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4.6 out of 5 stars77
4.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 15 November 2008
One of the best adaptations of a novel that I have ever seen. The 1996 BBC recreation for the small screen of Iain Banks' darkly brilliant gothic work really stands up superbly 12 years on.
Featuring a strong cast including Bill Paterson, Peter Capaldi and Joe McFadden as the male half of the McHoan clan who live on the beautiful Argyll coast in their rambling country house.The storyline focuses on missing uncle Rory who never returned from a sojourn abroad and the rivalry between the writer brothers (Paterson and Capaldi) mainly instigated by elder brother Kenneth (Paterson) who never quite forgives younger Rory (Capaldi) for getting into print first before he disappears into the wide blue yonder. The McHoan sister is married to the charming but sinister 'Uncle Fergus' who lives in baronial splendor in his stunning castle on the shores of a mysterious dark loch.
Death is never far away from the central character, young Prentice (McFadden)..Kenneth's son who witnesses a series of family and friends die in usually tragic circumstances.
Sensitive soul that he is.He can't accept his fiercely atheistic father's brutal philosophical acceptance of these deaths and seeks answers.Just why does everyone he loves keep dying ? On top of this Prentice has to suffer further trauma as he watches older smarter brother played by Dougray Scott make a name for himself as a stand up comic and steal the girl of his wildest dreams-Verity- from under his nose !
Aided by the beautiful Ash his platonic girlfriend who happens to be a wizz with computers, Prentice gradually peels away the multitude of dark layers hiding the truth.
Beautifully,filmed acted and set.The whole 4 part series builds up to a powerful conclusion !
I had the pleasure of staying at Ardpatrick House on the Knapdale Peninsular where much of the Crow Road was filmed. Ardpatrick stood in for the McHoan family home. It was a wonderful experience and certainly enhanced a memorable drama experience.
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on 15 August 2009
The Crow Road is essentially a story about growing up. But while most productions on this theme tend to be mawkish, the Crow Road is a brilliantly suspenseful, moving drama mixing elements of murder mystery, comedy, tragedy, love, sex and faith. The series comprises 4 hour-long episodes that follow Prentice McHoan, a young lad brought up by his father to question things in life. So when friends and family start dying, his older brother steals off with the woman of his dreams, and his beloved Uncle Rory goes missing, Prentice starts casting round for answers. Is there some spiritual meaning to all these people leaving him or is there a more human, and sinister, reason? Aided by his old friend Ashley Watt and imaginary visitations from the missing Rory, Prentice tries to solve the McHoan mysteries.

The acting here is superb, particularly from Bill Paterson. The story skips deftly between the present, Prentice's younger days, and even the childhood of his father and uncles, allowing the relationships between the characters to be fully realised and making it all the more heartbreaking when they break down. The extras don't amount to much unfortunately, with the audio commentary from the director and other crew a bit dry. Some contribution here from the charismatic cast (including such faces as Peter Capaldi, and even Supergran!) would have helped. Quite how this TV series compares with the book it's based on I don't know as I haven't read it but here's the author Iain Banks' opinion: "annoyingly better than the book in far too many places". There you go. Do watch this.
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on 1 May 2005
I chose not to watch The Crow Road when it was originally televised, it did not appear to be to my taste. Some years later I read Iain Banks' novel and realised just how poor my judgement had been. I was gripped by the coming-of-age/family saga/mystery/love-story and it remains one of my favourite pieces of contempory fiction.
The BBC adaptation, while naturally missing some detail, is an exemplar of good an adaptation of a literary classic can be. No vital parts of the plot are sacrificed, and the narrative, even with flashbacks is clear. An interesting - and successful device - is the imagined series of conversations between Prentice and his missing uncle Rory.
Production values and acting are of a consistently high standard throughout.
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on 7 November 2004
I just had to add my "hear, hear" to the first reviewer- Banks has one of the most eceentric, beautiful and cruel of literary outputs (let's ignore the SF stuff with the middle initial), and The Crow Road is perhaps in the Top Five of British Novels of the last 20 years.
For the BBC to have somehow made an adaption of such skill and care is remarkable- it genuinely adds to your experience of the story and is compelling, chilling and moving.
Special words should be said for Joseph McFadden as Prentice and Bill Paterson as Ken; McFadden is a charismatic narrator, and you never lose sypmpathy with him, even when he seems to be going off the rails.
Paterson's peformance is perhaps a lifetime best, and Dougray Scott, Peter Capaldi and Valerie Edmond all atmosphere as part of an excellent ensemble.
The Crow Road is everything that the British Novel and British TV Drama can and should be- challenging, entertaining, and serious in it's artistic intentions.
Truly a landmark production.
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on 22 May 2013
Still powerful even 17 years after this TV series was broadcast, quite fauthful to the book. The big plus for me (over the 2004 DVD) is the fact the this edition has subtitles for the Deaf and hard of hearing.

Ss I haven't been able to watch (and hear) my former DVD it was pleasnt to note that even though the series was broadcast 17 years ago it doesn't appear dated.
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This BBC TV adaptation of Iain Banks' novel, "The Crow Road" dates from 1996. It is perfectly attuned to the spirit of the book and I doubt that the many changes to the original story that have been necessary in order to present it cinematographically would upset even the most ardent of fans. The pace does start out a little slow, perhaps, but by and large, it is well handled over its four episode span, with each more gripping than the last. Performances by and large are good, with the strength of the dialogue making up for any hamminess in their delivery. Needless to say, Peter Capaldi shines in his role of the missing Uncle Rory -- a character who never actually appears in the book but masterfully added to the dramatisation by screenwriter, Bryan Elsley. The musical soundtrack by Colin Towns is, characteristically, both highly evocative and annoyingly memorable.

There are a couple of extras on the disc, in the form of a general interview with Iain Banks, and a director commentary track on the first episode, which is well worth a listen and gives an interesting insight into the values of the production team without giving away any surprises for the later episodes.

Despite its age, still strongly recommended.
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on 9 January 2014
Got this DVD for Christmas, having read and hugely enjoyed the book. It is a great series, though I only give four stars as I had a couple of gripes with it. Firstly, Verity I think is miscast. She is described carefully in the book and I had a definite picture of her as a "punky" Doc Martins kind of girl. Verity in the adaptation seems too old, too groomed (apologies to the actor!). There was also a change regarding Darren, Ash's brother, and I didn't see why that was necessary. My final gripe was with the sex scene at the end. The first one was necessary to show as a bit "animal" and urgent, but the one near the end, trying not to give anything away, should have been more tender. It is very tenderly expressed in the book. I did like way Uncle Rory shadowed Prentice and thought most of the casting was spot on. So, a couple of reservations but overall a great adaptation of a great book.
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on 17 July 2013
I read the book and watched the TV series when it first came out, enthralled by both. I thought the TV series was a wonderful interpretation of Iain Bank's glorious tale of the twists and tangles, love and loss, all wrapped in the wry humour of Prentice, as narrator.
I watched this over 2 days, recovering from an operation. It enthralled me, entertained and comforted in a strange way, dealing as it does with the possibility of life beyond this one. I'll confess to having a few tears, thinking about the loss to the literary world of Iain Banks earlier in the year.Such a talent.
I don't imagine ever getting tired of this, until it is my turn to away down the crow road.
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on 4 November 2004
At last - The Crow Road is on DVD! No more worrying about my battered taped-from-the-TV videotape giving up the ghost!
A top-quality adaptation of a fantastic book, with a cast who just can't be faulted. One of the best things I've ever seen on TV, and one of Iain Banks' best books.
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on 21 January 2005
Haunting...beautiful...funny and clever, this is a drama that made me pack my bags and head off for an adventure in Scotland when it was shown on the BBC nearly a decade ago. Ever since, I've looked for a copy in the shops and still find myself humming its melancholic theme tune. If the Monarch of the Glen had murder, intrigue and a bit of Loch Fyne grit, it would be on same road.
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