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. . .
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)
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.
This particular production was made on a much lower budget than either P&P95 or '05, and, frankly, it shows.
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 jrinla.com - 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 Amazon.com for the very palatable price of $10.99 US.