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Gormenghast [VHS] [2000]

4.3 out of 5 stars 160 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Celia Imrie, Christopher Lee, Warren Mitchell, Neve McIntosh, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
  • Format: VHS
  • Language: English
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: BBC
  • VHS Release Date: 7 Feb. 2000
  • Run Time: 240 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004D387
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 195,674 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

The kingdom of Gormenghast rejoices when its ruler, Lord Sepulchrave (Ian Richardson), produces a son and heir: Titus, 77th Earl of Groan. However, scheming kitchen boy Steerpike (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) himself dreams of taking power, and sets about driving Sepulchrave insane. He also seduces Titus' sister, Lady Fuchsia, planning to seize the kingdom through her. It seems that Steerpike cannot fail in his plans - only the timid Titus himself, young and inexperienced, stands in his way...

From Amazon.co.uk

The BBC's lavish, glowingly designed adapation of Mervyn Peake's eccentrically brilliant novels Titus Groan and Gormenghast is a triumph of casting. Ian Richardson's Lear-like depiction of the mad earl of a remote, vast, ritual-obsessed building is matched by the brutal pragmatism of Celia Imrie as his wife, the synchronised madness of Zoe Wanamaker and Lynsey Baxter as his twin sisters and the duplicitous charm of Jonathan Rhys-Meyer as Steerpike, the kitchen-boy determined to take over no matter how many deaths it costs. John Sessions is surprisingly touching as Prunesquallor, the family doctor who realises almost too late what Steerpike intends.

It is always tricky to film a book dear to the hearts of its admirers: Wilson and his design team achieve a look rather more pre-Raphaelite than Peake's own illustrations, shabby velvets, garish sunlight and dank stone passages. The score by Richard Rodney Bennett is full of attractive surprises--fanfares and waltzes and apotheoses--and John Tavener's choral additions are plausibly parts of the immemorial ritual of Gormenghast. --Roz Kaveney

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Ignore those who say that this doesn't do justice to the books - it's different, yes, but in a good way. What's the point in sitting down to watch something that's EXACTLY like the book, or complaining because it doesn't EXACTLY match what you thought it should look like? The BBC made an amazing job of what was almost impossible to film, and the cast is just perfect. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Steerpike with more than a touch of genius, and the chemistry between him and Fuchsia is spot-on... Everything about this is awe-inspiring; the sets, the scripts, the acting. Admittedly, Warren Mitchell's portrayal of Barquentine is more comical and capricious than the fearsome and powerful character in the book, but it works. Likewise, Irma Prunesquallor seems more ridiculous on the screen than she does on the page, but a bit of comic relief does wonders for this exquisitely dark production. The word 'masterpiece' is overused, or else I would not hesitate to describe Gormenghast as such. It is easy to forgive the odd bit of artistic licence, and when you consider that they have managed to compress three extremely complex books into four hours of fantastic viewing, it's difficult to find fault.
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By A Customer on 3 May 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This BBC self-proclaimed Millenium Drama really is a triumph! Despite some critics chastising the production for not being 100% faithful to Peake's original novels, it's as faithful as any 4-hour TV adaptation could be! With beautiful, opulent costumes, seemingly endless sets and excellent "blue-screen' effects - the whole creation of the world of Gormenghast is like a dream, sprinkled with the stars of British acting. John Sessions is wonderful as the painfully verbose Prunesquallor, with Fiona Shaw truly sublime as his menopausally desperate sister Irma. Neve McIntosh is the most beautiful, infantile Fuchsia that one could imagine, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the very essence of emotionally troubled teenager as the ultimate social climber Steerpike. Topped off with the likes of film legend Christopher Lee as Flay, along with Celia Imrie, Stephen Fry et al. this really is a must see for fans of the genre. Read the novels in conjunction with the video to really get the best out of both!
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Format: DVD
First let me clarify where my viewpoint is coming from. The Gormenghast trilogy is probably my all time favourite literary work. I have "lived" with this wonderful story since I was but a strap of a lad, 18 years ago. I suppose you could say that it holds a special place in my heart, so I was always always going to be a difficult critic to convince. I was definitely looking forward to seeing the result though, when I read that the BBC were going to produce an adaption.
The first problem is the format. There is no way that the first two books could be filmed in 4 hours, whilst keeping the narrative and dramatic integrity of the books. When lesser, mainstream and unimportant "pap" series can command six 1 hour episodes, and considering the amount of time and money involved in bringing the production to the screen, it is frankly amazing that the Beeb would cut the legs from under the production before it was even made. The end result is comparable to driving through the centre of Florence at high speed! Many beautiful impressions appear fleetingly, with the next vista appearing before the previous can be digested. Subsequently many wonderful plot and character details are cut from the work to fit the time constraints. The greatest example of this is the removal of the Keda's life and loves.
The second, and to this reviewer, even more serious flaw, is in its handling of the most important character, and one of the few with whom the reader forms an emotional bond: namely Fuschia. In the first book she is a 15 year old girl, given to a life in her own imagination, through her alienation from her family and those around her ( Nannie Slagg apart). What do we get?
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Format: DVD
I watched Gormenghast when it was originally shown on BBC television and was totally raptured. From the outset, it appears you have a window into a lustrous, animated, impressionist, surrealist painting; such are the amazing backdrops of the extensive, eclectic, idiosynchratic castle alongside the costumes, expressions and eccentricities of the characters. It really feels like you have entered the imaginations of a flamboyant distopian; Gormenghast is all at once rich, beautiful, haggard and doomed. The intensity of the film, the strength of the characters and the epic nature of the story may be a little too much for some viewers (like a particularly rich chocolate gateau) but it is fun and handily divided into four parts.

Now for the issue of the book versus the televised version. As previously said, I watched the television series when it was first broadcast. I managed to wade my way through the trilogy of books (the last of which is not included in the adaptation) in the last year. It is true that the adaptation makes necessary exclusions and changes to enable it to be digested on film. My opinion on re-makes and adaptations is that if significant changes have been made, it can only be chastised if it affects the enjoyment of the original: in the case of Gormenghast, when I read the novels, the television adaptation soon lost its influence; I saw nearly all of the characters differently (apart from the sister Clarice and Cora) and enjoyed the books on their own merit.

Therefore, despite the changes and somewhat misinterpreted characters (such as Fuschia - a character I empathised with in the books, but cannot in the film) I think the BBC adaptation is a beautiful, exciting, disturbing achievement and should be enjoyed alongside the books. Well done, Auntie!
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