A&E // 1995 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 26th, 2006
"In vain have I struggled, it will not do. You must allow me to tell you
how ardently I admire and love you."
-- Mr. Darcy
Arguably the mother of all chick flicks, the BBC miniseries presentation of Pride and Prejudice is largely considered the authoritative presentation of Jane Austen's monstrously popular work. What to make of this double-dip? Is it a necessary trip back to Pemberley? Or only for the Firth-a-holics among us?
Do I even have to bother with a plot summation here? This book is, after all, the most widely read in the English language. You've got a mess of sisters, one of whom is an independent, feisty little number named Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle), and everyone in the family is feeling the pressure to get married to a rich stud. Elizabeth's sister, Jane (Susannah Harker) has her eyes on one such guy, Bingley, and his best pal is the enigmatic Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth, Love Actually). While Jane and Bingley maneuver the straits of courtship, Elizabeth and Darcy find themselves in a major personality clash that eventually leads to unrequited love, a dead-ended marriage proposal, some gold-digging, and eventually a happy, floral wedding.
Granted, that's as nutshell and poorly-composed a synopsis as you can get for this celebrated miniseries, but I'm wagering most anyone contemplating picking up this extravagant set are complete Austen-heads anyway. This collector's edition is for the hardcore, and while it boasts an absolutely beautiful presentation, I'm not sure it's worth the pesos to upgrade if you already have the original special edition set that came out in 2001.
Here's the nitty-gritty: the video and audio transfer remain unchanged from the original release, the same extras are still present, though there's an additional disc sporting a few bonuses, and the packaging is superb. If the sum total of those facts equals you hooking up with Mr. Darcy (in your dreams) once more, then enjoy the carriage ride. This new edition is roughly twice the price of the first release, begging the question: how much are a few added bonuses and a spiffy display worth to you?
Let's first look at what has stayed the same. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is okay, though looks faded in some instances, and the 2.0 stereo sound does what it needs to and nothing more, which isn't that big a deal as Pride and Prejudice is so dialogue-heavy that the front-loaded nature of the mix matters little. In the original bonus pile is a brief, but decent making-of featurette and some blah character bios.
And what of you get for the luxury upgrade? The bonus disc contains a lengthier, more detailed retrospective on the making of the miniseries, featuring interviews with a few of the supporting players as well as the filmmakers. The heavy-hitters (i.e. Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle) are noticeably absent, but the documentary is still solid. You'll also get an eight-minute "walkabout" with supporting actors Adrian Lukis and Lucy Briers (uh, who?) touring one of the shooting locations. Finally, an episode of A&E's Biography focusing on Jane Austen holds up rear; it's well-made and informative, but seems kind of like a cop-out addition.
What really sells this set is the gorgeous packaging. This sucker is huge, the size of a coffee-table book, and comes in two parts. The first is a large, book-styled holder for the DVDs, which opens up to reveal the three discs. While it looks nice, I'm not flipping for the disc storage, which seems like it can lead to a few too many scratches on the discs. Some softer backing material would have been appreciated (and may turn out to be necessary). Section two is a robust companion paperback, a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the production, filled with more information than you can shake a stick at. It's a top-shelf work and provides an excellent supplement to the films. This is all enclosed in a classy, green-felt case which should look smashing on your bookshelf.
Oh, and about the film itself: guys, take this from someone who would rather eat a bullet than endure another Sarah Jessica Parker romp -- this chick flick is the real deal. I had my doubts, but was glued from beginning to end, and there was nary an explosion or car wreck to be had. The thing is just marvelously produced and well-acted and the serpentine, witty plot had me totally into it. But it's five frickin' hours long! you say. Granted, but think of it this way: it's five hours that you won't hate, and, more importantly, that's a major deposit in the Girlie Movie Bank. Think of how many Tony Jaa flicks you'll be able to rent now with that stockpiled goodwill!
Which set to choose? I'm actually torn. While I think there's a built-in audience for this set right away, for the casual P&P fan who owns the original, it might be hard to justify another 40-or-so dollars to upgrade. It's a handsome set, and will certainly replace the original in our house, but I got it for free.
Not guilty, you rogue.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Making of Pride and Prejudice"
* Retrospective Documentary
* Walkabout with Adrian Lukis and Lucy Briers
* Jane Austen A&E Biography
* Collectible Book
* Jane Austen Fan Site