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on 5 January 2010
These days, they would probably have hired a real diamond and blown the production budget on insurance.

In the good old days of Sunday Teatime Classic serials, a piece of yellow cut glass was more than sufficient to play the title role of 'The Moonstone'.

Remember that these things were usually in five or six episodes, a week apart. That meant they had to have something about them to pull the audience back after a whole seven days' distractions. And back we flocked.

'The Moonstone' is a good corking yarn with an intricate plot and some excellent characters. Vivien Heilbron, Robin Ellis, and Martin Jarvis turn up trumps - with a lovely supporting cast of familiar faces: I have always liked the late Anna Cropper as an actress. There was something mysterious about her, and she is perfect as Roseanna Spearman, the hump-backed servant with a dark secret.

This studio-based '70s production has the usual hallmarks of good design and lighting, and the whole has a great sense of atmosphere, aided by the sometimes grainy 16mm footage of the exteriors.

Have this and enjoy it. It offends nobody, and it's good spooky family viewing. It's a reminder that not everything has to be condensed into a rapid-fire 90-minute lavish 'special' to make excellent telly.

A gem.
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VINE VOICEon 14 January 2014
The problem with 'The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins lies not in this BBC version of it but in the original story, which lacks the concise plotting and character development found in the works of some of his well known contemporaries. With this in mind, it's hard to see how the BBC could have made a better job of staging it than in this version. Since, when we read a novel or listen to a radio play we use our imagination to create the environment in which the action is taking place, stage plays, operas etc. present us with a kind of halfway house with the staging suggesting a real life context. Making a film of a book can ruin our enjoyment of the story because it might well destroy a wonderful picture which our imaginations have built up around the story. Often it happens that we think the film or TV version is not true to the original story. My view is that this version of 'The Moonstone' is as true to the original as one can expect in a TV adaptation.

Sometimes when a work is described as 'dated' it is a great compliment because some of the old productions produced with older technology are much better than more recent versions. It reminds me of the story of two men who were standing near the base of the Great Pyramid in Egypt. 'I don't see the point of it,' said one. 'Go back a few hundred yards and look up,' retorted the other, 'And you'll be able to see point of it well enough. It's right at the very top.' Lots of viewers will love this version of Wilkie Collins famous yarn. Not only has it not spoiled the written version, if anything, it has improved upon it. It's a good buy and I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 2 September 2010
An excellent telling of Wilkie Collins' story with the settings and dialogue lifted direct from the book. A joy to watch, with all characters sensitively and realistically portrayed. Also a good feel for the period in which the book is set, rather than, as in more modern costume drama, a sense of taking 21st century characters and placing them in costume.
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Before there was Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, there was a tale of drugs, suicide, a stolen Indian diamond and a reported curse.

Specifically, there was "The Moonstone," Wilkie Collins' long and twisting Victorian tale that is considered the first mystery novel in the English language. And the 1972 miniseries adaptation is a pretty faithful one, interlacing a love quadrangle with a mystery about a stolen diamond said to be cursed -- while it slows down somewhat in the middle, it's a pretty suspenseful little story.

After ten years in continental Europe, Franklin Blake (Robin Ellis) returns to England to bring his cousin Rachel Verinder (Vivien Heilbron) her eighteenth birthday present: a massive diamond called the Moonstone. It was left to her by her vile uncle, possibly as a malicious act -- three Hindu priests are lurking nearby, hoping to reclaim the sacred gem stolen from them long ago. Everyone except Rachel really wants the diamond split up, so it will no longer be a danger.

At the same time, Rachel is being wooed by two men -- the somewhat irresponsible young Franklin, and the prosperous but less attractive Godfrey Ablewhite (Martin Jarvis). And a timid, lame young maid named Rosanna (Anna Cropper) has fallen desperately in love with Franklin (though he's completely oblivious to this).

Then after a dinner party, the Moonstone vanishes, leaving a smudge on a newly-painted door as the only clue. It seems that only someone in the house could have stolen it. But it doesn't turn up in any police sweeps, the priests have alibis, and Rachel flatly refuses to let Sergeant Cuff (John Welsh) investigate further. She also refuses to speak to Franklin again. And after several months, Franklin learns of some new clues that could reveal who stole the Moonstone. With the now-retired Cuff and a disgraced doctor's assistant helping him, he sets out to unravel the mystery once and for all.

"The Moonstone" contains a lot of the tropes that later detective novels would use -- reenactment of the crime, red herrings, the culprit being the least likely suspect (in fact, barely a suspect at all), and an English country house where you wouldn't expect a theft to take place. It even has TWO detectives -- a quirky police sergeant with plenty of brains, and a gentleman who is bright but kind of inexperienced.

It's presented in the same way as every 1970s British historical miniseries: rather stagy sets, paired with dramatic acting and very accurate hairstyles and costumes. While some of Collins' quirkiness is lost in translation, the writers maintain some of the humorous subplots -- such as Miss Clack's hyperpious ramblings that nobody listens to, or Godfrey's "Awkward. Very awkward." Strangely enough, they also keep in the subtle hint of a same-sex relationship AS WELL AS the drugs.

The third episode kind of gets bogged down -- due to a year, two deaths and a brief engagement happening between the theft and the crime-solving -- before lurching back into the main plot. Most of that middle section is devoted to all the personal turmoil in Rachel's life because of the Moonstone's theft, as well as a subplot involving a money-lender.

It should be noted that this DVD release is... not very good. The volume is set low, the picture sometimes becomes a bit wobbly and has not been remastered at all, and there are no subtitles. Honestly, they should remaster this and release it with other historical adaptations.

However, the actors all do a pretty good job -- Ellis gives a very passionate, strong performance, and Heilbron is likable and charismatic despite playing a rather hostile character at times. Lady, if a guy stops smoking and spends days painting a DOOR for you, he's not just toying with your affections. And Cropper captures the poignant longing of a woman who has no actual hopes of being loved, and just wants the man she adores to notice her.

"The Moonstone" is a pretty decent adaptation of the classic mystery, with some solid acting and a third episode that drags a bit. But what it really needs is a new remastered edition.
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on 18 May 2009
This DVD brought back memories of the old style 70's drama that had the family crowded round the TV set on a Sunday night. The costumes and wigs look quite comical now. But despite that a much better version than the later one with Keeley Hawes and Greg Wise. Who could ever to do a better job at the romantic lead than Ross Poldark?
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on 30 September 2016
As good a rendition of the book you are ever likely to get.

Those who find the thing “dated” might, I suggest, have problems through the lack of an audio accompaniment that is invariably used to enhance (or otherwise) the drama, or lack of it!

This film has an introductory and concluding flute solo and that is about it. For the rest the acting and settings must suffice. Distant shots are apt to be fuzzy but close-in reveals all that is needed for one to become engrossed in the action.

The parts are well chosen and played to perfection, though. I have to confess. it took some doing to shake off the Robin Ellis from his CID Brown in a Fawlty Towers episode “A Touch of Class”!

Collins was a cotemporary and friend of Charles Dickens. Despite having the precious stone named with a prefix (or compound) to include the Earth‘s natural satellite, the Moon, there is very little in the tale of the Moonstone to indicate its participants had any interest in, or appreciation of, the natural world.

I sometimes have the notion (absurd, no doubt) that homo sapiens would conduct itself in a more rational and compassionate manner if it had a grounding in basic astronomy; well, a sense of proportion at any rate.

Dickens. I fancy, was ahead of Collins in regard to atmosphere. That pre-dawn walk towards the end of Little Dorrit, for example, is masterly: I have yet to come across its equal in Collins.
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on 19 August 2013
Pretty faithful to the novel. Not at all dated. Nicely-paced plot development. Authentic settings, and good acting that avoids being melodramtic. Peter Salis particularly good as the lawyer.
Those who love period drama would be well-rewarded by having it in their collection.
[Purchased through Amazon]
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This BBC adaptation ticked all the boxes, but it still failed to fire my imagination.

The acting is fine, costumes and settings in period and faithful to the novel, but somehow the actors never seem to really relate to the characters and plot.

Nobody will be disappointed with this BBC production, but neither will they be very excited.
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on 28 September 2012
I've watched this twice now and it was entertaining both times. The quality is very 70's it could use a remaster, but it wasn't too bad. I haven't read the book yet, but it was one of the first of the "modern" mysteries and you can certainly see that in the story line. The costumes were pretty good too, fairly generic 1860's look but nothing that was glaringly wrong. The acting was pretty good too, sometimes when watching period things I get the feeling the actors are modern people playing "dress-up" but I didn't get that feeling with this. Like all DVD's I get from the UK I copy it to hard drive first which strips out the region code.

There is bonus here for fans of the Elizabeth Peters, Amelia Peabody mysteries as she borrowed the name and characteristic of a certain character in a couple of her books from this (though of course with an "Amelia twist") and it is interesting to see him in his original role.
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on 11 December 2013
Old mini-series. Its' age is showing in the quality of the film. But this is a quite faithful rendering of the book and if you liked that, as many people did, then buy this. The movie does come across as dated and could have done with some artistic licence by the producer and director. It's also slow. But still worth watching. .
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