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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 January 2014
Thought I'd give this a try - I didn't catch its original showing in the late '80s - as it covers the year immediately preceding the outbreak of WW1, exactly 100 years ago. It is also 50 years since Priestley's original novel was first published, which gives part of the discordant tone to the drama; there's a hard streak of cynicism in the men, and a knowing sexuality in the women, that sits as more contemporary in feel than might be expected. Put most simply it's a year in the life of an inexperienced young man, working the music halls in 1913/1914 - superficially a golden age of theatre mirroring the sense of complacent contentment in the country at large, with the looming threats (cinema/the approaching conflict) encroaching.

The drama is tightly plotted, and the characterisations superb. Early Colin Firth, as the ubiquitous Richard Herncastle, catches the eye, battling his raging libido with a mix of naivety and pomposity fuelled by his ambitions as an artist; John Castle's sardonic and steely Uncle Nick gives compelling commentary to the illusions on the stage and the deceptions off it. It's also a nostalgic reminder of the leisurely and sumptuous multi-part ITV/Granada dramas of the 1980s, another lost empire!

Essential viewing for Firth fans, and enthusiastically recommended for lovers of TV drama series at their very best.
6 people found this helpful
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on 12 June 2011
Viewing this when it was first shown on ITV gave me my first experience of Colin Firth - long before Pride & Prejudice and even before Tumbledown. At 25 he grabbed my attention and I vowed to watch out for him in the future. His performance manages to combine gauchenss with an inner strength and great charm. Much of the time he is a spectator to the main action but it's difficult to take your eyes off him. He also manages a convincing Yorkshire accent with remarkable consistency - very important given his major narrative role. Equally mesmerising (appropriately) is John Castle as his Uncle Nick, the dazzling stage magician, who combines a brutal callousness with a vulnerability this actor always brings to a part. The supporting cast is excellent, including a last TV appearance from Laurence Olivier and the production values are superb. It seems no expense was spared to create the world of Music Hall in the months preceding WW1 and it has a feel of real autenticity. Although you get over 10 hours of viewing, the pace never slackens.

Do not be put off by this being a region 1 product. Multi region DVD players are commonplace now or a conversion is easy. This is definitely a good buy.
18 people found this helpful
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on 15 October 2012
This series is based on one of J.B.Priestley's best works and belongs to the period in the 1980s when Classic TV drama adaptations ruled the small screen. It boasts a stellar cast including Sir Laurence Oliver, John Castle,a very young Colin Firth, Brian Glover and Pamela Stephenson but is indebted to the script by the great Ian Curteis who also wrote Churchill and the Generals and Philby, Burgess and McLean.It is an accurate evocation of the lost age where the Music Hall was the entertainment medium of choice for a wide spectrum of the great British Public and follows the fortunes of a typical touring company of the time with their triumphs and tragedies, internal feuds, loves and hates. This is up there with The Forsyte Saga and Brideshead Revisited as one of the great TV Drama Series. [ASIN:B007T8690Q Lost Empires [DVD].
7 people found this helpful
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on 22 May 2017
So thrilled to find this DVD. It's a delightful series and well worth the money. On two discs and a superb adaptation of J B Priestley's novel.
I bought a second-hand copy which was in very good condition and the supplier is highly recommended for their service.
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on 21 August 2014
An interesting curiosity. Ian Curteis' adaptation of Priestley's novel is rather rambling and, surprisingly, Colin Firth gives a muted performance as young Richard but John Castle is very good as his uncle Nick, the stage magician. It catches the atmosphere of pre WW1 music halls very well.
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on 12 June 2018
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on 17 February 2014
I have seen this several times, and it really have the mood of the time period, and the music as well.
Colin Firth is really perfectly casted, as well as John Castle and the rest of the cast.
2 people found this helpful
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on 14 February 2017
The very young Colin Firth anchors a splendid cast in a riveting, hilarious and touching story about the dying variety stage of England.
I loved the book in the 60'es. I was glued to the TV series in the 80'es and now I totally enjoy to be able to watch it whenever I want in coming decades.
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on 5 January 2013
This is an excellent recreation of Mr Priestley's book,except for the initial war scenes.It then settles down and if you love the book as I do then you will love this.Quickly supplied by Amazon,my main reason for submitting this review is to correct the impression that it is not compatible with UK video players.It certainly plays on mine which is not a multi zone player.I believe that at one time only American imports were available and there were problems.Not any more it appears.I won't outline the story as other reviews have done that.
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on 24 November 2016
First class JB Priestley adaptation.
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