28 October 2006

Barchester Chronicles (starring Donald Pleasence, Janet Maw and Nigel Hawthorne)

Some friends recommended this BBC drama series highly. I could never quite get into Anthony Trollope's writing, so was rather dubious; but our friends lent us the DVDs, so we decided to watch them over a couple of weeks.

The BBC is almost always good at period drama, and this is no exception. It's slightly galling to admit that a screen adaptation of the six Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope was a great deal more appealing than the books - but there it is.

Once we had started watching, we felt that it was very well done indeed. The story - complex in print, easier in movie form - is of intrigue and jealousies amongst the clergyman of a fictional city, with a bit of love interest along the way. We did a double-take at seeing Nigel Hawthorne playing a somewhat smarmy clergyman - he is so well-known as 'Humphrey' in 'Yes, Minister' that it was hard to see him as anyone else!

The main character is the excellent and almost-too-good-to-be-true Mr Harding (nicely done by Donald Pleasance), but in the latter episodes we all agreed that the villainous Mr Slope rather stole the show, played brilliantly by Alan Rickman. Surely this could easily have been the inspiration that gave him, later on, the part of Snape in the Harry Potter movies.

Unsurprisingly, it was a little long-winded in places and rather slow-moving, but basically 'The Barchester Chronicles' was very enjoyable indeed.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

02 October 2006

The Parent Trap (starring Hayley Mills)

The reason we ended up with 'The Parent Trap' on our shelves is that it was on special offer in a double-pack with 'Pollyanna'. However, the latter did not much appeal to my husband, but he thought that 'The Parent Trap' sounded much more appealing.

First the negatives: it's rather twee, and feels extremely dated. It was actually made in 1961, so not quite as old as we thought; we would not have been surprised if it had been ten years earlier. Moreoever, the plot is - in the end - rather predictable. Not to mention unlikely, relying as it does on an amazing coincidence following bizarre circumstances...

To say any more would be a spoiler, although I imagine that most people interested in this movie will know at least the outline of the plot.

On the plus side, it's really a delightful feel-good story, once one accepts the 1960s twee American style of acting. The young Hayley Mills does a wonderful job, acting two girls brought up in different environments, even managing two distinct American accents. That this was done before the modern days of easy special effects is in itself a triumph of production.

Recommended as a warm family film that doesn't require much thought. There is, apparently, a 1998 remake of this film which modernises the names and situations - but many people who have seen both prefer this original. There's something special about watching a classic.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews