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The Glittering Prizes
The Glittering Prizes
Actors: Tom Conti, Barbara Kellerman, Mark Wing-Davey, Jeremy Child, John Gregg
Genres: Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2008     5hr 43min

The Glittering Prizes was a critical sensation when it premiered on PBS in the late 1970s. Frederic Raphael?s tale portrays the hopes and frustrations of an entire generation through the story of a group of friends who mee...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Tom Conti, Barbara Kellerman, Mark Wing-Davey, Jeremy Child, John Gregg
Genres: Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Drama, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 08/12/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 5hr 43min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaDVD Credits: 3
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

One Of The Best!
Cowboy Buddha | Essex UK | 09/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Glittering Prizes comes from a golden age of television, when the BBC made British dramas for a British audience rather than overblown costume nonsense for international consumption. This six part serial is television for grownups with realistic characters speaking witty and intelligent dialogue in recognisable situations. The story, or rather stories follow a group of bright young things from their days at Cambridge in the early 1950's to success, failure, or merely resignation in the mid 1970's. Along the way, we get to know them all and perhaps even learn a thing or two about ourselves.

The production is first-rate and the acting is uniformly excellent, but the heart and soul of The Glittering Prizes are its scripts, the product of novelist and screenwriter Frederic Raphael. Anyone who has ever seen the films Darling or Two For The Road will immediately recognise his style. Always articulate and revealing, sometimes cynical, occasionally hopeful, quite often so truthful that it hurts - the sort of drama that you find yourself thinking about for days or weeks afterwards. I first saw the Glittering Prizes on PBS in the late 1970's and have been waiting ever since to see it again. I'm amazed how some scenes and even bits of dialogue have stayed so fresh in my memory, while other parts I had completely forgotten. It's great to see it all again.

Raphael has always said that the main character of Adam Morris, brilliantly played by Tom Conti, is not autobiographical, but the facts and similarities suggest otherwise. At first, we expect this entire series to be his story, but soon a fascinating array of other characters slink their way onto center stage. In fact, Conti's character only appears at the very end of Part Two and is not in Parts Four and Five at all. This is very much an ensemble piece with each episode a kind of self-contained play, but one that is enriched by what we learn from the others. Some characters are clearly meant to be admired while other are just as obviously intended to be despised. But most are neither one nor the other, but a mix of both, just like real people. And each viewer will respond to them in their own way. As I said, all the acting is superb and it is interesting to see some now well-known performers in early roles. Everyone will have their own favourites - one of mine is Angela Down as Joyce, if only for her delicious voice.

With so many highs, it is perhaps to be expected that the series hits an occasional weak point. The most obvious of these is in Part Three when Adam (on behalf of the BBC) goes to interview a notorious British supporter of fascism. While providing the opportunity for a powerhouse performance by Eric Porter, the sequence sits uneasily with the tone of the rest of the series and goes on for far too long. It is uncomfortable to watch (and was probably intended to be) but adds little to the whole. Raphael dealt with many other issues - race, homosexuality, relationships, the media, his own Jewishness - much more effectively and succinctly than this episode. It's a relief (and a delight) for Adam to get back to London and to get involved with the film industry, for whom Raphael's wit is extra sharp. In one of Truffaut's Antoine Doinel films, Antoine's wife tells him that he cannot get revenge on people from his past by making them characters in his books. Raphael seems to have disproved that theory.

I said at the beginning that the BBC had changed since The Glittering Prizes was made. So has Britain. I almost wish that the show had been made years later so that we could follow the characters even further. Raphael did write a sequel - Fame And Fortune - but it only went up to 1979, the dawn of the Thatcher era. Britain has changed so much since then that The Glittering Prizes looks almost like a period piece. Not that its style or relevance or truthfulness has dated, merely its setting. There is an extra on the DVD, filmed in 1980, in which Raphael reflects on his time at Cambridge. He ends with the hope that the educational system he knew would not change into exactly what it has since become. Adam Morris, in the episode set in the mid-1960's, says that he doesn't much like England. What would he think of it now?

It's wonderful to finally have The Glittering Prizes on DVD (and a scandal that it was never released on video). It looks only slightly worse for wear (there is an onscreen apology for a particularly bad blip in Part One, fortunately not during a crcial scene). The running time of 80 minutes per episode still seems a bit strange. And the old BBC habit of using film for exterior shots and video for interior is much more noticeable than it used to be. But at least the series in preserved and available for repeated viewings. It is very British - anyone not familiar with The Goon Show will be confused by all the Bluebottle impressions in Part One, among other bits of slang and cultural references. The Glittering Prizes is the sort of thing that the BBC used to do so well but now, in the age of cable competition and political correctness, seems to have lost the knack for. I can recommend The Glittering Prizes to anyone who enjoys well-written, beautifully acted, subtly staged drama that never once insults or underestimates the intelligence of its audience. Now, Auntie Beeb, what other gems are you still hiding in your vaults?"
Sometimes the second time is better than the original
C. R. Spanier | Stadskanaal, The Netherlands | 10/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I've waited more than 20 years to see the Glittering Prizes again. I saw the original on Dutch television when I was 17 years. I try to see an episode every other day. Just to enjoy each episode as much as I can. Superior acting. Great dialogue. Can it get any better than this? don't think so...."
Alyson Montemagno | Hawaii | 12/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This movie was excellent. Paced at the right tempo, and moving forward through a period of time, from university days onward. I thought Tim Conti stole the movie. I feel the necessity to watch it again, as I will enjoy it even more and might have missed something essential."
The best of the best
Eunice | Lake Mary, FL United States | 12/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I first saw this program in 1976, and have never forgotten it. The sharp dialog stayed with me all these years, along with hopes that I would live to see it again. Well, my lucky day arrived and the wait was worth it. The most interesting aspect is that the story ended in the 1970's but we can now look back 30+ years to see the continuation of what was begun. In 1976 I saw a series about a group of bright young things meeting at Cambridge and going on to follow their careers at a time when Britain was changing, but keeping in touch and occasionally meeting up again. In 2009 I saw a series chronicling the changes in Britain from the old order and class ridden society, to the current disastrous overbearing Nanny state where everyone is on CCTV and law and order seems to have broken down, at least for the victims. Episode 5, an Academic life dealt with a newly established concrete Lego box university in Lincolnshire, where rebellious young students on government grants were studying Marxist Theory as part of a social studies course and looking for a cause for which to agitate. These students moved on and are now the establishment. the original student group from the 50's have met with varying degrees of success, but have also experienced disillusionment.

Although you may not fully comprehend some of the stories at first viewing, you find yourself thinking about it and taking another look, sometimes rethinking it, and sometimes just plain 'getting'. It would be interesting to have another episode set in the current period when the original group has retired. A well worth series to own."