Bleak House
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Product Description

Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 02/28/2006

Andrew Davies isn't much of household name in the U.S., but he's the king of the BBC mini-series. His skillfully adapted scripts for Pride & Prejudice (the beloved Colin Firth version) and many, many more are peerless examples of classic novels done right--cunningly edited and shaped to let all the rich emotion and sharp intelligence spill over with zip and vigor. Bleak House is no exception; it's one of the best Dickens adaptations to date. The mini-series form allows Dickens' panoramic view, brimming with eccentric characters and complex turns of plot, to sprawl out without losing an iota of suspense or momentum. Two innocent young orphans (Patrick Kennedy and Carey Mulligan) are the potential heirs to a fortune, but their fates are snarled in a monumental legal battle known as Jarndyce and Jarndyce. But the heart of the story is another orphan, Esther Summerson (Anna Maxwell Martin), whose mysterious parentage proves to be intertwined with the fate of the Jarndyce wards and the aloof Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson, The X-Files). Dickens' story twines through an excoriating vision of the legal system to heartbreaking domestic drama to a murder investigation to near-Gothic horror, all broken into utterly delicious half-hour segments (after the hour-long opening episode). Martin is utterly beguiling, homely at one moment and luminous the next; Anderson's grippingly eerie and brittle performance will delight her fans. But to single out anyone seems absurd, because every character--from the vicious lawyer Tulkinghorn (Charles Dance, White Mischief) to the foppish parasite Skimpole (Nathaniel Parker, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries) to the simpering clerk Guppy (Burn Gorman)--is intricately drawn, all hitting a mesmerizing balance between caricature and stark emotional honesty. Bleak House demonstrates that humor, pathos, and social criticism can all be contained in one wonderfully entertaining package. --Bret Fetzer

Customer Reviews:

  • Bleak House
    I loved this. I found the tale held my interest from beginning to end. The cast was exactly right. There were so many of my favourites to spot. A good choice....more info
  • Simply Beautiful! I would give it 6 stars if I could!
    I can't say enough about this charming adaptation! Wonderfully acted, beautifully cast - it was utterly enchanting! Proof? I'm in law school and I watched the entire set in under 3 days! This is the quintessential period piece for all those fond of the likes of Jane Austen, Tom Hardy, Charles Dickens, and the like. Simply divine! And wow, how wonderful was Ms. Gillian Anderson!! ...more info
    I caught this miniseries as it was being aired and I couldn't wait until the next episodes came out. I think I actually clapped near the end. I've seen it a few times since then but I plan on buying it soon. If you liked Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Wives and Daughters, Emma, Foyles War, you will like this. I was totally in love with the cast and swept away by the plot....more info
  • Well Done!
    My daughters (19 and 15) and I loved this movie!! I was not familiar with this particular Dickens story, but fell in love with it very quickly. The acting is superb and the cinematography was unique and added to the mystery and mood of the story. I would highly recommend this to anyone, especially lovers of English period movies like myself....more info
  • Amazing Adaptation
    This is one of the most amazing adaptations my husband and I have seen. The actors do an excelent job of bringing their characters to life. Gilian Anderson has never been particularly impressive to me, but her performance here is truly (I hate to use the word again) amazing, as are the other actors. You'll get hooked, so leave time to watch the whole DVD. ...more info
  • Heart breaking story
    Loved this story since it was so well acted and kept your interest at all times. Such a tragic case of a mother, who was bound by rules of the day, and was not able to love and keep her child because she could not trust her spouse to understand even though at the end he was a good loving person. So sad that a poor young girl would never come to realize the love of her mother. ...more info
  • Good (Surprisingly So!)
    There is a danger in making video adaptations of classic books, particularly those of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens -- the problem is that of showing *action*. Many of these stories revolve around well-dressed people standing around talking in plummy accents. There's very little in the way of derring-do or even positive movement, apart from the characters traveling from place to place. Period-pieces like this can turn into boring talkfests if the director and actors aren't careful to keep things dynamic.

    Also, Dickens' sprawling plots and large casts of characters make a film adaptation difficult. "Bleak House" in particular is a difficult work to translate to film, containing as it does so many characters and so many interwoven plot threads.

    The filmmakers of this version of "Bleak House" did a good job of translating the very long and complicated book into a fast-paced miniseries. All the familiar characters are there: the loathsome Tulkinghorn, the strong-willed Esther Summerson, the young lovers Ada and Richard, the batty but lovable Miss Flite, the haughty Lady Dedlock, and my favorite of them all, Inspector Bucket. The book's sprawling plot is sintered down to the essential elements and characters, but the series still runs over fifteen episodes of a half-hour each (exept the first, which is an hour long). The production is very well-mounted and shot, but with a rather odd editing style more reminiscent of modern police dramas than period pieces like this one.

    Gillian Anderson is a revelation as the tragic and desperately unhappy Lady Dedlock. I was a bit dismissive of her casting in this role -- I thought it was a sop to pull in the American audience -- but she does a wonderful job. Her Lady Dedlock is cold and aloof and haughty, but always with a trapped-animal panic behind her eyes. It is really a wonderful performance. Charles Dance brings a cold menace and basilisk gaze to the lawyer Tukinghorn, while veteran actor Alun Armstrong brings his worthy talents to Investigator Bucket. Anna Maxwell Martin's Esther is more problematic: her character seems rather pallid and underacted, her emotions too stilted. But overall her performance is good enough that it doesn't detract from the piece.

    I'd consider this the best filmed adaptation of "Bleak House" so far. But fans of the novel may find that much had to be trimmed away to make the translation to film feasible, and this may detract a bit from the enjoyment. Nevertheless, this is definitely a worthy addition to any DVD library, and I recommend it highly....more info
  • Very Great Performance
    After seeing this series on PBS/KET I decided to buy the discs for a sister-in-law. But, I haven't sent it out to her yet. I'm afraid she's going to get a used copy ;0)...more info
  • Amazingly Good
    It seems like "they" are getting better every year when it comes to adaptations of the so-called classic novels, and this version of Bleak House is the best I have seen. Dickens' (arguably) most complex novel has never looked better, and while I have heard a purist or two grumble, personally I have no complaints about what the makers of this engrossing production have given us. To everyone involved in bringing Bleak House to the small screen, well done!...more info
  • Drama
    Bleak House has everything--mystery, deceipt, secrets and even a bit of romance. It's worth a watch. ...more info
  • Bleak House
    Excellent movie! Enjoyable and surprisingly engaging (considering the length of the film). Definitely worth watching!...more info
  • Wonderful
    Dickens' Bleak House is to my mind one of his greatest novels. This BBC production is simply wonderful - each characther is beautifully played by a brilliant cast from Charles Dance as the nasty lawyer to Gillian Anderson as Lady Deadlock and Jonny Vegas as Crook. Simply wonderful. The BBC excel at this kind of stuff. Bravo!...more info
  • Hides Mr. Dickens's true message.

    The other 1985 version Charles Dickens's "Bleak House" brings to life so well the truth that trial-lawyers are a Cartel, in business only to make lots of money for themselves, and Judges are chosen solely from that group of self-serving, money-grubbing, trial-lawyers.

    The trial-lawyers and Judges are skilled at stringing the young man along, making him believe if he just files that one more document, and explains his case a little clearer, that he will receive justice. But the trial-lawyers are not in the business of justice; they are in the business of making more and more money.

    The young man is strung along by the trial-lawyers for years, his health ruined, his relationships with family and friends ruined, for his being strung along to exhaustion. We see the young man depends upon his belief that our civil Court system must have some justice. When the young man's life has been totally ruined, and the trial-lawyers further enriched, the truth is finally revealed to the young man. There is a humorous scene at the end as he reacts; though not funny if it was happening to you.

    The other 1985 version is the best version, though very slow. They should remake "Bleak House" with my suggestions under the comment button below. I liked the other 1985 version, because I have been to civil Court, and found the other version true to life.

    This 2005 version shows the main character's home with dark furnishings, filmed by candlelight, for a bleak home, to hide Mr. Dickens's true message. Mr. Dickens said the civil, Court-house is the bleak house, for the greed and the corruption. The other 1985 version makes the house of the good characters cheerful.

    Bleak House is ongoing today. Any Judge is a lawyer, and is biased to preside over a case of a citizen, non-lawyer vs. a lawyer. Any Judge is further biased in a case of his employer and his fellow-government-employees, in a case of a citizen vs. the government. The Judge is obligated to order the complaint and motions to a jury for decision without delay or opportunity to dismiss. But the Judges do not do that.

    According to a former US Supreme Court law-clerk, in the books noted *below, Supreme Court law-clerks write the opinion-decision that the justices have made. Lower federal and State Courts have taken this opportunity one step further. Lower Court law-clerks decide and write the tentative-rulings and final-rulings of the cases of non-attorney plaintiffs, without the Judge ever reading the non-attorney's complaint. The decision is stamped with rubber-stamp or computer-stamp of the Judge's signature. The Court law-clerks esteem their fellow attorney, who is opposing the non-attorney plaintiff, for the attorney's successful private practice; and always rely upon the attorney's pleadings to make their decision; disdaining the non-attorney plaintiff as knowing nothing about law. Though, in truth, all good law should be ethics and simple business rules, like having a written contract, thus the uneducated, non-lawyer, plaintiff, should find honesty and justice on equal ground. The Judges act in secret, by procedures that are not verifiable or transparent, in unlawful-position where unlawful acts are presumed to occur, against non-attorney plaintiffs.

    The U.S. Constitution, 1st Amendment, encourages you, the non-attorney, to represent yourself:
    "The Congress shall make no law...abridging the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    The profession of "trial-lawyer" attracts those wishing to make a lot of money; the greediest among us. Trial-lawyers have usurped a monopoly, effectively stealing the poor person's right to a just hearing under the Constitution. Justice only for those who can pay the high prices! Trial-lawyers get rich upon the misfortunes of their neighbors. Judges are trial-lawyers. Since the trial of Jesus, to the days of Charles Dickens, to today, as Solomon said, "nothing is new under the sun".

    You may say, "Abraham Lincoln was an honest trial-lawyer". True, but the last honest one in the history books, and he was shot for his honesty.

    Jurors in the OJ Simpson trial were locked in a hotel room for 4-months, for a trial that should have taken two days to present to the jury. The jurors soon thought, who cares about this case, let me out of this hotel room.

    The moral of "Bleak House" is to not spend too much time on the corruption that we honest folks cannot change, and not to let the trial-lawyers steal our enjoyment of our loved ones.

    *Books: "Courtiers of the Marble Palace: The Rise and Influence of the Supreme Court Law Clerk", by Todd C. Peppers; and "Sorcerers' Apprentices: 100 Years of Law Clerks at the United States Supreme Court", by Artemus Ward and David L. Weiden....more info
  • This was freaking fantastic!
    While flipping through channels one day I accidentally came across an episode of Bleak House miniseries. I was riveted! The characters are engaging; the plot, though a bit overdone at times, exciting and you totally get caught up in the story so masterly woven around you that you completely lose yourself in it.

    I couldn't painfully wait for each week's installment so I rented the DVD (from amazon to add). The rich characters and superb acting add to the vivid and insightful depiction of the films major themes - greed, love, class, ect. This is a must buy....more info
  • Where's the fog?
    This startling but overrated 2005 BBC version of Dickens's most complex novel certainly excited many people when it came out, and it has some absolutely excellent acting in it, particularly from Charles Dance as a sinister Tulkinghorn, Timothy West as a devoted Sir Leicester Dedlock, and Anna Maxwell Martin as a loving and warm Esther Summerson. But despite its showy jump-cuts and narrative drive, it's not really a very true adaptation of the original Dickens novel: for one thing, they're very little of the polluted fog (what we would call smog today) that completely permeates Dickens's London from the novel's opening words, and all the rooms look fairly swept--the London poor live on far too clean and grand a scale (Mr. Krook's rag-and-bone shop practically looks inviting in this adaptation). While you have the narrative drive here akin to a mid-Victorian sensation novel you miss much of the atmosphere. Gillian Anderson works hard as the haughty Lady Dedlock, and she's genuinely affecting, but when you compare her to Diana Rigg in the 1985 BBC version (which is general is far truer in feeling to the original source material, although it leaves key characters like the Jellybys out) she seems to be trying too hard....more info
  • Bleak House a terrific mini-series
    Bleak House is exceptionally well-done. It has a great story, interesting quirky characters, excellent production values, and terrific acting. It is a drama, not a romance. It is not bleak. Good character studies. Entertaining and well worth your time. One of the top half dozen mini-series I've ever seen....more info
  • Amazing Adaptation
    I have now watched this several times, and it never gets old. The acting is superior, the setting perfect, and the screenplay captures the novel perfectly. Love it!...more info
  • A Double Mystery
    One of Dickens lesser-known stories, it was enjoyable as a story with two intriguing mysteries. Well acted and produced by the BBC, with a surprise performance by Gillian Anderson. Good for anyone who likes period pieces and a story with a social message that could be applied to our own age....more info
  • The Verdict on Bleak House
    My fianc¨¦e had recently finished Dickens' novel when I saw this adaptation for rent, so I picked it up for her, not really intending to watch it myself. She is quite the fan of Dickens, having discovered him not long ago and is impressively working her way through his catalog. As for myself, I've enjoyed the few novels of his that I've read, but as far as the adaptation goes, when I see the words 'BBC' and 'Classic Literature', my eyes start to glaze over.

    No worries though as I was caught up in the series almost immediately. Dickens always was a bit keen on melodrama, considering most of his output was serialized in the papers first, and 'Bleak House' might even outdo some of his other works in that regard, but that's a minor distraction if at all. What makes the adaptation stand out so well, in my mind, are both the casting and the editing.

    'Bleak House' is a sprawling novel, filled with rich characters that can be difficult to keep track of if you don't pay attention - at least at first. As an 8 1/2 hour miniseries though, the director had time to explore these people's idiosyncrasies and help the viewer differentiate between them. But what faces the casting director found! Several times throughout the series, both my fianc¨¦e and I commented on the actors and how they very nearly carried their roles on their face alone. I'm sure the magic of makeup had a lot to do with this also, and the actors themselves did excellent work, but still I was amazed at the variety. Perhaps I'm a victim of Hollywood's generic casting, where, if you aren't the star, then the goal is to find the most non-descript faces around so there isn't any doubt as to who is the leading lady or leading man.

    Not only is 'Bleak House' filled with dozens of important characters, it is also a complex story - mostly written as a condemnation of the British court system at the time. The directors chose, wisely I think, to concentrate more on the story of Esther Summerson, an orphan with a mysterious past. Keeping these storylines from helplessly tangling with one another was a major success, one that I think you can point to the film editor for. I won't say it was perfect (the crashing sounds accompanying the jerky transitional establishing shots got to be a distraction by film's end), but each brief segment of the story served its purpose by advancing the plot and keeping up interest. I thought it struck a fine balance between catering to those with no attention span and those who are patient enough to let a film unfold at its own pace.

    My fianc¨¦e and I rarely find much to watch on TV to begin with, and if we do, it's about 50/50 as to whether we'd both enjoy it. As a period drama and romance fan, she heartily endorsed 'Bleak House', while even a Texas Chainsaw Massacre fan like myself found it engaging and fun. Highly recommended.
    ...more info
  • Fantastic
    I saw Bleak House in part watching Masterpiece Theater on PBS some months ago, but somhow managed to miss the conclusion. Which left me painfully eager to know how it all came out. And so I was thrilled to find it available through my online rental service. I am a Period Film addict and for the most part really enjoy when classic novels are brought to screens, big and small. The BBC has in my opinion an unrivaled talent for this, and has created some of the most beautiful and faithful adeptatians I've seen. So as I say having seen some of the miniseries already, My expectations for the ending were quite high, but even so Bleak House left me utterly speachless. Every aspect of this film is incredible. The film as a whole is almost indiscribably good.

    The Acting was superb from top to tail, everyone seemed to inhabit the very skin of their charater, but even amoung these there were performances that knocked my over.

    Gillan Anderson, as the ill fated Lady Deadlock.
    Anna Maxwell Martin, as the indomitable Esther Summerson.
    Burn Gorman, as Guppy I couldn't help but like him.
    Katie Angelou, as the sweetest little girl ever Charlie Neckett
    "Shake me up Judy" Philip Davis, as Smallweed
    Hugo Speer, as Sergeant George
    Alun Armstrong, as Inspector Bucket
    Charles Dance, as Mr. I got what I deserved Tulkinghorn
    and for some reason I'm not sure of. Johnny Vegas, as Krook

    My hands down favorite scene: (for the benefit of those who havn't read the book, or seen the series) A certain mother daughter reunion.

    as Compulsively watchable as the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, you really gatta see this.
    ...more info
  • So engaging!
    This is such an exciting series to watch. LIttle by little the story evolves as you grow to love Lady Deadlock and Esther and John Jarndyce and to hate, despise, loathe Mr. Tulkinghorn. Excellent depiction. Such rich characterization. Superb film! So satisfying. I was sad when it was over. I enjoyed it so much....more info
  • Delightful and Intriguing
    A Little Known Dickens work comes to life with rich and interesting characters. You'll spend the first few episodes keeping them straight and then quite attaching yourselves to them as the plot thickens and their lives intertwine. We put everything else aside when each episode came....more info
  • I Don't Care If You Hate Dickens - BUY THIS!
    I am not a Dickens fan, and I think Bleak House as a book is almost unreadable. But this production takes that book and makes it into a TERRIFIC series.

    All the performances are great, but the "Show Stealer" is Anna Maxwell Martin as Esther Summerson, the lead character/narrator. Ms Martin is "Letter Perfect."

    I have given this DVD to a couple of friends who also are not particular fans of Charlie D. All had the same reaction that I did. So BUY IT!...more info
  • Wonderfully intracate and complex
    From the moment you begin watching this series you will be drawn into the wonderfully complex and convoluted plot that is Charles Dickens' Bleak House. From the heartwarming to heartwrenching this series will having you begging for more. And while not all endings are happy there are definite lessons to be learned. Themes of corruption, greed, passion, loved lost, and family plus much more are dealt with here. A great watch guaranteed!...more info
  • Masterly Production of a Masterpiece
    So many have said so much in the reviews posted here. I'll just add a brief bit:

    Once when C.S. Lewis (my favorite author) was asked in a letter which was his favorite Dickens novel, he said "I think I'd have to place 'Bleak House' at the top." Suffice it to say that this wonderful BBC production does justice to Dickens' magnificent literary work -- and that is no mean achievement. Some have objected to the modern stylistic touches utilized in the filming, but I rather enjoyed them, and never felt they took away from the altogether classic nature of the story. The acting was superb all around, the writing superlative, and the original material (thank you, Charles) is some of the finest the English language has given shape to. I hesitate to single out any of the performances from the rest (so fine were they all), but if pressed I might say that Martin, Lawson, Gorman, and Dance were so excellent they could hardly have been better. But several others were also terrific, and there was no weak link in the chain. Since it is not often mentioned I might add that the musical theme, with its intriguing air, maintains the high standard of this drama. And finally I ask, was not Charles Dickens one of the greatest namers of characters the world of literature has seen? Dedlock? Skimpole? Tulkinghorn? First-rate, that!

    Good luck finding eight hours of television viewing as edifying as this BBC high-water mark, BLEAK HOUSE.

    ...more info