on 24 July 2006
I have come to adore the writings of Evelyn Waugh, and watched this for the first time when I was 17 and loved every second of it. I was thrilled to find the DVD set on here for such a reasonal price (at about £1.20 per hour...) and snapped it up immediately.
Of huge benefit is the extra documentary, where the cast explain how they all went away during the production hiatus, read the books and then brought back particular lines to the scriptwriters to be included. This, I feel, adds to the success of this production.
Charles Ryder's narration is imperative, and Jeremy Irons' seductive tones carry us through the story as he meets the Marchmains and how influential they become in his life. I doubt whether there are many people who would watch this, having read the book, and find it unfaithful or very different to how they imagine Brideshead to be.
For me, Charles and Sebastian are perfect, Antony Blanche's stuttering a true gem, Jane Asher is particularly annoying as Charles' wife (as she ought to be) - in essence, the cast are all phenomenal, especially when put against John Gielgud (delicious as Charles' father) and Laurence Olivier.
The best television production I have ever had the pleasure to watch. Buy it whilst you can - the production value of this box set is stunning, both on screen and the box case itself.
on 23 May 2000
When 'Brideshead Revisited' first came onto the nations screens back in the early 80's, it had a huge weight of expectation resting on its lofty shoulders. Adapted from one of Evelyn Waugh's finest novels by the brilliant John Mortimer, with an all star cast and a very large budget, the country expected greatness and they were not disapointed.
This is simply from start to finish, the finest British television drama ever. The stellar cast from Laurence Olivier down, seem to sense throughout that they are involved in something special and momentous and most give life time best performances. (The late John Gielgud's vague, but mischievous father is worth the admission price alone). The sets are sumptious and authentic and the tragic and intriguing story never fails to engage throughout. Words can never hope to sum up how wonderful this production is. It is almost twenty years since I first saw it and I still can vividly recall most scenes. Give yourself a treat and see what quality televsion can really be like. In this age of digital multi-channel programming, where quantity over quality is the new maxim, we will probably never ever see its like again, but thank heavens we still have it to treasure and wonder at today.
on 21 October 2005
It is pretty exasperating to find that while so many TV-productions inferior to this one (and most are) reach us on DVD in mint condition, it is apparently impossible to do the same favour to this, one of the three best things ever made for television (the other two being the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice, and ABC's Angels in America). It took ridiculously long for Brideshead to appear on DVD at all. When it did, it was crammed onto three discs in an otherwise featureless set. Image and sound were appalling throughout. So what a relief to find there is now a 'collectors edition' on 4 discs, presumably to correct the initial errors. But don't get your hopes up too high. On this reissue the sound is as bad as on the old version; listen to the opening tune - whatever happened to CD quality sound? The picture quality has improved somewhat: less grain, some gain in clarity. Yet, unbelievably, this reissue again shows up tape artefacts, unsteady backgrounds, and occasional fuzzy images.The main improvement is in the presentation: there now are several interesting extra's, and even a booklet! But that, of course, is not what it is all about. Worst of all every disc begins with a noisy, non-skippable anti-piracy add that is an insult to buyers of this set, and is so infuriatingly irritating that it would turn you into a movie pirate on the spot. Unfortunately there is little choice but to make do with this, as any serious lover of great television will not want to be without this monumentally impressive series. Of the available options (including the Region 1 'collector's edition' - what's in a name...), this one is the best, though that is not saying much.
on 6 June 2003
After acquiring a DVD player just over a year ago, this was about the first thing I went looking for. And guess what: it wasn’t there! Whereas every last B-movie and sitcom-futility seemed available on disc, nobody had thought of issuing this towering monument of TV-history on DVD. Imagine my euphoria when, on a visit to Hong Kong six months later, I nevertheless found it! Fortunately the lady at the counter was kind enough to point out that it would be useless in Europe, as it was coded Region 1. As it turned out, Brideshead has been available on DVD for years in the US – but not in Europe! (The same, by the way, seems to be happening to another masterly TV-adaptation of a classis English novel, Vanity Fair).
Well, finally the waiting is over, and here it is. After opening the package, it still struck me as somewhat of a rushed job (an impression not helped by the fact that the first copy I got was faulty): the three discs come in a flimsy cardboard slipcase, and there is no additional material either in a booklet or on any of the discs, not even an index for the scene-tracks per episode. It is just the series, and nothing more (though the architectural drawing of Castle Howard from Campbell's Vitruvius Brittanicus, on the reverse of the fold-out containing the discs, IS gorgeous).
But well – who needs more, really? For anybody with a little sense of nostalgia, with a taste for the Twenties or for the English country house, or with even the slightest symptoms of Anglophilia, this is irresistible – and when you have two or more of these, be prepared to be blown away. Waugh's slow-paced, multi-faceted baroque tragedy is reproduced faithfully on screen from its exuberant start to its bitter-sweet ending. As an adaptation of the novel, the screenplay is a masterpiece in itself. Casting, locations and camerawork are all as near to perfection as humanly possible (apparently the success of Castle Howard as Brideshead was such that many people seem to think the house is actually called Brideshead). Anthony Andrews is astoundingly adept at portraying both Sebastian's lighter and darker sides; a still very young Jeremy Irons succeeds in keeping Charles and his tremendous character development centre stage in spite of the motley crowd surrounding him; and John Gielgud supplies marvellous comedy as Charles's subtly and somewhat maliciously deranged father; - to mention just a few. In short, and notwithstanding some excellent productions of later years, this series still has a very strong claim to being the best thing ever done for TV.
I have seen some DVD-buffs complain about the quality of the images: 'dull patches', 'dead colours' and 'unquiet backgrounds' seemed to interfere with their viewing pleasure. Frankly, I have no idea what they are talking about. If you own a giant TV-set and push your nose against the screen, who knows what you will see, but to me the DVD version looks infinitely better than the VHS-copy I owned. It is sharp, steady and clear, and better still, these qualities will remain intact over time – which is a good thing, for if ever there was a TV-series warranting repeated viewing, it is this one!
on 24 February 2008
I'm sure there are thousands of international customers who would be extremely happy to know whether a movie has English subtitles or not. This information really should become a regular item when listing DVD features. For instance, I would buy Brideshead instantly if I knew it was subtitled. Now I have to go hunting for this bit of information.
on 25 May 2003
In the early 1980's the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel, Brideshead Revisited was a landmark in television drama.Watching this series again after more than twenty years reminds me that Brideshead is simply one of the most glorious and opulent pieces of television drama ever made. Every scene drips with the kind of production values which used to make British television the best on the planet; the script, the camera work and the wonderful ensemble acting (where is any one going to get a cast list to rival this one?)make this an absolute must for every one who wants to wallow in television bliss;it just has not dated at all.
However, the three DVD set, while handsomely packaged and beatufully presented has no extras or special features; not even a scene menu. You have the option of playing a DVD all the way through or selecting an individual episode. That is it!
Of course, the reason for buying this DVD is to be able to watch at one's leisure an extraordinary and unrivalled production. But it is a shame that the producers have not taken advantage of the medium of DVD to enhance the whole experience.
Nevertheless, this is an essential purchase; buy it, get some strawberrys, line up the Brandy Alexanders and watch.
Brideshead is a true classic. I don't think there can be any fault to find here. The casting of all the roles is exceptional even if some are against type. (hard to believe that Anthony Andrews played an army officer in Danger UXB and Jeremy Irons had presented Playaway!)Getting Gielgud and Olivier in the production too! The settings are great, bringing the book completely to life and it's sad that there isn't anything to match this on TV anymore!
Let's not see or hear any talk of a remake either.
on 25 May 2003
The most remarkable thing about the TV dramatisation of "Brideshead Revisited" is that when you return to the written word you realise how perfect the casting and the production was. It is impossible to think of anybody but Jeremy Irons as Charles or Anthony Andrews as Sebastian - and the other key roles were equally brilliantly portrayed - Diana Quick's delicious but disturbed Julia; Claire Bloom's controlled and certain Lady Marchmain - and Olivier's funny and moving Lord Marchmain.
Waugh's novel is one of the truly great works of fiction of the 20th century. It describes a lost era by contrasting it with the changes the Second World War was creating to society and to the old order of things. Although the novel's publication pre-dated the landslide Labour win of 1945 by a couple of years there is nevertheless an undercurrent of the inevitability of change. Some of the characters are the new order (Charles's junior officer Hooper for example) - and those who are clearly unsuited to the post war world die before the end (Lord and Lady Marchmain do not live to see the inevitable desecration of their great country house). The TV adaptation captures this sense of change as elegantly as the novel. We see Charles encounter the realities of life (death; divorce; adultery; the need to earn a living; the fall from grace of his friend) which contrasts beautifully with the distant idyll of Oxford with Sebastian and his bear.
Brideshead is an achingly real book - none of the hilarious fantasies of Scoop or Decline and Fall are here. I do not think that the novel has one false moment in it's hundreds of pages - and the TV adaptation is equally sure footed. Watch it in one sitting if you can find the time - maybe with a glass or two of Chardonnay and some plovers eggs by your side!
I especially enjoyed the first two hauntingly beautiful episodes that are set among the "dreaming spires" of Oxford and the dreamy palazzi along the Canal Grande of Venice. Although initially I found the dynamic between Charles and Sebastian (the young Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews respectively) to be the most interesting, by the time I had arrived at the later episodes (and there are thirteen of them), I was wholly captivated by all the characters. I did not want the series to end.
The magic can be attributed to the fine production values--the stunning settings (some of the later scenes were shot in first class aboard the Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth II) and rich vintage costumes, the evocative trumpets of the musical score, the splendid combination of John Mortimer's script and novelist Evelyn Waugh's actual words, the excellent direction--and the top-drawer actors, not only Irons and Andrews but also Sir John Gielgud, Sir Lawrence Olivier, and Claire Bloom, who are supported by a fine ensemble cast.
"Brideshead Revisited" allows even us viewers trapped in the twenty-first century, to dwell momentarily in a golden Arcadia that is gone forever.
Maybe I was over-hyped. It's happened to me before (with "Citizen Kane" all I could think on 1st viewing
was "this is the greatest movie of all time?!?" 2nd time around, I realized it arguably was.)
So, while this received almost only ecstatic praise and rave reviews, my feelings on 1st viewing were
slightly more tempered.
There are some wonderful performances throughout, and the early episodes beautifully capture a world of
tenderly close relationships between collage aged boys that are so intimate that the unanswered question
of `is it sexual?' becomes almost moot.
The series is never boring, although each piece is separate enough that there isn't a conventional build up
of momentum. Not a complaint, I actually found that interesting and different.
The big fly in the ointment for me, was that, In the end, while I was always interested I was rarely moved.
In perhaps my own failing, I had a hard time with some of the overtly religious elements of the climax, with
characters making decisions and discoveries I found emotionally incomprehensible.
I was also bothered by the fact that Sebastian, so much the core of the first third is basically abandoned as
a character, with only occasional expository speeches to tell us what happened to him.
Further there is an obsessive infatuation with the upper class that borders on creepy. Waugh reportedly believed
in the natural superiority of upper class British society, and disliked "outsiders" like Americans and Jews. I felt
that attitude throughout, but was bothered that the film neither questioned or explored it.
Jeremy Irons is brilliant for half the series, but in the later half I felt him working at playing `older', indeed coming
off as older than the character is supposed to be, and more emotionally flat than needed.
But those complains aside, as a capturing of the sadness of life, how the joy of youth gives way to the confusion
and loss of middle age it is effective and intelligent. If I wasn't blown away I was still glad to have seen it.
I need to watch it again to see if I missed a masterpiece, or I'm just out of sync with the world on this one.
I also was sorry the DVD transfer was as weak as it was. I understand that the film was shot on 16mm, some
elements were damaged, etc. But there were times when, for example, the pulsing of the edges of the frame really
started to pull my concentration away from the story.