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Brideshead Revisited (25th Anniversary Collector's Edition)
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Product Description

Studio: Acorn Media Release Date: 10/10/2006 Run time: 659 minutes Rating: Nr

Fill a bowl with alpine strawberries, break out the Chateau Lafite (1899, of course), and bask in this benchmark 1981 British miniseries based on Evelyn Waugh's classic novel. Adapted for the screen by John Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey), this impeccable, nearly 11-hour production mesmerized American viewers during the course of its PBS run in 1982. In his breakthrough role, Jeremy Irons stars as Charles Ryder, a disillusioned Army captain who is moved to reflect on his "languid days" in the "enchanted castle" that was Brideshead, home of the aristocratic Marchmain family, whose acquaintance Charles made in the company of an Oxford classmate, the charming wild child Sebastian. Anthony Andrews costars as the doomed Sebastian, whose beauty is "arresting" and "whose eccentricities and behavior seemed to know no bounds." The "entitled and enchanted" Sebastian takes Charles under his wing ("Charles, what a lot you have to learn"), but vows early on that he is "not going to let [Charles] get mixed up with [his] family." But mixed up Charles gets. He becomes a friend and confidante, not to mention a lover, to Sebastian's sister Julia (Diana Quick). Meanwhile, the self-destructive Sebastian's life spirals out of control. Brideshead Revisited boasts a distinguished ensemble, including Laurence Olivier in his Emmy Award-winning role as the exiled Lord Marchmain, Claire Bloom as Lady Marchmain, and the magnificent John Gielgud as Charles's estranged father. Grand locations and a haunting musical score make this a memorable revisit of an irretrievable bygone era. For those who scheduled their weeks around the original Monday-night broadcasts or those visiting Brideshead for the first time, this boxed set release will be, as Charles rhapsodizes at one point while strolling the castle grounds, "very near to heaven." --Donald Liebenson

Stills from Brideshead Revisited (click for larger image)







Beyond Brideshead Revisited

The Novel

The Original Score (Soundtrack to the Movie)

The Movie in Theaters Now

Customer Reviews:

  • One of the best literature-to-film adaptations ever
    It would be easy to dismiss Brideshead Revisited as an escapist fantasy for those fascinated by an upper-class British life now gone forever, but this would be a mistake; this is a genuine work of art that rises above the elitism of Oxford slang and customs understood only by initiates. Many other people have written about Evelyn Waugh's themes--coming of age and the loss of youth, love, faith, and hope, but few have done it as well, and rarely has it been transferred to film so successfully. The weakest points in the film are probably the drawn-out passing away of Lord Marchmain (much longer in the film than in the book) and Julia's religious remorse and the narrator's statement of faith at the end (the weakest points in the novel, I think). The characterizations are masterful, such as the ambitious but empty politician Rex, a social type we certainly see around us in the world today. A very happy marriage of an outstanding novel and superb acting that is worth owning for repeated viewings if you have any feeling at all for this story....more info
  • Defies Criticism
    This BBC film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's intriguing novel of the same name captures the author's intent of describing Edwardian England before the Great War. This was a time of transition for England, (and Europe as a whole) particularly for the aristocratic classes, narrated at length with awe, a distinct air of sacredness, and ultimately a little sentimental regret. The novel's subtitle actually reads, "The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder". The book and film is an expression of grief, a lament; an extended eulogy, really, about a time of privilege, friendship and love, intensely experienced and irretrievably lost.

    Critics at the time of its television premier, could not sing its praises enough, naming it one of the great television dramas of all time. Some said it was beyond criticism and a perfect rendering of a fine novel. Having read the novel and viewed the film many times, this comment is no exaggeration. It became almost a Sunday ritual in the early nineties in Australia, when Brideshead premiered on public television. Millions of people would tune in exactly at 5:00 in the afternoon to view only one of its eight instalments - only to look forward with great expectation for the next episode.

    Jeremy Irons puts in a convincing performance as the character of Charles Ryder. This British actor is known for his velvet voice and "Queen's English" accent, and his narration throughout the film, sometimes verbatim from the novel, is truly mesmerizing. Anthony Andrews, however, as the alcoholic Sebastian, the central character, is the true star of the film, whose performance is believable and moving. Laurance Olivier as Lord Marchmain put in another remarkable performance and a rather quirky one at that...the character demanded an `aristocratic eccentricity' which we have come to expect from the British. Unfortunately this was one of Lord Olivier's last performances before he passed on.

    John Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey) wrote the screenplay that, in some cases, is almost a direct transcription from Waugh's novel. In fact, one can open the book while viewing the film and follow along as if reading the screenplay. The dialogue in some scenes is virtually verbatim. The soundtrack is also magical, an ideal backdrop to the stunning scenes and sophisticated dialogue. When you view the film, pay particular attention to the Venice scenes, the music, the Venice landscape and Irons' narration that all combine beautifully.

    Brideshead Revisited is not a fast paced drama, but a intricate story that builds slowly, has many nuances, has complex characters and is constructed to be absorbed at an even momentum, securing the feelings, attitudes and wishes of the time.

    I believe Brideshead Revisited defies criticism.



    ...more info
  • Quite possibly the finest production in the history of TV
    One could easily make a case for BRIDESHEAD REVISITED being the finest single production in the history of television. Few if any series can boast the quality of acting, the locations, the script, musical score, and overall production of this remarkable miniseries. Its great length provides an opportunity for an in-depth exploration of its source material, so much so that virtually no aspect of the Evelyn Waugh's novel is left untouched. The novel is Waugh's most heartfelt though least typical. A contemporary described Dostoevsky as the meanest Christian he had ever met, and one could equally state that Waugh was one of the meanest Catholics. He was a devout Catholic, but in a way that was somewhat self-absorbed and prickly. While his other novels are largely nonsectarian and darkly comic, this one-which exists in an earlier version and also in the completely reconceptualized version-is rooted in his own deepest beliefs. Much to its credit, the series does not mute in the least the Catholic themes of the novel.

    The series features several superlative performances, three of which at the time seemed to be star-making roles. In 1981 Jeremy Irons instantly became one of the most respected and celebrated actors of his generation through his appearance in THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN and as the central character of Charles Ryder in BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. Except for one episode that largely focuses in flashback on the history of Julia Flyte, the entire series features Charles Ryder in virtually every scene, and even in scenes where Charles does not appear, his narration structures the narrative, so that the production as a whole succeeds or fails to the degree that Jeremy Irons's succeeds or fails. Luckily, he is spectacular, and one could legitimately insist that this could be the finest single performance in the history of television. Anthony Andrews steals many scenes as the doomed Sebastian Flyte, and when this series first appeared his future seemed to be possible as bright as Irons's. Inexplicably, he was never able to find movie roles that would allow him to build upon his many successes in television (not just in this series, but in UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS and DANGER UXB). Similarly, Diana Quick, who stands out as Julia, despite a successful career on stage, has not had film or television success following this series. Regardless of their subsequent careers, they jointly manage to elevate this production to the level of high art. The series is driven not merely by the central performers, however, but by a host of spectacular supporting actors. Laurence Olivier's name is prominently listed among all the performers, but I actually find him to be one of the less impressive performers in the production. John Gielgud steals absolutely every second he is onscreen, as Charles's spectacularly cold and sardonic father. My only complaint with the series (except for the Waugh's ending, of which more below) is that there wasn't more John Gielgud, but since they stuck very closely to the novel, this wouldn't have been possible without adding scenes that didn't exist in the novel. Claire Bloom is superb as Julia and Sebastian's mother Lady Marchmain. Phoebe Nichols and Simon Jones are delightful as the other members of the family, though the former is not quite the plain looking woman the narrative suggests. Jones is exquisite of the almost otherworldly future head of the clan. But if there is a star performance among the supporters in addition to Gielgud's, it is the relatively unknown Nickolas Grace as Anthony Blanche, who is transparently based in Waugh's novel on twenties aesthete and later notorious Soviet spy and noted art historian Anthony Blunt. Everyone one of Grace's scenes are a delight, and one experiences a twinge of regret as they end.

    What flaws exist in the series exist in the novel. John Mortimer, who adapted the novel for the series and who is perhaps best known otherwise for his Rumpole of the Bailey, stays absolutely true to the novel at every point. He becomes an almost transparent medium for the translation of the novel into visual form. My principle complaint with the film and with the novel is the strange theological sentiments driving the plot. Waugh's own religious beliefs are rooted in that odd English Roman Catholicism that seems to delight in being intellectually counterintuitive and self-mortifying. The climax of the novel and the series comes with the death of Lord Marchmain, born Anglican but a convert to Catholicism at the time of his marriage to his wife, defiantly lapsed during his later years, but taking willingly the sacrament at the moment of his death. Julia and Charles, who have been engaged in a passionate and enormously healthy relationship, despite both having been married to others see Marchmain's reconciliation with the Church as a sign that they must sever their relationship. Most viewers and readers-even most Catholic viewers and readers-find this central plot contrivance to be both morally offensive and theologically reprehensible. The charge seems to be that God delights in the wrecking of a caring, loving relationship over some theological technicalities. I personally felt offended by Waugh's superimposing on God as set of demands that stem on any intelligible plane from the Church and not from God. I'm as unmoved by Waugh's assertions about God's will as I am by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell's. Why blame God for a set of very bad decisions? Most viewers will feel that Charles and Julia do not end up together because of abject stupidity. The series ends up feeling like a tragedy with God as the perpetuator. My own view is that in a real world situation, God would want them together and happy, instead of apart and terribly unhappy. Still, there is no denying that this theological complexity gives both the novel and the series a unique seriousness. And even if one does not agree with the decision that Julia and Charles make, there is no denying the power at the end when Charles's unexpectedly kneels in the Brideshead Chapel and prays.

    Everything touching this production is magnificent. The location settings around the globe, the sets, the remarkable use of Castle Howard employed for all the Brideshead shots, the costume and art directions, are all as superb as one could hope. And special mention must be made of the music, with apparently a hundred variations on the main theme according to the scene at hand. The only negative I would add about the DVDs is that they are rather devoid of special features. My hope is that at some point they re-release this extraordinary series in a new edition with greatly expanded special features. Even if they do not, this remains one of the truly essential works ever produced for television and preserved on DVD....more info
  • The Best EVER!
    I first watched this some 20 years ago - hands down the single best piece of television ever filmed in my opinion. A young, beautiful Jeremy Irons heads a cast that is full of unbelievable talent. Haunting, erotic, historic, gorgeous, twisted, fascinating, intelligent. A story told over the decades set against a breathtaking backdrop oif English castles and countryside - filled with love, lust, obsession, academia, rites of passage... I (obviously) can't say enough. Having this set on DVD is like gold to me. Run, don't walk to see this - it's a life experience you won't regret....more info
  • A MUST for all things British!!
    If you like Merchant/Ivory productions, this series is for you. The acting is superb & the photography of the countryside/mansion interiors is to die for!! A wonderful story told amongst fabulous settings. A real plus for any DVD collection....more info
  • brilliant series-however the version I rented did NOT have one of the most entertaining lines in the entire series
    Does anyone know where I can obtain a NO-DELETED-SCENES version ? One of my favorite lines from Anthony Blanche was OMITTTED on the DVD I rented yesterday. I am desole!! Please help. ...more info
  • Classic film of a classic novel: the definitive Brideshead!
    HIGHLY recommended for your home DVD collection!

    Having seen this adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's classic novel many, many times, I must say that it NEVER grows old. The first time I saw it, my sister and I rented it from the library after reading Waugh's work and just because Anthony Andrews was in it. After seeing the stunning production, I have re-read the novel at least once a year and come to the same conclusion: this adaptation is flawless.

    Once owned, you will always thank your lucky stars that you possess one of the finest, most beautiful (to the ear, eye and mind) English films ever made.

    It stands true to the novel, from the opening lines spoken by Jeremy Irons (as usual, his speaking voice is perfect) to the final scene of Charles in Brideshead chapel during WWII where Charles prays "an ancient prayer, newly learned." The underlying themes woven by Waugh throughout the text, neatly referenced by such section titles as "Et in Arcadia Ego" and "A Twitch upon a thread" (quoting Chesterton's Fr. Brown), are masterly interwoven into this lavish and finely acted series. Laurence Olivier, Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews and Claire Bloom have succeeded in bringing Lord and Lady Marchmain, Charles and Sebastian to life on screen. Andrews and Irons will always be, in my mind, the definitive Sebastian and Charles.

    Needless to say, the scenery is gorgeous. From Oxford to Brideshead Castle to Venice, the sumptious cinematography captures an unforgettable world. Those interested in landscape photography or 'period pieces': you will not be disappointed. Some have likened certain scenes to Merchant-Ivory scene-scapes: please note, Brideshead came before Merchant-Ivory. I dare to say it, it graciously opened the way for the 'white-flannel'/Oxford & Cambridge block-busters immediately after it, eg. Chariots of Fire.

    Again, this is HIGHLY recommended!

    p.s. Much to-do has been made recently of the proposed 2005/2006 Davies' adaptation, which not only shrinks the classic into a 2-hour film (which is, quite simply, impossible if you were to do the book justice), but also purposefully cuts out the heart of the author's message: the role of religion in the story. Waugh himself was a convert to Catholicism and his masterpiece revolves about his characters' wandering away but ultimately back again, to faith: for the Flyte family, it is a return to their heritage (two of the most moving scenes are Lord Marchmain's death-bed conversion and Julia's painful but utterly noble decision), and for Charles, it is a newly found conviction. Hence the section title "A Twitch upon a thread", the thread referring to the fine, but strong pull of the Catholic religion over these individuals. To remove this critical theme would be to cut off the life-blood which moves the pulse of the plot. Agnostic, atheist or believer, if you have read and appreciate the beauty of the book and respect the author's obvious intent, this series is the definitive Brideshead.
    ...more info
  • Bloody flawless
    I watched this when it was first broadcast on PBS, taped it, and kept it for ages -- and bless my dear friend who gave me this wonderful 25th anniversary boxed set. Along with the ORIGINAL "Forsyte Saga," (and yes, "The Jewel in the Crown"),this may be the best production ever done by the BBC.

    First, read the book! Always and by all means. Evelyn Waugh was -- well, just terribly, terribly British -- and it is a treasure. And the BBC did an extraordinary job of turning it into a magnificent mini-series. The cast -- starting w/Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews -- and on and on -- everyone, every detail -- television, film, literature -- at its best!

    And DO watch the "special feature" with Irons, et al. Wonderful perspective 25 years later....more info
  • Five stars just does not cut it for this MASTERPIECE!
    This is my review of the 2008 theatrical version;
    Stick with the 1981 Granada television version. Yes, it's 13 episodes. Yes, it's long but it is positively brilliant! Beautifully acted, sumptously filmed, masterfully directed. It's intelligence shines through in every scene. If those reasons aren't good enough for you then just see it for the exquisite performance of Anthony Andrews!
    The 2008 big screen version has only one thing in common with the 1981 version, it is long...

    ...more info
  • A Pleasure
    After 25 years, this re-telling of Evelyn Waugh's nostalgic tale seems even fresher. It is joy to visit Brideshead and meet the Marchmain family again and be part of their lives....more info
  • Brideshead Revisited 25th Annaversery
    I enjoyed this program on PBS many years ago. Seeing it again, it was even better than I remembered....more info
  • Bridehead Revisited Review
    After seeing the movie of Brideshead Revisited, my only conclusion can be that 4 CD set of Bridehead is far superior than the recent movie production. Having seen this production 25 years ago, made me realize just how great it really was and very much ahead of it's time. I recommend this CD set to everyone who enjoys superior acting and real art.
    It was absolutely brilliant and historic....more info
  • Revisit Brideshead
    This production under the direction of Charles Sturridge is close to perfection. John Mortimer's (Rumpole of the Bailey) adaptation captures every nuance of Evelyn Waugh's original novel. Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Diana Quick, Clair Bloom, Sir Lawrence Olivier, and Sir John Gielgud star in this extraordinary production. Everything about this 11-hour miniseries is unsurpassed. The time period is expertly rendered, the acting is incredible, and the screenplay is nearly word for word from the novel it is based on, the sets and scenery are luscious, and the soundtrack is heavenly.

    Lord Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews) of the aristocratic Marchmain family befriends Charles Ryder (Jeromy Irons) during their second term at Oxford in pre-war England. As Charles becomes more entwined with the affairs of the Marchmain family, his relationship with Sebastian is threatened and Sebastian embarks on a dark journey of self-destruction. Get an inside glimpse of how pre-war life in the aristocracy was lived. Drop in on the Marchmain family once again to learn of love, religion, alienation, alcoholism, depression, art, wine, and war....more info
  • BRIDESHEAD REVISITED: so good you'll revisit this set over and over and over
    This 11-episode mini series is a must as the core portion of any British drama DVD collection. It shines on a level with "The Grand", "Monarch of the Glen", and "The Pallisers." The only drawback is that "Brideshead Revisited" lasts ONLY about 11 hours.

    A WWII soldier finds his unit setting camp at an old English home known as Brideshead Castle. Yes, he has been there before. The memories of those days beginning in 1922 return with delightful results to the viewer. His recollection takes a trip through the entire Marchmain family who lived at Brideshead. Also endearing are many friends of the family. Captain Charles Ryder remembers his own involvement with every member of the group. The costumes are authentic and the scenery is even more thrilling. It's "bloody-fine" drama with many laughs woven throughout.

    This 25th anniversary edition offers extras that are a must to view prior to beginning the series. It is a great way to get the overview needed of the actors, characters, story, and English history of the period. The length makes this set an economical value of top quality film viewing straight from the Evelyn Waugh novel....more info
  • Best Production ever made
    Brideshead has just been released-I mean the new movie version which reviewer Rex Reed (who doesn't like anything) gave high marks. However, nothing can compare to the series made in the early 1980's. It's flawless. It has the distinction, in my opinion, of being the best production ever made of any story. I own the I Claudius-fabulous; enjoy at home as well the Forsyte Saga, the mesmerizing, superbly acted The Grand, yet, we all agree that Brideshead Revisted is the standard by which all series or adaptations are to be judged. Impeccable casting ( who can imagine Emma Thompson in the role of Lady Marchmane?..as is the case in the new version; maybe Ellen Mirren, but not Emma who is perfect as the housekeeper in Remains of the Day), the part belongs to Claire Bloom; and, the enduring performances of Jeromy Irons and Anthony Andrews. 10 Stars; a masterpiece to end all masterpieces. The boxed set is handsome as well, and, the video aspect of the DVD is unmatched. ...more info
  • Best TV Series EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER
    As the cover said, this is the TV series that still stands as the benchmark for others. Knock-out performances by the incomparable Laurence Olivier, Jeremy Irons and last but not least in my opnion the best character ever put down on film: Sebastian by Anthony Andrews.
    Well, all will know this story about romantic yearning, friendship, loss and mostly the English charm of it.
    In a concluding scene with Charles Ryder he was told by an old studentfriend that that charm (of Sebastian) was dangerous, and that it almost took the best of him.
    And that might be true in a general sense: once seen it is hard to come to terms with it, first that this series is finite, and second the tragic fate of indeed the most charming person on screen yet, Sebastian, that sort of friend that we are all looking for, but who is so hard to find! ...more info
  • Brideshead Revisited
    First saw this on PBS as a series. Outstanding. Wonderful to be able to watch all at one time. Highly recommend for anyone who loves historical fiction or family sagas....more info
  • The Rumors Are True - This is Amazing!
    Imagine how I felt when I found out that my favorite novel, Brideshead Revisited, was made into a first-class TV mini-series with almost 14 hours of footage. I read the Amazon reviews and decided that they were good enough for me to spend the exorbinant amount to buy it. It was worth it! This collection of DVD's is almost word-for-word faithful to Waugh's masterpiece and brings it alive beautifully. I've watched it like ten zillion times. Highly recommended!

    God bless those weird Brit's!...more info
  • One of the best TV dramas ever!
    I remember when in 1998 Brideshead Revisted was reshown on BBC on prime time every saturday. I hurried home from my weekend classes and my landlady and I stacked up the whisky and snacks and just got engrossed in this most captivating of dramas. It is not spectacular like I, Claudius, or witty and clever like Pride and Prejudice, or nightmarish like Edge of Darkness. What it has is storytelling at its peak. It takes place roughly between the two world wars. A student (supremely acted by Jeremy Irons) befriends the scion of a noble family. Even from early on in their friendship can he observe that his friend is unable to cope with the weight of responsibilty his heritage has dropped upon him. Slowly but inexorably, the family is destroyed from within and by the events in the world surrounding them. Via the eyes of Jeremy Irons we watch the once noble family succumb.
    The tragedy is that they are aware of their falling, but they quietly and with infinite dignity accept their fate. In the end we are left with a feeling that something noble and old and irreplaceable has been lost forever. It has only left a bittersweet memory in the mind of the now middle aged Jeremy Irons. No one else cares....more info
  • A Beautiful masterpiece
    I would have to give each episode 5 stars. This is a beautiful masterpiece. The acting is superb especially by Andrews and Irons. The production is one of a kind. I enjoyed this miniseries from start to finish. Granted there are parts that drag but it is still magnificent to look at. I am now going to read the book and hopefully the 2008 version will come to my town so I can see it. ...more info
  • ecstasy of the most ennobling kind
    My d-d-dears: To avoid m-murky obscurity, let me make it c-clear at the outset that I am reviewing the Acorn Media version of _Brideshead Revisited_ (hereafter "BR"), released Oct 2006, the 25th anniversary edition.

    That the medium of television could produce ANYTHING so superlative at all is, at first glance, quite odd. _Pace_ to other Amazon reviewers, but BR is not just televisions Finest Hour (or to be precise: 659 minutes, plus addenda); it is not just television's supreme achievement; it is television's ONLY achievement. Like the Roman Colosseum, the Tube is an engineering marvel; look what it's used for. Anyone with even a grain of sensibility long ago took a hold of his telly, hauled it to the dump, and then gave it the old HEAVE-HO! Only a monitor and a DVD player are needed to savor BR's quality. This DVD is worth buying - aside from better reasons - just to have a document of TV's ONLY day in the sun.

    For television is the g-g-g-great Western blight. It spots and kills everything it touches: It kills family life, it kills art, it kills the brain, and I do believe that it has killed the secular humanist c-c-clodhoppers critics in the "Revisiting Brideshead" addendum. If they knew ANYTHING about C-C-Catholic piety, they would NOT have said such t-t-terrible t-tripe. But then when Flannery O'Connor (SUCH a g-g-gorgon, my dears; just TOO TOO macabre) defended her use of the g-grotesque, she argued that when people are spiritually deaf, one has to shout. BR, both the two versions of the book and this quite d-d-delicious DVD version of the t-telly show, abjures the grotesque for beauty, the stentorian for soft whispers. So I mustn't b-blame critics if their remarks are little insipid. So l-let me EXPLAIN it to you good plain people.

    BR's popularity, given its Catholic theme presented to an un-Catholic and anti-Catholic world, is odd as well. Sebastian remarks that everything Catholics think important is different from other people. And indeed it is, given the current poisoned Cultural Marxist atmosphere, in this Brave New World of dysfunctional families and omnipresent license, where divorce is judged dandy, piety pejorative, sodomy adorable, and children worthy of butchery in the tens of millions using an Orwellian label for the crime. In such a climate, two errors of commission are inevitable. First, critics, those mass men in the Age of Hooper, have made too much of Waugh's supposed upper class snobbery. Waugh did not hate the middle and lower classes; Waugh hated the modern world. His life and his art were a studied attempt to scorn, mock, and defy it, and all its works, and all its vain pomps. With BR he changed his usual strategy and contrasted baleful modernity to Castle Brideshead, with its "lowly kinship" to the Beatific Vision.

    Second, too much also has been made of Sebastian's and Charles' supposed homosexuality. But then, can The Last Man in his Brave New World, soaked in soma, hardly appreciate friendship as a form of love at all, judging it instead to be only homoerotic? Doubtless next in line for utter incomprehension by Jasper, Samgrass, Motram, Mrs Arnold Frickheimer, Lady Celia _et al._ will be romance, marriage, parenthood, childhood, innocence, family. Point of fact: The real homosexual in the work is the Satan- making clear enough Waugh's view on the matter.

    Errors also of omission the commentators commit by their almost Invincible Ignorance of Catholic myth - and my "myth" I don't mean _lies_, but "a system of symbols that hang together". Lady Marchmain is piety without charity, Bridy faith without charity, Julia romance without charity, Charles friendship without charity. As for Sebastian's flaw and fall, most folk nowadays would follow Julia's first judgement: It must something chemical in him. But Cara, the foil of Lady Wisdom to Samgrass' pedantic Sir Folly, got it right without using the term: It's something spiritual in Sebastian, or better said, the lack thereof. At the Ritz, God tells Charles the real problem with Sebastian: lack of fidelity to a Religious Vocation ("I don't know what that means" says Charles, nor does the "modern" world), a Vocation to an Order that performs corporal works of charity, a Vocation Sebastian partly hears in rescuing Charles from his father and Kurt from his illness, Sebastian ending his days at least half way into the place where he belonged all alone. And the Satan figure shows that evil is ultimately ridiculous.

    Not to know the legend of St. Sebastian is to miss the purport of the Satan's quip "I should like to stick you full of bared arrows like a p-p-pin-cushion". Not to know the story of Eden is to miss (1) the Satan's very calling card: his stutter The Snake's tongue; and (2) when God catches Charles and Sebastian sunbathing naked on the roof, and when Sebastian says "Go away [...]; We're not decent", she (She!) replies "Yes you are!" Once these Catholic allusions are grasped, Waugh's comic tendency is more marked: going with the Satan to a homosexual bar, and taking a God out to dine at the Ritz. And secular sacraments: a Eucharist up in a pagan temple with claret precedes a baptism, by total immersion, in the fountain. The Jesuits aren't spared Waugh's wit, with the pig named Francis Xavier and a bear named Aloysius. Yet I suspect that Waugh is quite serious with the "six black Cordelia's", mocking not Cordelia's piety but our incredulity.

    Cinema - even the small screen -- talks with pictures: The winding staircase, a penitential Sebastian breaking down on the marble stairs leading up, or Charles going down twisting iron stairs with the Satan into an Infernal realm; the leitmotif of the door throughout the work: the garden door at the Botanical Gardens at Oxford, the door Charles can't close in Venice, the door not answered to Sebastian's rooms at Christchurch and Brideshead; or candles: In Part I, when the Tempter and Father of Lies blows one out, revealing him to be The Dark One; the quenched Lamp of the Presence in the chapel, later to be re-lit; and in Part II, at the dinner scene with Cordelia and Charles alone, the mirrored candelabra surrounding Cordelia, just as they do at the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

    This Acorn Production DVD offers glorious sight in splendid sound - the former having obliged a cleaning up of the film's surface, the latter a re-mastering of the original sound recording. The addenda includes, along with the risible "Revisiting Brideshead", two voice-overs, one of Part I, the other of Part IV. The first, with Irons, Quick, and Grace, is, save for some insights by Grace, quite fatuous. The other, by the producer and Andrews, is quite well done, leaving the impression that Andrews is indeed "very well endowed in the Top Story". Yet particularly contemptible are the out-takes, which give The Last Man, who mocks post-modernly all that is great, the chance to smugly enjoy actors missing a line and uttering an obscenity, and thus to mar all that is laudable. When discussing the various actors though, I didn't mind the spoofing survey of Aloysius' dramatic career.

    Yet these few blemishes do not detract from the drama's sterling achievement. So, my d-d-dears, buy this DVD, and dash impetuously to your player to pay homage at the shrine: ecstasy of the most ENNOBLING kind. And N-n-no, I will n-n-NOT buy you a drink! ...more info
  • Simply perfect
    A wise man I know once told me that the only excuse for television in the modern world was the existence of the BBC's "Brideshead Revisited". I took him at his word, viewed the series in three evenings, and concluded that he was correct. ...more info