81 of 87 people found the following review helpful
Blockbuster Australian Mini Series That Has Achieved Worldwide Cult Status,
This review is from: Return to Eden (1983) 2-DVD Set (DVD)
Well over twenty years old, the legendary Return To Eden (1983) firmly remains Australia's most successful mini-series to date. It has reached worldwide cult status having attracted over a staggering 300 million viewers worldwide! It has even scored mammoth viewing figures in the U.S.A, a market in which seldom an Australian drama has endured!
The central character in Return To Eden is Stephanie Harper, played beautifully by Rebecca Gilling, who is a middle aged, rather niave and plain looking mining magnates daughter and mother of two. Stephanie Harper is also renowned for being Australia's wealthiest woman.
The story opens on the much publicised wedding of Stephanie Harper and the dashing but considerably charmless, Greg Marsden (James Reyne) a somewhat sleazy and nauseating sports star. It's made clear from the outset that Greg, a man nearly half Stephanies age, was blatantly just after getting his greedy hands on Stephanies fortune.
On the wedding day an obvious attraction between Greg and Stephanies frosty best friend Jilly Stewart (marvelously played by Wendy Hughes) is made apparent. Greg and Stephanie invite Jilly Stewart along on their honeymoon at Stephanies family homestead, Eden, located in the Northern terriotry. It is at Eden that the traitorous Jilly embarks upon a torrid love affair with Greg whilst poor Stephanie remains completely oblivious.
One night on the honeymoon, Stephanie and Jilly join Greg on a boat for a crocodile hunt. Once in a deserted spot, Greg maliciously throws Stephanie straight into the jaws of a crocodile whilst Jilly just simply stands by and watches her supposed best friend fight desperately for her life.
Stephanie Harper is presumed dead but miraculously she survives the crocodile attack (remember folks this was the 1980's) though is obviously half dead and hideously scarred. Whilst the world thinks Stephanie Harper is dead, including Greg and Jilly who continue their intense, sexually charged love affair, Stephanie spends the next six months recovering in a private clinic on a deserted island, all the while hatching a cunning plan to exact revenge on Greg and Jilly. Stephanie undergoes extensive plastic surgery that drastically changes her whole physical apperance. At the hands of the gentle plastic surgeon Dr Dan Marshall (James Smilie), Stephanie Harper is transformed from an ugly ducking into a beautiful swan. She assumes a new identity, calling herself Tara Welles and quickly becomes one of Australia's most celebrated fashion models. Stephanie, masquerading as Tara Welles, cleverley befriends Jilly, winning her trust and charms Greg into falling in love with her whilst continuing plotting bitter revenge on her betrayors.
So, ok, those of you that aren't familiar with Return To Eden, taking one read of the plot synopsis i've written, you'd be perfectly within your rights to say NO WAY! SOUNDS ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS! And of course that is very true. BUT, Return To Eden, on a purely entertainment level, works incredibly well, evoking a gripping, tense atmopshere throughout building on suspense and packed with several surprise twist and turns in the story.
Return To Eden is not least redeemed by its ludicrously over-the-top plot line by an engaging performance from its leading star, Rebecca Gilling, an acclaimed Australian actress. Rebecca Gilling is both beleavable and likeable in her role as Stephanie Harper/Tara Welles. The transformation of Stephanie Harper into the stunningly beautiful Tara Welles is truly amazing thanks to a fantastic and expert make up job. The character Stephanie shrewdly shifts from being something of a dowdy, put-upon wimp to a more glamorous, worldly sophisticated woman as Tara, brimming with more self assurance without being arrogant or unlikeable.
Another acclaimed Australian actress, Wendy Hughes, appears as the restless and fairly bitter, Jilly Stewart. Wendy Hughes delivers a cracking performance as the neurotic, needy alcoholic, making the character beleavable by displaying different dimensions to the character which included a large vulnreable side.
Early 80's rock star, James Reyne, chosen for the role presumably for his good looks rather than his questionalbe acting abilities, is quite laughable most of the time in his role as the greedy, scheming Greg Marsden. Intentionally, James Reyne literally oozed bucket loads of slime in his role as Greg though his performance is often wooden. He is at his most hilariously over the top at the exciting and dramatic climax where he is semmingly playing the whole thing as though he were the principal villain in a pantomime. Needless to say, James Reyne confessed years later in an interview for the DVD edition that he failed to take his role in Return To Eden at all seriously. He also adopted a very rigid sort of walk for the character that is of siginificant amusement value!
Completing the principal cast line up is James Smilie as the smooth (if occasionally too sickly sweet) Dr Dan Marshall who Stephanie/Tara ends up having a somewhat complex affair with. His down to earth performance blends well into this big budget film noir.
The locations used in Return To Eden are notably very eye catching and beautiful. The locations ranged from Sydney, Orpheus Island and Arnham Land in the Northern terriotry and boasts magnificent cinematography courtesy of Dean Semler who later went on to win an academy award for his work on the classic film, Dances With Wolves.
I really don't want to give anything away about the tremendous climax for those of you that have not yet watched Return To Eden but I can reveal that the stunning conclusion is very cleverley drawn out with plenty of action and high, intense drama where Stephanie/Tara cunningly lures both Greg and Jilly back to Eden to serve up her carefully planned revenge - hence the title Return To Eden. It literally escalates even further when the so-called Tara Welles finally reveals that she is infact Stephanie Harper. By this time the murderous Greg Marsden is now completely head over heels and obsessed with Tara, not having the slightest inkling that she is infact Stephanie Harper - the lady he was married too and tried to kill in order to get his hands on her fortune. With the canniving Jilly, you do, in a strange way, actually feel a little sympathetic towards her as she had been practically brainwashed by Greg Marsdens evil, mainpulative ways.
Return To Eden clocks in at well over four hours long and is admitedly hard to stick to in one sitting if viewing it on DVD or video. However when watched in the instalments as shown on television (which was shown in 3 parts) it is thoroughly enjoyable. Most notably funny in Return To Eden are the hilarious fashions seen during the cat walk sequences which proceeds to make Return To Eden look all the more dated. Undoubtedly though, the fashions, as laughably over the top as they were, was the cutting edge of its time.
After enjoying blockbuster ratings in Australia in 1983 (despite receiving a bashing from critics of the day), Return To Eden began being shown across the world, acheiving renewed gigantic success, particularly in Europe and the U.S.A. It took its star, Rebecca Gilling all across the world as millions of adoring fans of Return To Eden clamoured to catch a glimpse and meet the true star of this show.
Return To Eden was produced by twin brothers Hal and Jim McElroy, who were already renowned for their work on the Australian film classic, Picnic At Hanging Rock. The screenplay was written by Michael Laurence and was directed by Karen Arthur.
I was just three years old when Return To Eden exploded onto tv screens in 1983 but thanks to its availbility on DVD and video (both of which have enjoyed extravagent sales worldwide) has allowed a whole other generation, including myself, to discover this major landmark in Australian television history which continues in its popularity to this day. Most definitely worth purchasing on DVD or Video to watch over again.
That old adage "they don't make them like this anymore" applies accordingly to Return To Eden as its so blatantly a product of its time. Never the less it remains an enthralling and intense melodrama with excellent production values where evidently no expense was spared. Absolutely compulsive, Return To Eden is a thrilling viewing experience and is highly recommended. Providing you view it as a piece of very well made entertainment, you'll absolutely love it!
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Oct 2009 18:48:18 GMT
Billy Bunter says:
I have just bought this dvd set - but it seems to start well after the crocodile/Greg Marsden incident with Jilly coming out of jail - does the story flick back or what?
In reply to an earlier post on 2 Nov 2009 10:16:47 GMT
Ian Phillips says:
This is a fault of amazon as they have mixed them up. The one i review here is a two disc set containing the ORIGINAL series. The big box set you;'re talking about is the Sequel.
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2010 16:18:41 GMT
Billy Bunter says:
Ian - really sorry not to have replied sooner to say thanks for your reply! Bought the sequel and finished it now - but this seems to end on an empty note....what happens to stephanie Harper holding the gun, and who is the guy with the signet ring, and who is her son?? Any answers? Thanks!
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Feb 2010 11:00:34 GMT
Ian Phillips says:
What happened was when they filmed the series which you're talking about it was intended to produce another season. However despite massive ratings in Europe and the USA, ratings werent quite so hot in Australia so during the time the series was originally airing in Australia they decided no more seasons were to be produced. They knew they couldnt end the series with such a cliffhanger so the cast ere lured back six months later to film an alternative ending - to be seen in Europe and US. Why this lost conclusion wasnt included on this dvd seems ludicrous - but heres what happened. The guy with the signet ring was - wait for it lol - the long lost son of Stephanie - . He had intended to hold Stephanies son, Dennis, to ransom but he decided against it and it turned out he had a picture that he took on the balcony of the Eden mansion with Jilly holding the gun. So Stepahnie is freed and Jilly is taken off to prison - i know very convoluted ey ha,ha.
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Feb 2011 19:57:31 GMT
It's strange, but I think the original cliffhanger ending is a fantastic way to end it. I remember that's how it was transmitted in the UK. But when they repeated it on Granda Plus they did include the new ending. The five minute wrap-up was really lame.
Posted on 24 Nov 2012 01:22:55 GMT
Last edited by the author on 24 Nov 2012 01:24:22 GMT
Good heavens. Why use a 50 word description, when 10000 will do!! I think we get the gist. Don't make us all fall asleep reading. Great OTT series though. True, they don't make 'em like this anymore.
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