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"Cold Comfort Farm," Stella Gibbons' hilarious literary satire, is brought to life in this polished TV adaptation. Faithful to its source but never stuffy, the adaptation is full of solid performances and entertaining subplots and romance, even if it is a bit slow at times.

Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale) is suddenly orphaned with only 100 pounds a year -- a piddling amount of money in high-society London. She aspires to be the next Jane Austen, and has no skills besides writing. (And given the number of times we hear "golden orb," writing isn't too good either) So she agrees to go live at Cold Comfort Farm. The farm is well-named -- it's dirty, primitive, and broke.

The backwater inhabitants include sex-and-movies-obsessed Seth (Rufus Sewell), hellfire preacher Amos (Ian McKellen), his depressed wife Judith (Eileen Atkins), and the unhinged old Aunt Ada Doom (Sheila Burrell), who "saw something nasty in the woodshed." Not to mention Elfine (Maria Miles), a farm girl in love with a young blueblood. With practicality to spare, Flora sets up love matches, fixes up the family feuds, and tidies up the homestead.

Take some nineteenth century novel's most primitive farms, and plop a practical, thoroughly independent young woman in the middle of it. Add a few dark mysteries -- what are Flora's "rights?" What did Aunt Ada see? -- and you have "Cold Comfort Farm." Stella Gibbons had a subtle, wry sense of humor, and the movie adaptation keeps the spirit alive.

It's lots of fun to see Flora cleaning up house, both literally and figuratively. She keeps trying to arrange everyone's lives so, in the long run, they'll be happy -- while postponing what might make herself happy. The plot moves at a rather slow clip, sprinkled with fun scenes like Elfine's makeover, or Amos's frenetic sermon (complete with graphic descriptions of hell's torments). Not to mention the dozens of funny lines, like Amos's deadpan, "Seth, you drain the well -- there's a neighbor missing."

Kate Beckinsale does a wonderful job as the no-nonsence Flora Poste. She's backed up by good performances: Stephen Fry's obnoxiously overenthusiastic Mr. Mybug, an unwanted suitor of Flora's, and Joanna Lumley as Flora's best pal and bra collector. Ian McKellen is particularly good as a wild-haired hellfire preacher. And Eileen Atkins drifts around in a morbid, pop-eyed stupor as Judith Starkadder.

"Cold Comfort Farm" is jolly good fun, a warm-hearted satire with plenty of excellent acting. Good fun for anyone who likes to poke fun at costume dramas and gothic family secrets.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 September 2012
"Cold Comfort Farm, (1995), a 105 minute period romantic comedy, is a real odd duck among British films. It was, firstly, made as a television movie, as a collaboration of the BBC and Thames International, ordinarily rivals. I don't know what that's all about, never seen that partnership elsewhere. But perhaps putting together the remarkable aggregation of talent before and behind the camera in this enterprise was so expensive that the production required the resources of the two firms. At any rate, somebody took a look at that talented collection of people, and gave the film a theatrical release, in which it did quite nicely.

In 1930s London, 20-year old Flora Poste, a pretty young debutante with ambitions to write, suddenly finds herself orphaned, and she's inherited only ₤100/year. So she must go to live on the farm with the Starkadders, a group of her nutty, unsophisticated rural cousins, who apparently believe they've done her father and family some unspecified injury. Ada Doom, the bed-ridden, iron-willed matriarch of the farm objects strongly, but Flora, who loves cleanliness, tidiness and order, tries to achieve some in the tumbledown higgledy-piggledy house, in the lives of its occupants -- and in her own life.

For a TV movie, the investment in talent must have been quite substantial. The production is, of course, based on the beloved novel of the same name Cold Comfort Farm (Penguin Classics), by Stella Gibbons, who collaborated on the screenplay with Malcolm Bradbury, author of at least one very funny novel that I've loved for years, The History Man. The enterprise was directed by the big-screen prize-winning John Schlesinger (Darling,Midnight Cowboy). Kate Beckinsale made her film debut in the production, giving no hint of the sort of movies she was later to star in, such as the Underworld Quadrilogy . The greatly talented Dame Eileen Atkins (Cranford Collection Box Set) stars as the gloomy Judith Starkadder. Sheila Burrell (SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII) creates a vigorous Ada Doom, who saw something nasty in the woodshed as a child. Comic Stephen Fry (Stephen Fry Collection 6 DVD Set) gives us an unbuttoned Mybug, novelist vacationing in the area. Freddie Jones ( THE CAESARS]]) is an endearing Adam Lambsbreath, farm hand. Joanna Lumley () is an endearing Adam Lambsbreath, farm hand. Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous - Absolutely Everything Box Set) makes an impression as Flora's wealthy, glamorous aunt, Mrs. Mary Smiling. The great Sir Ian McKellen (Richard III ) gives us a spirited Amos Starkadder, preacher of hellfire and damnation, who discovers he yearns after a Ford van. Miriam Margolyes, (IMMORTAL BELOVED) whom many considered the best actress living in her time, plays Mrs. Beetle. The uncommonly tall, dark, charismatic and handsome Rufus Sewell plays the uncommonly tall, dark, charismatic and handsome Seth Starkadder, just as he plays the similarly gifted title character in Zen . Rupert Penry-Jones (WHITECHAPEL) turns up as Dick Hawk-Monitor, beloved by the Starkadder girl; Angela Thorne and Tim Myers play his none-too happy about it mother and father. Christopher Bowen is Charles Fairford, airplane-flying minister to be, who is a little in love with Flora. Many viewers will find some more familiar favorites in smaller parts.

The film's nicely done, with quite a light touch, while showing us lovely panoramas of the countryside that Schlesinger, often considered an urban filmmaker, was entirely capable of delivering. Clothes, cars, airplanes, kitchen tools all look era-appropriate. Mind you, the film's more of a constant chuckle than a guffaw. There is an older version of this film, also quite entertaining; starring Dame Judi Dench, but it's hard to get hold of now. Luckily, this one will do quite well, thank you.
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This is a marvelous and fairly faithful adaptation of Stella Gibbons' 1932 novel of the same name. The film brilliantly captures the quirkiness of the novel, which is a hysterically funny, tongue in cheek parody of the heavy handed, gloomy novels of some early twentieth century English writers who had previously been so popular. The film is likewise hysterically funny and itself seems to parody British costume dramas.
The film starts out innocuously enough, when well educated Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale) finds herself orphaned as a young woman. Discovering that her father was not the wealthy man she believed him to be, she is resigned to the fate of having to live on a hundred pounds a year. After some discussion with her good friend, the wealthy Mrs. Smiley (Joanna Lumley), Flora opts to live with relatives, rather than earn her bread. She seeks out a most unlikely set of relations with whom to do so, the decidedly odd Starkadder family who live in rural Howling, Sussex.
Therein begins what is certainly one of the funniest movies to grace the silver screen. When Flora arrives in Howling, she meets her odd relatives, who live in neglected, ramshackle "Cold Comfort Farm", where they still wash the dishes with twigs, and have cows named Graceless, Pointless, Feckless, and Aimless. Headed by a matriarchal old crone, Flora's aunt, Ada Doom Starkadder (Sheila Burrell), who has not been right in the head since she "saw something nasty happen in the woodshed" nearly seventy years ago, they are a motley and strange crew indeed. Confronted with their dismal and gloomy existence, Flora sets about trying to put things to right.
Peppered with eccentric, memorable characters, this film will take the reader on a journey not easily forgotten. Kate Beckinsale is delightful as the practical, no nonsense Flora Poste. Joanna Lumley is delicious as the sophisticated and wordly Mrs. Smiley. Eileen Atkins is a standout as Flora's gloomy first cousin, Judith Starkadder, Ada's daughter. Rufus Sewell is well cast as Judith's son, Seth Starkadder, the oversexed ladies man. The role of the fire and brimstone preacher, Amos Starkadder, is played to perfection by Ian McKellen, while Shiela Burrell is nothing short of sensational as the imperious Ada Doom Starkadder. The rest of the supporting cast is likewise uniformly excellent.
All in all, this is a hilariously funny film and every bit as brilliant as the novel upon which it was based. It is certainly worth having in one's personal collection, as it is a keeper by any standard.
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on 27 January 2012
This is an excellent film, playing out an imagined awful time in the deepest English countryside of the 30s, tongue in cheek throughout and very funny without being a straight comedy. Everything is first rate, great names, a big director and wonderful evocative sets, and all the time the script is played for real - however ridiculous and bizarre.

After my previous copy was given away some years ago, I was then irritated to find that it had been discontinued and I couldn't replace it, even chasing up the BBC and the holder of the DVD rights to find when it would be reissued - "no plans". I was therefore delighted when the regular Amazon email of available DVDs brought it to my notice a few weeks ago as once again in stock - proof that Amazon's computer mailings can be very helpful indeed.
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This is a remarkably successful adaptation of a difficult book to capture. Although perhaps not having the sophistication of the TV series several years ago which tried to demonstrate the literary origins of the work and the fact Stella Gibbons demarcated the different writing styles in a hysterically funny manner, this TV film works well. The cast is strong, the direction accomplished and the design impressive. The transfer is perhaps not as well encoded as it could be and was certainly not up to the quality of a recent TV screening of the " film" but it just about passes.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 February 2015
Directed by John Schlesinger, this 100-minute adaptation of Stella Gibbons’s comic novel was made for television in 1995. It is perhaps laden down rather than invigorated by its all-star cast. Stephen Fry simply annoys rather than delights, and it was disappointing to see someone like Ian McKellen (who plays Amos) unable to decide whether to speak with a rural, Lancashire, or even quasi-Scottish accent. But there are some good ideas in this adaptation, such as the ‘Gone with the Wind’ soundtrack at Seth’s leaving.

The adaptation is largely faithful to the novel, but Gibbons’s book was set in a ‘contemporary’ future that envisioned everyone travelling around in aeroplanes as if they were taxis; it is understandable that this and other similar aspects of the book have been eschewed in favour of a pure nostalgic approach.
Of course, to reduce the novel down to manageable proportions meant some jettisoning of other aspects of the plot as well as some minor characters. In the film, therefore, Charles is also Claude, and introducing Nancy would only be confusing. In addition, it is Reuben and not Mybug who here gets together with Rennett, once Reuben’s had a bath in the drinking trough. Cleverly, it is Seth in the film who lets the bull out, and it was equally a good move to have Judith meet Dr Mudel actually at an old church – indeed at the very church where Elfine and Dick are marrying.

Despite the clever tweaks made to the narrative and some few good performances (step forward Eileen Atkins and Rufus Sewell), overall there was something artificial about this adaptation, as if it was trying too hard to be natural. Certainly some actors were miscast. I therefore give this film three stars.

Finally, the extras on my DVD include filmographies, a gallery, and a Stella Gibbon’s text biography and bibliography. Not much. Shame there was no sign of interviews with any of the players or the screenwriter, Malcolm Bradbury.
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VINE VOICEon 23 September 2004
I was first attracted to this movie due to the presence of Kate (VAN HELSING, UNDERWORLD) Beckinsale who plays chic London socialite Flora Poste in this wonderful, funny and heart warming adaptation of the 1932 Stella Gibbons novel.
Flora, with dreams of becoming a novelist, moves to the rural countryside to live with her great Aunt and her family on Cold Comfort Farm, a down-on-its-luck farmstead deep in the English countryside. There she encounters a number of wonderful eccentric characters who seem to be living in the past - one of them uses a twig to clean the dishes. Flora sets about lifting the doom and gloom that surrounds the farm and bringing 'enlightenment' to the inhabitants by helping to make their suppressed dreams come true.
What makes this movie so much fun is the characters that Flora encounters, and as with such character-driven movies, the choice of actors is so important. Thankfully some strong caliber acting talent was brought in and they equip themselves wonderfully. From Ian McKellen of the LORD OF THE RING'S trilogy to Rufus (A KNIGHT'S TALE) Sewell the results are exemplary.
Raised for the first ten years of my life on my grandfathers farm on the English-Scottish border, I found the movie a particular delight. Though clearly over-the-top some of the observations of country living (from Gibbons) awakened a strange sense of nostalgia and wondering how life had been for my grandfather back in the 1930s and 1940s.
This is a gem of a movie and I encourage everyone to give this movie a chance.
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on 5 October 2012
Well done to Stella Gibbons for writing the book. Cold Comfort Farm on the screen is very entertaining - with some odd charcters and some not quite so odd.

Kate Beckinsale is charming, young and has plans for the occupants of Cold Comfort. She is aided by her contacts in the big city to transform the lives of the farmhand, the forever pregnant young girl, the pixie-like daughter and various other members of the family to whom she is cousin...and last but not least her Aunt Ada Doom who has locked herself away in her bedroom since "seeing something nasty in the woodshed".

Lovely cast includes Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Rufus Sewell, Freddie Jones and Ian Mckellen. Set in the 1930s, they lure you into their odd little world blending the well-to-do with rustic country-folk.

It's quite intriguing and I think you will be compelled to see just how Kate as Flora Poste, manipulates her country relatives into their new lives.
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on 5 September 2011
I first saw Cold Comfort Farm when it was shown on TV. It has taken me ages to track it down and had to pre-order it from Amazon, but the wait was worth it. My Husband wasn't too keen to watch it at first, but he laughed all the way through it.
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on 22 March 2011
The film has a brilliant cast who portray a set of eccentric characters extremely well.
It's such fun, - so witty. It's set prewar and the heroine, Kate Beckinsdale and her Aunt, Joanna Lumley, are both very modern and forward looking, no nonsense women. They bring light and liberation to the comically gloomy and depressing Cold Comfort Farm with it's set of strange country characters. Ian McKellan, as the preacher who sends his congregation into quivering jellies is hilarious.
I recorded this film from Television some years ago. When transfering to DVDs I binned the original as I wanted to replace with DVD. To my dismay I couldn't find any that weren't Zone 1 play but eventually tracked one down and the film was just as good as I remembered. Well worth the search. A classic 'feel good'.
I haven't read the book but am told that the film does it justice.
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