23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A Matter Of Morals, Mores & Marriage - A Superb Production,,
This review is from: Pride & Prejudice (1980) (Std Rmst) [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
This 1979 BBC production of "Pride and Prejudice," based on a classic novel by Jane Austen, about the morals, mores, marriages and the class system in Georgian England, is superb! The casting is perfect, with one exception. Although David Rintoul delivers a good performance as the proud Fitzwilliam Darcy, I am one of those Colin Firth fans who can imagine no other in the role. Please don't hold it against me. I admit to my own prejudice! Directed by Cyril Coke (known for his other Masterpiece Theater work including "Upstairs, Downstairs"), the script was written by novelist Fay Weldon, who perfectly translates the novel's witty dialogue to the screen. This adaptation includes some original scenes, as does the A&E version. Here, Lizzy converses with her Aunt Gardiner on the subject of Mr. Wickham. She admits there's a possibility he is a scoundrel and promises not to be taken in by him. There's also the scene concerning Mr. Collin's "Aquatic Life Hat". And Malcolm Rennie's portrayal of Mr. Collins is terrific. It is obvious that this version of "Pride and Prejudice" had a more limited budget than did the 1995 version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. While the latter film is set in England's luxurious estates and country homes, this one uses television settings. Shown in the US on Masterpiece Theater in 1980, the movie was released in DVD format in an uninterrupted 225 minute 2 disc set, which has been digitally remastered.
The film clearly reflects Ms. Austin's theories on the importance of marriage for women of the period. Most women were not educated, except for the social graces; acquiring, at least, some proficiency in music, needlework and "acceptable" literature, and learning skills essential to running a household. Considerable pressure was placed on women to marry well, to obtain financial security and social position, not just for themselves, but also for their immediate family. Love matches were rare.
The film opens in a small community in Hertfordshire, England. Word is out that the empty Netherfield estate has been leased to a new occupant - a wealthy bachelor. Mothers and daughters suddenly upset their daily routine, and shatter the local tranquility - buying dress material, sewing, embroidering, planning and fantasizing about balls and marriage, and, of course, gossiping. Nowhere is there more excitement than at the Bennett home, where five very marriageable daughters anticipate news of their neighbor. The Bennett's have a particular reason for wishing their girls settled. The Bennett estate, Longbourn, is entailed. It can only be inherited by a male successor. Since the Bennett's have no son, their entire estate will go to Mr. Bennett's cousin. The girls must be married well and settled, so they will have a secure home when their father dies. If their mother should outlive her spouse, they will have to provide for her also. Marriage is a serious business in this period.
There is a ball in honor of John Bingley, (Osmond Bullock), the new resident at Netherfield, and for the friends who accompany him. Bingley is very taken with Jane Bennett, (Sabina Franklyn), the eldest daughter, and a lovely young woman with a sweet disposition. The feelings are reciprocated and the two form an attachment. It is at this ball that Elizabeth Bennett (Ms. Garvie), the family's second daughter, meets Bingley's friend, the aristocratic Fitzwilliam Darcy, (Rintoul). Darcy, is much wealthier than Bingley. He is a handsome, intelligent man, and the Lord of Pemberly, a large, sumptuous estate in Derbyshire. Darcy, however, is the epitome of haughtiness when he arrives on the scene and looks down his nose at the local gentry. Elizabeth Bennett, is quite different from most young women of the Regency Period. She has a strong intellect and her father had encouraged her to become literate, and to enjoy fine books and literary conversation. She is bright, spirited, with a sharp wit, more independent than her sisters, and very pretty. Darcy is attracted to her immediately, but snubs her unknowingly. She responds in kind, thinking him to be boorish and far too proud. Thus she is prejudiced against him from their first meeting.
Elizabeth and Darcy's strong mutual attraction, and the conflict between them, which prevents them from forming a potentially rich relationship, provide an interesting tension throughout the film. Darcy's proud arrogance in his social class and position, and Elizabeth's prejudice against such haughtiness, seem to inhibit all promise of romance.
Ms. Austin's delightful characters, are brilliantly cast here, including: George Wickham, (Peter Settelen), a handsome military officer who further prejudices Elizabeth against Darcy with tales from their mutual past; William Collins, (Rennie), a pompous clergyman, cousin to the Bennetts, and probable heir to the family holdings; Charlotte Lucas, (Irene RIchard), a young neighbor and dear friend to Elizabeth and Jane; and Lady Catherine De Bourgh, (A superb Judy Parfitt), the quintessential aristocrat. Elizabeth Garvie is a superb Lizzy Bennett. She sparkles with wit and intelligence, and is just beautiful enough to be believable. As I mentioned above, David Rintoul is a believable Darcy, but my personal preference is clear.
The settings and costumes are accurate to the period. The dialogue is faithful to the novel. Watching the film, it is almost impossible not to feel transported back in time, and become very involved with the loves, foibles, problems, and adventures of the wonderful Austin characters, brought so realistically to life, in this amazing production.
Unlike other reviewers, I think both A&E and BBC productions are excellent and find many aspects that I like in both. I own both DVDs and watch them frequently. I'm a fan!! A 5 Star BRAVO!