Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A different version of P&P

A little while ago I wrote a post in which I compared two different film adaptations of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Well, I wrote that post before I had had the pleasure of viewing a third adaptation of Pride and Prejudice - P&P80! As it turns out, the BBC produced a five-part miniseries of Pride and Prejudice back in 1980! 

I had been aware for some time that there was an ‘old’ version of Pride and Prejudice that had been done sometime in the ‘80s, but I hadn't taken it very seriously. I half-expected that it would have dreadfully historically inaccurate costumes (like the 1940s P&P with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier!) straying far from the novel, and suffering from a tiny budget.
I could scarcely have been more wrong.

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing online, and I happened to read somewhere that the 1980 Pride and Prejudice was very, very good - even (in the opinion of some) better than the 1995 one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle! I went to Amazon to have a look at some of the customer reviews for P&P80, and much to my surprise, most of them were very positive! I was a little hesitant to buy the DVD set without first watching the series for myself, so my next stop was, of course, Youtube. After much searching, I finally found it (it won't come up if you just search for "Pride and Prejudice 1980"!). Over the course of the next few days, mostly during our recent holiday, I watched all five episodes. 

I'll try to outline my verdict below. I know I should only judge the movie against the book, but really it's almost impossible to avoid comparisons with P&P95 and '05. . .

Elizabeth Bennet (Elizabeth Garvie)

Possibly the best thing about this movie is Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet. Yes that's right, an Elizabeth playing an Elizabeth! But seriously, Garvie does a wonderful job playing Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I still prefer Keira Knightley in the role, but Garvie is now a very close second in my list of favourite Lizzys. In terms of outward appearance, at least, she certainly looks the part - indeed, she looks almost exactly how Austen describes Lizzy. 

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (David Rintoul)

It took a little while for me to warm to David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy. Sure, he's much better looking than either Colin Firth or Matthew MacFadyen, but he seemed so wooden at first - I know Mr. Darcy is supposed to be cold and stiff at the beginning, but Rintoul seemed so very inexpressive and passionless. It wasn't until right at the end of the movie that I finally started to like him. (Then again, you could argue that that's the way it supposed to be - Lizzy didn't like him at first, either!) I think you really have to watch his eyes to get an idea of what he's feeling. Not easily done when you're watching a blocky, grainy Youtube video, which is one of the reasons why I'm anxious to get the DVDs - so I can actually see the expressions on each of the actors’ faces! 

Gorgeous scenery

Most of the supporting cast were excellent. For the first time in any adaptation of P&P that I have seen, they finally got Mr. Collins's character right! Mr. Collins is described in the novel as being a "Tall, heavy looking young man of five and twenty." (Volume 1 chapter XIII.) David Bamber, (Mr. Collins from P&P95) aside from not looking at all like Mr. Collins, got the character of Collins all wrong! I have a lot of respect for Bamber as an actor, having seen him in several films and BBC productions, including The Railway Children (2000), Miss Potter (2006), and Robin Hood (2006-present); but in this instance, I just don't think he nailed the personality or mannerisms of Mr. Collins. He portrayed Collins as a horribly slimy, positively evil man! Mr. Collins is supposed to be just plain stupid, not evil! OK, so he's not a very pleasant character, but he's not meant to be the villain!

Malcolm Rennie as Collins in P&P80 was, I thought, just about perfect. He looked exactly the way Mr. Collins is supposed to look, and was hilariously stupid whenever he appeared.

Judy Parfitt as Lady Catherine de Bourgh also deserves a mention. Lady Catherine is a rather nosy person who enjoys telling other people how they ought to run their lives, even down to the seemingly inconsequential minutiae of daily life. This is an aspect of her character which none of the other versions of P&P I have seen seemed to pick up on, but it was very well elaborated on here.

Moray Watson and Priscilla Morgan were also superb as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, respectively. 

The five Bennet sisters

This particular production was made on a much lower budget than either P&P95 or '05, and, frankly, it shows.

I was aware that this would be the case before I started watching; and I braced myself, expecting the worst. In the end, though, I was pleasantly surprised. The costumes were really not that bad - many of them were very beautiful, in fact. The indoor sets were pretty basic, but by no means terrible, and the beautiful English countryside lent a richness to all of the outdoor scenes. Just don't go into this expecting the stunning, lush production values of P&P05 or Sense and Sense and Sensibility '95. Expect the worst and you'll enjoy it a whole lot more.

All things considered, this version of Pride and Prejudice probably wouldn't be as appealing for the average viewer as either of the more recent adaptations, but dedicated fans of the novel will find a lot to like here. They picked up certain nuances of the book that none of the other film or TV versions seem to have noticed. There were one or two little things that I think they misinterpreted (or should I say their interpretation of these characters/scenes was simply different than mine!). Predictably, whenever the screenplay diverged from the book, the result rang a false note. However, these issues were minor ones and did not detract from my enjoyment of the movie.

Definitely worth a look for devotees of Jane Austen's wonderful book.

For more information on this miniseries, go to - check out the "P&P80 v. P&P95 smackdown" , it's a lot of fun.

This wonderful Youtube user has posted all of P&P80 online. Click here to watch part 1 of the first episode.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 is available at for the very palatable price of $10.99 US.

And they lived happily ever after :)


Imogen said...

Hey! I love p&p too. Thanks so much for your comment on my blog, hardly anyone comments so it was a great encouragement to me in turn :)
A question.. how do you get the really cool rebelution icon on your blog? xox

The Editrix said...

Hi Imogen! Yeah, I had fun writing this review, I was a bit annoyed when the screenshots didn't come up, lol. All those blank spaces are supposed to be pics from the movie! Never mind. . .

Adding the Rebelution thingummy to your blog is super easy. Sign in to blogger (of course), then go to the "layout" page. Click "Add a Gadget", then click the "HTML/Javascript" option. A little box should pop up. Copy the text from the rebelution website (I'll post the link below), paste it into the box, then click "save". That's it! It should appear on your blog's sidebar.

Here's the link:

Hope this helped!

Theresa said...

Gack! As I haven't seen all of it I can't really comment. All I can say though is that we couldn't bear to watch all of the first viedo we borrowed. I know, everyone differs in opinions, and this shows it coz I reckon the best looking Mr Darcy is Matthew McFayden! haha! the 1980 one looks... funny. But perhaps you are right, I just need to watch the whole thing.
Thanks for the link to the youtube videos!

The Editrix said...

Yeah, it's bit of a shock to the senses at first, but it did grow on me. I can't say that I like it better than either of the more recent versions of P&P, but as I said in my post, there were a couple of things about it that I really came to appreciate.

By the way, I am at the moment watching the old (1983) BBC version of Mansfield Park, and I've been quite impressed by it so far (as yet I've only seen the first one or two episodes). It's much more faithful to the book than either the 1999 Frances O'Connor one or the 2007 Billie Piper one. Here's the link if you want to watch it online:

I'll have to right a review of this one too when I've seen all of it!!

Theresa said...

Hehe, I've seen it. Perhaps I'm picky, especially as far as cinematography goes [you can see that the camera man is walking backwards!!! shock! haha]and I'm a bit worldly because I like the 2007 one because Edmund is cute.
I'd love to see what you think!

The Editrix said...

Yes, I finished watching MP yesterday, and immediately bought the dvd on eBay - for $1.50! Not bad, eh! I'll have to write down some of my thoughts on it soon. You're right, the cinematography was - well - pretty basic. . .

Oh, and I finally fixed the photos up on this post, so now everyone can see what Lizzy and Darcy look like in P&P80, that is if you were too lazy to go to the link I posted, lol! ;-)

Mamselle Clare Duroc said...

This was actually the first version of P&P that I saw. I watched it with my mother... she had watched it as a young adult with her mother when it was first on TV, so that was rather special.

I really enjoyed it. It's pleasant, and such fun. I too simply adore Mr. Collins. His line to Charlotte, about how if he hadn't felt a duty towards his relatives he would have instantly singled her out as the companion of his future life, is too funny!

I didn't like the casting of Wickham. He seemed too slimy right from the beginning. But, come to think of it, I don't care for any of the Wickhams. I think the best casting of an Austen 'villain' was Willoughby in the Emma Thompson S&S... he was utterly charming and it was understandable that the family would fall for him, but he was believable in the 'villainous' role as well.

The Editrix said...

Yes, Mr. Collins was outrageously funny, and Wickham was very un-good - I mean bad . . . as well as him being too slimy, he had blond hair! I don't know why it is, but I just can't picture Wickham as a blond in my mind. . . You're right, Greg Wise was great as Willoughby in S&S95, much better than Dominic Cooper in S&S07.

The thing with Austen's villains is that they're not all bad or all good - they are somewhere in the middle, and filmakers doing screen adaptation of Austen tend to get the balance all wrong. (I think!)

The guy who played Frank Churchill in the Kate Beckinsale Emma was alright - I didn't like Ewan MacGregor (of the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma) so much. Part of the problem was they were constantly trying (in vain) to disguise the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow was taller than MacGregor. . .

Oh - speaking of blond hair - have you seen the guy who plays Willoughby in the old 1983 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility? He's got blond hair too, and he looks - um, weird. I haven't seen all of S&S83 yet, but I've seen a couple of short clips on Youtube, including one scene with Mr. Willoughby. . .

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! I've been commenting a lot today. You don't mind, right? :) Funny how the time I post these looks funny on here, but then I remember that you're not in America!

I love this version of PandP! Not as much as '95, but this one would be my fave PandP if that one had never been made. Actually, I didn't like Keira Knightley at all in '05. She just seemed to be playing her pirate girl role in Regency dress, and she's way too much of a Hollywood glamor girl for Austen's physical description of Lizzy B. (But then, IMHO, the girl is badly in need of acting lessons; she's always the same character in every role! And all that incessant giggling in '05 got on my nerves!) Going to back to '80, this Mrs. Bennet is my absolute favorite! This Collins is very good, I agree, but I can't say I think he's the perfect version of the character.