.
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on 26 September 2012
I was a child when I watched this on TV and it was fantastic. I remember taking the book on holiday and then on our return sitting in the cafe at the dover ferry station reading it until the girl told us 'We are closing, you have to leave now'.

The characters are all good, and story is very close to the book. I never believed it was a child's story, now at 55 I still think it is for adults and children alike. Some sentences, 'mind how you are looking at her' still send shivers when i read or hear it.

Buy and enjoy. It's story telling at it's very best and suitable for all ages.
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on 3 August 2009
At last!! This excellent serial is available on DVD. Featuring the gorgeous Gillian Hills, this award winning children's serial is certainly much more than a children's story, just as Philip Pulman's 'His dark materials' trilogy are more than children's books. Multilayered, enigmatic, mystical, the quality of this drama in terms of sound and picture quality is very good considering its age. The dialogue is sharp and the themes very courageous for its day. The booklet included with the discs is an excellent supplement. Definitely not wallpaper TV, you have to sit, watch and concentrate on this. Superb!
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For a show that hardly anyone has heard of which hasn't been transmitted for 20 years, Network have put together a surprisingly nice DVD package for the series. It contains:

*The six episodes (split over two discs) with picture and sound as good as can be expected.
*A Granada TV documentary on Alan Garner from 1980.
*A booklet that details (well) the making of the show, and also features modern interviews with Gillian Hills and Raymond Llewellyn, finished off with a review by film critic Kim Newman.

All in all, it's a surprisingly well put together DVD release for a show that was, and is, unlike any other.
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on 1 September 2009
What can I say about The Owl Service that hasn't already be said? Much as it turns out. I loved this progamme from the moment I saw it and always had vivid memories of its themes, its colours, its haunting story, from the weird opening credits and its jarring music to the strange paper owls and the disappearing pattern on the plates. The entire production is superb, echoing the values that produced the high-quality television of the sixties and seventies. It also has a very "summery" feel, recalling days of yore when we actually HAD summers in Britain (!).Alongside much of the TV of its day, it was a children's programme that dealt with mature themes in a complex and mature way. The echoes of the recurring myth permeate the welsh landscape, and the entangled relationships of the lead characters gradually become imbued with this myth, adopting its archetypal roles in its endless retelling. But don't let this put you off (I do tend to waffle!!). It's really compelling stuff, both funny and quite eerie in parts with a good bunch of actors channelling Alan Garner's vision with passion and integrity. Modern audiences, accustomed to today's "flash in the pan" programmes, may find it a tad slow. Those of us who grew up with this stuff, like Timeslip, Sky and Children of the Stones, or prefer well-written, character driven programmes like HBO's Deadwood and Carnivale may beg to differ. As well as the programme itself there's an informative booklet, with cast recollections, and some nice little extras. And if you like this, read Alan Garner's novel and check out The Mabinogion. You'll be thinking about this one for weeks, perhaps years. Well done Network DVD for yet another well-packaged classic release. More please! A++++
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