GEORGE RANNIE | DENVER, COLORADO United States | 11/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the early 1970's I watched this Masterpiece Theater's presentation of "Cousin Bette" which is based on that wonderful novel "Cousin Bette" by the French author Balzac. I can remember that this Masterpiece Theater production was considered by many very controversial mainly due to the sexual nature of the story (in fact, there were those that tried to cut-off the government funding to PBS because of this show); however, now, as then, I find it just very engrossing as is the novel. Since the 1970's, I've desired for it to be released commercially. Now, the powers that be, have finally released it on DVD. I'm thrilled because it is a most wonderful presentation that is filled with fabulous performances by especially Margaret Tyzack as Cousin Bette and a very young Helen Mirren, as Valerie.
In a "tour de force" performance, Margaret Tyzack is simply fabulous as the vengeful and supposedly homely Cousin Bette who is the poor relative to her, sort of, snooty but stupid cousins Mariette Hulot (played wonderfully by Margaret Boyd) and Celestine Hulot. She always appears to appreciate her "better off" Cousins' tolerance (and "cast offs") towards her while, at the same time, she resents it like hell and wants to see them and the rest of her "better off" and stupid relatives in the preverbal gutter and in ruins. After suffering the extreme humiliation involving a handsome young art apprentice that she has rescued and has become very fond of and that her cousin Celestine, more or less, "steals" from her, she is out for their "blood" and wants to see them destroyed and by god she'll have her way no matter what or who is trampled on and/or killed. Helen Mirren also turns in a `knock them dead" performance, as Valerie who is young and cute and more than willing to use her "sexuality" to better herself and is very willing to be guided by Cousin Bette in her desire to ruin her dumb family. My understanding is that this role was at the very beginning of Mirren's career and obviously she has gone on to distinguish herself as one of today's leading actresses. Needless to say, Cousin Bette initially succeeds in destroying her family primarily because her cousin Mariette is married to Baron Hector Hulot a very stupid man with a keen weakness and an excessively "roving eye" towards the very young and very pretty ladies--Valerie fits the aforesaid criteria and Cousin Bette uses her to get her vengeance. My god Tyzack is good. Just my thinking about her in this role, sends chills up and down my spine! In fact, this presentation is filled with a lot of great acting.
Don't expect the quality of the picture, production and the reincarnation of the era to be up to today's standards; it was "state of the art" for the 70s (very strange wigs and all). Nevertheless, BBC has done a great job of bring it to the DVD format with very good sound and a very sharp and a clear picture. Believe me, you'll soon forget that this is an old presentation because the acting by ALL will astound you--it really is a fantastic presentation.
You're right, george!
J. W. Hickey | Manhattan area | 02/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The previous review anticipated all I wanted to express about this remarkable production. At times when it was first released, I found the plotting an annoyance. But the final thirty seconds of the title character's performance is absolutely priceless! I've been searching this program's availability in either delivery format for years, and am delighted to see it's ready at last."
From little Acorns mighty oaks do grow
Robert J. Rasmussen | Denver, Colorado | 09/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, I too have been waiting years for the DVD release of this fine adaptation of Balzac's "Cousin Bette."
A reviewer remarked about the 1970's production values, but do they really matter if the acting and the rhythm of the storytelling are first rate. Shakespeare's works needed very few props in the Globe Theatre, and I can only imagine how much better they were than today's melange of adaptations with their menagerie of props. Truth is, in these superficial, excessive times so akin to Bette's, production values have gone through the roof while adaptations with their intrusive, attention getting cinematography, grating music and modern colloquial language are in the cellar. It makes you wonder who let the children loose in the studio to do their class play.
Naturally there are exceptions, but I don't think it will ever be the same since the caliber of men like BBC's Sir Huw Wheldon are no longer with us and haven't been for some time. So those of us who literally grew up on the subtle literacy of these old productions and rarely articulate our disgust for the subordination of content to form in the current productions are pining for the next release.
As the saying goes, "From little acorns mighty oaks do grow." So Acorn, please take note and move right along on Henry James' "The Golden Bowl," Arthur Schnitzler's "Vienna 1900: Games With Love and Death," Lewis Grassic Gibbon's "Sunset Song" and Nevil Shute's "A Town Like Alice." We are waiting for another oak.