Monday, August 29, 2011

Review: Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Couple of things before you read this review: 1. I am a bit biased for this review since I not only have seen the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice, but I absolutely love it and it's one of my favorite things to watch. 2. I'm not much of a fan of the older BBC period dramas (though there are some that I absolutely love *cough* Barchester Chronicles *cough*). So as you read my review, you may or may not agree with me. But this is my opinion of this version of Pride and Prejudice.
Box Art

Synopsis - Taken from Pride and Prejudice (1995) Review
Mrs. Bennet is trying to marry off her five daughters. When the rich Mr. Bingley moves into the neighborhood, Mrs. Bennet is determined that he marry one of her daughters. Mr. Bingley takes an interest in Jane, the eldest daughter, while his friend, Mr. Darcy, offends Elizabeth, Jane's sister.

I only recognized two members of the cast. Elizabeth Garvie (Elizabeth Bennet) I have seen in the second season of The House of Eliott as Lady Elizabeth Montford (Does she tend of have characters with the name Elizabeth a lot?). I also saw that Judy Parfitt (Lady Catherine de Bourgh) was in here: I have seen in Little Dorrit as Mrs. Clennam.

Elizabeth (Elizabeth Garvie) with Jane (Sabrina Franklyn)
Most of the characters I was severely disappointed in. (Forgive me, but I'm going to have to make some comparisons here). Sabrina Franklyn's Jane Bennet was pretty, but I thought that she just wasn't Jane; I pictured Jane as being much more quiet/gentler in her manners and way of speaking. Elizabeth Garvie's Elizabeth just isn't Elizabeth, but more on Elizabeth Garvie's Elizabeth later. Mary Bennet was portrayed as being much too silly: they made her more like Kitty and Lydia, especially at the beginning (honestly, did Mary really care that Mr. Bingley was renting Netherfield Park like everyone else?). Kitty seemed like she was either coughing or crying the entire time (plus when Mr. Bingley returned, suddenly Mrs. Bennet wanted him to marry Kitty?!), but Lydia does exhibit her usually annoying character (though I think Julia Sawalha was more entertaining to watch in the 1995 miniseries). Mr. Bennet seems to be much more malicious than he is supposed to be: he always sounded annoyed at everyone and the lines that were supposed to be said in a light way were said quite angrily. Mrs. Bennet was annoying, which she should be, but she lacked the over dramatic personality that Alison Steadman was a much better in portraying in the 1995 miniseries. I will say that I did like Irene Richard's Charlotte Lucas, though everyone remarked on how she was plain, but I didn't think she was that plain, but even her character wasn't as accurate as it should have been. A lot was added when Elizabeth visited her and Mr. Collins at Hunsford. If you didn't like that in the 1995 miniseries that Mr. Darcy jumped in the lake for a swim, you probably won't like that Mr. Collins had an "aqua hat" and that he actually wore it to pick stuff out of a pond with Charlotte. And it seemed like if Lady Catherine said something about cleaning the house (or in this case, chairs), Charlotte would personally attend to it on her hands and knees. Would Charlotte have done something like that? I don't believe so. Lady Catherine herself could have had a home improvement show: when you first see her, she's giving all this housekeeping advice. It was much overdone.

Elizabeth Garvie is not a very good Elizabeth Bennet. She seemed to be more catty than she should have been. I've never thought of Elizabeth as catty, but rather as someone who was offended by Mr. Darcy. In this Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth seemed to be actually in love with Wickham for a while and everyone seemed to know about it and she seemed to express it pretty obviously, which isn't supposed to be. Also, the way that she delivered some of her lines at some serious moments was almost done comically. If she wasn't comical in the delivery of her lines, she was quite dull. Honestly, Elizabeth Garvie's Elizabeth can't even compare to Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth in the 1995 miniseries. Jennifer Ehle had a way of speaking Elizabeth's lines that was very easy and natural to her -- and it came out very natural and sounded like the Elizabeth in the book. Elizabeth Garvie seemed to not only say her lines in a way that was quite dull, but she also made Elizabeth look more catty than she should have been.
Mr. Darcy (David Rintoul) proposing to
Elizabeth (Elizabeth Garvie)

Let me say this: David Rintoul is not Mr. Darcy. All his lines were said very, very dully and with absolutely no emotion. It seemed like the whole time, he was just spitting out his lines as quickly as possible. Even when Elizabeth ran to Pemberly to tell him about Lydia's elopement (which is definitely not the way it happened in the book), he failed to be at all affected by Elizabeth crying in front of him. It seemed like he was merely speaking the lines and not acting them. He barely moved as he was talking, resembling a block of wood. Spoiler I'm also not one for romantic scenes much, but could Mr. Darcy's second proposal possibly be any duller? There seemed like there was absolutely no emotion in the entire scene (I know the emotion is not supposed to be excessive, but it ought to have been subtle. It was just entirely lacking here). Again, it's another example of both Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul just saying the lines and not acting as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. End of Spoiler I think I am much more far assured that Colin Firth is the definitive Mr. Darcy.

You can't really expect very breathtaking scenery from a BBC miniseries made in the 70s or 80s. The outdoor scenes were okay, but nothing special. The miniseries does come off like a play (as do many period dramas of the 70s and 80s). Comparing to other period dramas from the 80s, I would say the quality is about the same.
Wickham telling Elizabeth how Mr. Darcy
wronged him.

The costuming was okay. Everything looked for the most part period accurate. I notice that many of the women wore chemisettes under their dresses, which would be accurate to the time period. A lot of lace in the necklines for evening wear was used, though, which is something that I've never noticed before. I don't have any reason to say that it's inaccurate, but I haven't seen it before and I've seen quite a bit of movies that take place in the Regency Era.

Not the best music. I wouldn't say that the background music is representative of the music of the time. And the Mr. Collins theme was horrid! It sounded like a song out of some really bad comedy. A little bit of a side note: I noticed that Mary Bennet would always sing the song "Early One Morning". I instantly recognized the song since I am a fan of the show Bonanza, and that was a song most notably sung by the character Adam Cartwright. (By the way, Adam sung it much better)

Overall: 1.5/5
There are a lot of people who really love this version of Pride and Prejudice: I'm not one of them. There were just so many elements of the story changed and many of the characters were not the way that they should have been. This miniseries was much more duller than it should have been. I would definitely say that if you only want to see one version of Pride and Prejudice, skip this version and watch the 1995 one: it's much more accurate to the book and a lot more fun to watch.

Pride and Prejudice is available on DVD and VHS and is also on Netflix Instant Streaming. It runs for 265 minutes and is made up of five episodes.


  1. LOL! I've watched that version!
    We were hoping that it would be suitable for men, so that my brother and my Dad could watch it. But it was annoying, and the dresses wen't really very decent either :D . I Love the 1995 version! It's the best version of Pride And Prejudice!

  2. You're not one for romantic scenes? Ohh! How could a period drama fan not be one for romantic scenes?! JK. :P

    Well, I guess it depends on the definition of that word. :P While mushy stuff makes me ill, I like it to be always makes me happy. Tehe. ;-)
    I'm always disappointed that Henry Tilney and Edward Farrars don't get their proposals in the books. ;-)

  3. Melody,
    Same here. I hate it when scenes get mushy, but if it's sweet, it's not bad.

  4. I'm sorry you didn't like this version very much. It does have it's faults but sticks pretty close to the book. I do like Sabina Franklyn as Jane, she is pretty and sweet and the Mr. Bingley in this version is very kind. I do like Irene Richards as Charlotte Lucas in this film but she was much more suited to the character of Elinor Dashwood which she portrayed in the older BBC version of S&S. This Mr. Collins is my favorite, his blustery and pompous way of talking and his tall and a bit stout person is in my mind spot on. David Bamber in P&P 1995 was okay but a bit oily and slippery for my taste, almost calculating and creepy.
    Over the years many awful things have been said about David Rintoul's stiff acting as Mr. Darcy. It's strange because I've seen the actor in a few other BBC produtions and TV series and he's actually a pretty good actor. I'm really not sure where this idea that Mr. Darcy doesn't smile comes from. Everyone has things that make them smile and I'm sure that Georgiana, Elizabeth, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Charles Bingley would make Mr. Darcy smile and even laugh!
    I do like some of the music and costumes in this adaptation but most of the scenes were filmed on sound stages so the scenery isn't that brilliant. This definitely isn't the definitive adaptation but I do enjoy watching it from time to time.
    And I'm with you, Barchester Chronicles is one of the best of the older BBC films! Such a delightful story and characters! :)

  5. Miss Laurie,

    I really must comment upon that Mr-Darcy-Smiling-Or-Not subject! I really do not know where people get that idea!! They musn't have read the book, because the book *does talk about Mr. Darcy smiling*.
    Example: "And yours," he replied with a smile, "is wilfully to misunderstand them."
    He even does a little bit of teasing, even if it isn't up to Lizzy's level. tehe

  6. I only watched the fifth and final episode...that was enough. Quite honestly, it was nearly laughable! Wow. Thank goodness for the 1995 one!

  7. I concur. I was disappointed by this version of Pride and Prejudice. I especially found it odd that Mr. Bennett, whose wit and wry humor delights me on the page, was so poorly acted or directed that everything he said sounded foolish for its seeming sincerity. That is not Elizabeth's father, as far as I'm concerned. I was happy when I finally saw that last scene and could say I had done so and was done with it.

  8. I watched all three movies, 1980, 1995, and 2006 and overall the 1995 was the best of all adaptation of P&P.
    Yes, Colin Firth was Mr.Darcy, but he too, didn't smile. Nor did he express any emotion, especially in his words:"Dearest and loveliest..." came out like a rote memory of the lines. By comparison, the 2006 Mr. Darcy showed his agony and torture in his love for Ms. Elizabeth both at the Apollo Temple and at Longbourn in that morning fog about him being bewitched in body and soul (even though these lines are nowhere in the book).
    I felt, all three movies had good and bad moments and characters, but the best overall is definitely the 1995.

  9. I agree with you about Mr. Darcy being very dull in his acting but I can't agree about Elizabeth. I think P&P1980's Elizabeth was the closest to Book!Elizabeth. Very Elegant but yet very... young and vivid and delightful. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE 1990!Elizabeth. The 1990 version is my favorite. But here they were great actors. I blame the directors.

    Anyway, If there is something I love about this version is the pemberly part, when Mr. Darcy join them in the park and the view is so beautiful. AND he does smile there *laugh* Also, I love they incluyed Darcy And Lizzie walks in Rosings, something I really missed in the 1990 version.

    What I hate is that they give lines to characters at random! Or even others character's lines!

  10. Well, Lizzy IS pretty catty (as well as judgmental and of course, prejudiced) so this makes sense.

  11. It's interesting how opinions vary depending upon which version of P&P you saw first. David Rintoul was my second Mr. Darcy, my first being Laurence Olivier in the 1940 version, which I saw on TV as a girl. I had already read the book, and I was disappointed in the movie because of the period change from Regency to early Victorian, which allowed for more elaborate costumes. Greer Garson is no Elizabeth, though she uses a light touch compared to her usual dramatic roles. Can you fault Olivier's performance? Yes. I completely failed to fall in love with him, and he and Garson seemed too old for their roles. But it succeeds in three ways. First, it is a true comedy of manners. Second, Melville Cooper is a hilarious Mr. Collins. Third, it is remarkable for the portrayal of Lady Catherine de Bourgh by master character actress Edna May Oliver, who is perfectly suited to the role. I have read that the producers of the movie never considered anyone else for the part, and they were so right! She is the archetypal haughty/silly grand dame in every movie she made, and she steals this movie from the very accomplished leads. It's so wrong that they changed her character at the end of the movie!!! Unforgiveable. This version gets a C+.

    The 1980s version is also disappointing, especially in tone. It rarely plays as the comedy it's supposed to be. The characters are toned down; Mr. Bennett isn't lazy or genial enough, Mrs. Bennett isn't sufficiently shrill, stupid, or vulgar enough. She should be the bane and humiliation of Jane and Elizabeth's existence, and here she's just a minor embarrassment. David Rintoul, sublime eye candy that he is, seems more detached than reserved, the Regency poster child for Asperger's syndrome. He has a problem with arrogance, not obsessive-compulsive disorder! Yet I still fell a little bit in love with him. The biggest disappointment is Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennett. When I watched the early scenes with her and Darcy, I remembered one of Austen's descriptions of Elizabeth: something like "she had a lively air of sportive playfulness that made it difficult for her to offend anybody." Grade C.

    One of the great successes of the 1995 version is the impeccable casting. After my previous disappointments, I was mesmerized from the start of this wonderful production. Everyone is wonderful, with rare and small exceptions: Mr. Collins isn't funny enough--he borders on tragic. But he quickly convinces you of what a disastrous husband he would make for Elizabeth or Jane. Caroline Bingley didn't look as I always pictured her, but Anna Chancellor nails the role. I'm always surprised at the criticisms of Alison Steadman's portrayal of Mrs. Bennet. She is SUPPOSED to make you cringe. She is SUPPOSED to embarrass you, and she puts you in the unfortunate shoes of the elder Bennett girls as no other actress does. You can hardly bear to watch her, just as you can hardly bear to read Mrs. Bennet's speeches. Lynn Farleigh is also pitch-perfect as her sister, Mrs. Phillips. Benjamin Whitrow is the best of all the Mr. Bennets--wry, indolent, brilliant and careless, marriage-weary. I could go on forever about this one. A+

    The abysmal 2005 version is barely worthy of comment. It's all wrong--the period, the casting, the costumes, the settings--not so much artistic license as wrongheaded desecration. It looks as if the Bennets are living in a Shaker community, and they all need a bath. Mr. Bennet a FARMER??? The vampire-toothed, brittle Keira Knightley as Elizabeth? A befuddled, fumbling Mr. Darcy? Lady Catherine visiting in the middle of the night? THE RIDICULOUS ENDING??? P&P 2005, you stink! As Lady Catherine says, “You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased.” Grade F isn't low enough. 0 points.

  12. The 1980 version is far and away the best.


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