Judge Christopher Kulik always wondered what a Revolutionary War soap opera would look like.
Love, betrayal, and adventure in a timeless historical drama!
Based on the popular series of novels by Winston Graham, Poldark charts the escapades and adventures of one Capt. Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis, The Good Soldier), returning home to Cornwall from the American Revolution. Things have changed while Ross has been away; his father passed, the estate is a mess, and his family's copper mines are now vulnerable to greedy rivals. The most startling revelation comes when his beloved Elizabeth (Jill Townsend, Cimarron Strip), who thought Ross had died during the war, announces her intentions to marry his cousin Francis (Clive Francis, A Clockwork Orange).
Poldark is devastated over losing Elizabeth, something which will affect him the rest of his life, yet he soon meets and falls in love with a servant girl named Demelza Carne (Angharad Rees, Close To Home). Their union comes right after Elizabeth discovers Francis having an affair, forcing her to fall back onto Poldark's knees, but it's too late; since Demelza is now pregnant with their child, Poldark decides to marry her. Eventually, he finds himself competing with archrival industrialist George Warleggan (Ralph Bates, Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde), leading to financial ruin and even murder.
Hardly groundbreaking stuff, Poldark still has all the soap and stage one could wish for in a 1970s BBC series. Originally shown on PBS' Masterpiece Theater, Poldark actually holds up very well, making the 13+ hours worth the effort for the dedicated. However, it's also easy to get lost amidst all the spiraling relationships, class struggles/clashes, and love conquests. The characters are well-rounded and fleshed out, and the conflicts keep coming like an express train. It's so easy to be weighed down by the heavy drama, so Poldark is best viewed only a few episodes at a time.
Some have cited Poldark as being a British Gone With The Wind of sorts, right down to some characters saying "Fiddle-dee-dee!" This comparison is apt, except Selznick's film remains tight and riveting at four hours, while Poldark seriously drags at times. If you aren't hooked within the first two or three episodes, you might as well as forget it, as the miniseries demands attention to keep up with all the aristocratic feuds and romantic entanglements. The stalwart British cast commands the screen, although Ellis isn't quite as dashing in the title role as one would hope. Luckily, those around him and the panoramic shots of Cornwall give the audience much to absorb, keeping you from checking your watch every so often.
Acorn Media releases Poldark in an acceptable DVD set, every episode in full frame with mono tracks. As with most British miniseries, outdoor footage tends to be extremely grainy, but the stage sequences remain clean for the most part. Still, the series certainly shows its age; clearly, no restoration was done. Dialogue is easily heard, although Acorn does supply additional SDH subtitles. Extras are limited to blah cast filmographies in list-form and some interesting notes on Cornish history.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
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