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3.9 out of 5 stars17
3.9 out of 5 stars
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"John Steinbeck's East of Eden" is considered the most faithful screen adaptation of the greatly-loved book of the same name by respected Nobel Prize winning American author John Steinbeck, ( The Grapes of Wrath (Centennial Edition); famously filmed as The Grapes of Wrath). And, of course, Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck Centennial Edition);equally famously filmed as Of Mice and Men ). Steinbeck is said to have always considered it ("Eden") his most characteristic work. However, the TV production has not been available for a long time, and its fans have been hungrily awaiting a rerelease. It now comes to us as a box set of three DVD's, totaling approximately 382 minutes, comprising the three episodes of the original TV mini-series drama as shown on ABC in 1981. Special features of the new set include subtitles; bless their hearts, and a new interview with the series' star, Jane Seymour, best known for the TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Series Megaset.

The lavish, multi-million dollar entertainment, filmed on location in Salinas, California, captures the full arc of Steinbeck's novel, Connecticut to California, American Civil War to World War I, as it traces the troubled men of the Trask family. (The well-known 1955 theatrical version, starring James Dean (East of Eden ) covered only the last, World War I period.) Upon the debut of the television miniseries, it won an Emmy for best art direction and Golden Globes for best miniseries and best actress (Seymour). The series follows three generations of Trask men, from Civil War patriarch Cyrus (Warren Oates); his feuding sons Adam and Charles (Timothy Bottoms, Bruce Boxleitner), and Adam's quarreling fraternal twin sons Aron and Cal (Hart Bochner, Sam Bottoms). Along the way, Cathy/Kate Ames (Jane Seymour) plays an important role in many of their lives. Guest stars include: Lloyd Bridges as Samuel Hamilton, Karen Allen as Abra, Anne Baxter as Faye, Howard Duff as Jules Edwards, Richard Masur as Will Hamilton, Grace Zabriskie as Cathy's mother, and M. Emmet Walsh as sheriff Horace Quinn (yup!).

The story is as much Cathy/Kate's as the Trask men's, and Jane Seymour largely carries it. (I did find that Timothy Bottoms was too light-weight for the job). Furthermore, reviewers as varied as The Boston Globe and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune have considered this Seymour's best work. She herself, although she has nearly 100 characters to her 40-year portfolio, told daytime talk show queen Oprah Winfrey in 2003 that Kate was "the best role of my career." Winfrey said, "I think there was no other Kate. In my mind, you personified all that she was and captured that in a way that I still marvel." (When Winfrey relaunched her book club in 2003, she chose "Eden" as the first selection.) If you're among the fans waiting for this release, enjoy.
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on 6 March 2012
One of the best series done, Seymour is great playing a dark character, I think this series made her famous, Bruce Boxleitner also, you may remember Timothy Bottoms from Paper Chase "Mr. Hart"
Paperchase is an oldie but its a good one.
I'm surprised there are not many reviews here, check Amazon USA and read the reviews, maybe it was not advertised as much in the UK as in the USA. Anyway don't pass up missing this one.
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on 8 April 2012
If you followed the process in good order, the novel first, James Dean's film second? and this one will have made you furious, and finally the TV series you will say they saved most of the novel on the TV screen, but not in the film.

This mini series in three parts is rather good for the first part, very skeletal and poor for the middle part and very good for the last part. The first part is the conflict of Charles and Adam with a crazy father who sends Adam away to the cavalry to protect him from Charles and to make him hard and strong. The army does not make anyone strong if that one is not somewhere already strong or just bad. Adam is neither. So the cavalry and the Indian wars fail completely. The series skips the Florida chain gang episode and that's fine for the time being.

The second part is by far too skimpy and short with Cathy and the two twins. The main element that is kept out is the Hamilton family reduced more or less to two or three short episodes with Samuel Hamilton, and of course the naming of the children and the reading of Genesis, Chapter 4, Abel and Cain, though they shorten this section and among other things skip verse 7 that Lee is going to discuss later on to explain the real meaning of God giving free choice to Cain who may do good or fall into evil if he chooses, but no one has predicted or planned it for him and no one is going to tell him what to do.

The third part alas keeps the innovation of the 1955 film and set Kate's brothel in Monterey, instead of directly in Salinas, within walking distance and immediate public rumor. This will help cutting the blackmailing Kate is planning to do in the city after her retirement, and her end, in fact her poisoning suicide and her will giving everything to Adam, quite a fortune, but Adam will be far away from Salinas by then. This side of the fishy business of Kate and the deal she has with the local sheriff and not the sheriff of the next county is taken out, especially when this one discovers the blackmailing plan after her death.

But the second part having been shortened too much, the third part loses one more important event. After the lettuce fiasco, Adam decides to write to his brother and he discovers Charles is dead and has left a real fortune behind. That means the miserable end in this series with a rich man turned poor, and the son burning fifteen thousand dollars out of spite is a lot more severe in real monetary value than it is in the novel where it is more symbolical than really hard, since Caleb has the farm, the house in Salinas and the two inheritances from his uncle and from his mother, via his brother in that latter case.

This series though is clear on some essential elements. Though Samuel Hamilton is reduced to the minimum, Lee is essential without ever being the victim of any hostility when the war is declared, like in the 1955 film (note the anti-German events are also erased), and not being the target of too much deriding name calling, except from the sheriff who calls him chink chink, Lee is a central and essential character in the second and especially third part. He is among other crucial moments the one who gets Adam's blessing to his son Caleb.

The conflict between the two brothers, Caleb and Aron, is both reduced to a rather simple situation of two boys who are more or less competing for the love of their father, in the absence of a mother, and for the love of a girl, and at the same time slightly strengthened on that latter point by another reduction: the role Caleb plays in his brother's success in high school where he passes a class and his going to college on the support from his brother Caleb is erased. The two brothers are shown in the novel as deeply in love with each other and at the same time deeply competitive more than hostile but on a background of frustration both at the level of the father and at the level of the mother. It is this deep frustration and the father's unfair and unjust, unequal and selfish treatment of Caleb that is the main cause of the drama.

The series shows, but with a strong emphasis on the biblical interpretation proposed by Lee, how the curse runs in the family from the grandfather and his two sons from two different mothers and the conflict of Charles against Adam, though Adam is the oldest, then between these two grown up brothers who find themselves unable to work together on their common farm and then who take opposed positions concerning Cathy who takes refuge on their farm. In the first case Adam had no mother and was raised by his stepmother with a son on her own side. In the second case Adam picks that Cathy more or less out of a fancy and against his brother's will to spite him or to compensate for his lack of a mother.

But this union gives two sons then who are twins, symbolically Caleb the first one and Aron the second one, reproducing the biblical pair with Caleb the "bad" one like "Charles" and Cain and Aron the naïve and pure one like Adam and Abel, Aran and Adam the favorites of their fathers, just like Abel was preferred by God.

This pattern is strongly reinforced in the series but was absolutely absent from the film since the film only considered the final drama in Salinas. The series has reduced some balancing episodes and elements to concentrate on this parallel.

The result is that the biblical explanation is all the stronger since it reverses the curse and gives to anyone, and particularly to the one who feels unjustly rejected the responsibility to choose good and not evil. But what about Adam who could have chosen to be good and not evil with Caleb? And what about Charles and what about Aron? Only Caleb is pointed out and that is unfair, especially since God's curse against Cain has a compensation: he will be the source of all kinds of future development of humanity. But here the series is just as unfair with the Bible as the novel: Adam and Eve had a third son to replace Abel, Seth and at least half of humanity has come from this Seth and not all of humanity from Cain.

That's the main element that is missing in the novel, the film and the TV series. Adam and Eve did not have two sons but three and Steinbeck never envisaged that third son and he distorted the first pair making them from two different mothers, and the second pair by making them twins though not real and in the novel we can assume one is from Charles and in the TV series it is rather clearly said they are both from Charles. Actually to insinuate they are from two different fathers is closer to the Bible since Abel is more or less hinted to be from God himself.

To conclude we can say this is a strange novel and TV series (the film is too far from the novel to be comparable) that reveals the deep biblical inspiration in the USA and at the same time the deep and cruel inspiration Steinbeck gets from this Bible. In a way Steinbeck is settling accounts with God in this novel and the TV series is just as hard with the poor Episcopalian priest who is accused of not even going to the toilet not to have any contact with anything sexual and the total final image of Aron as a complete or nearly complete religious mind living in absolute mental celibate, and of course physical purity, is slightly misleading as compared to the novel.

But the whole shebang is really worth the detour from standard reality shows, even the film because of the brilliant James Dean.

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on 10 July 2015
Lengthy but faithful adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel, this series fully explores the Cain and Abel scenario across two generations (unlike the James Dean film which only covers the First World War period and the Cal/Aron relationship). Look out for apples appearing at key moments to hammer home the Biblical parallels! Personally I find Jane Seymour's scenery-chewing performance (she even gets to bite a lump out of Lloyd Bridges at one point) over the top. Cathy/Kate needs to be more of the chilling psychopath.
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on 1 July 2011
Good in parts, and Jane Seymour puts in an impressive performance. Sadly, the characters in the second half of the series just didn't ring true.
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on 22 July 2015
Really enjoyed watching this again after so many years. Brilliant acting by Jane Seymour. Its difficult to believe she is so lovely in 'Dr Quinn Medicine Woman', after her super performance in East of Eden.
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on 26 August 2011
I am a Jane Seymour fan and was delighted with this series. Although Jane portrays an evil character her acting talents are not diminished. Quality of the DVD is very good. I like the story line too.
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on 14 April 2015
Far more satisfying than the James Dean film, with great acting, especially from Loyd Bridges.
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on 24 August 2014
A great box set, most enjoyable so thanks for that. Fast delivery.
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on 16 February 2015
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