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Lorna Doone [DVD]
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All five episodes of the TV series, adapted from R.D. Blackmore's classic novel, originally broadcast by the BBC in 1976. John Ridd (John Somerville) is a young West Country yeoman whose father has been murdered by the local Doone clan - an aristocratic family whose evil streak is perhaps best embodied by the 'hot and savage' Carver Doone (John Turner). When John falls for young Lorna Doone (Emily Richard), his search for revenge becomes tempered by her love for him, and she begins to heal the scars inflicted by the other members of her family.
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There is a lot of sociological interest in this story, not least corruptive power in high places. The story has several main ironies, such as the infamous upper class Doones first causing an enmity (the murder of John Ridd snr.), then sparing through oversight his young son (John Ridd jnr.) who would one day bring them down, and taking in a sadly captured relative to marry her off, only to have her happily stolen away and married off to their most potent enemy.
The story covers the maturing into love & wisdom of John Ridd jnr., and how his boyhood vision of captured Lorna never leaves him even after many years of wonderful marriage going into his old age: their young commitment to each other, opposed on both sides, is of great beauty.
John's great strength & size is also harnessed by his good nature to being a good productive farmer, and a useful man of the community in dealing with the dreadful Doones. He also shows independent reflection, not to be rushed into decisions by others, but weighing up the rights & wrongs. Lorna is befriended by him in an almost friendless life, and bit by bit comes to love him. She commits her whole self to him - in her books he deserves it. Later, discovering her title to be the extremely rich Lady Dougal (not directly a Doone, to her relief), she is willing to throw up wealth & fame as long as she is John's wife, her saviour & lord.
Another irony: with John she adopts her evil & then deceased suitor's son & heir.
As a mini-series this story is well told. Sadly, John Sommerville doesn't fit the sheer size & strength of Blackmore's Ridd, though beauty Emily Richard was an appropriate size in comparison, unlike the 2000 version. A Chewbacca would have been too hairy!
I have seen all the versions of the story and to me this is the best, with wonderful landscapes of Exmoor to the actors who bring it to life.
Beauty Emily Richard is a perfect warm amd loving Lorna using her experience from the Royal Shakespeare Company , while John Turner plays Carver Doone as the black menacing figure one imagines from reading the book.
I do have one minor criticism which prevents me giving it 5 out of 5- and that is John Somerville to me does not play a good John Ridd. First, he is too hairy. I know farmers at that time where bearded but he resembles a 'Chewbacca'!
Then at times, his acting is rather childish & silly, particularly in a scene when he believes Lorna loves him!
However, this does not deter me from recommending it.