The impeccable Cranford and RTC in a value for money boxed s
z hayes | TX | 01/14/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
Cranford aka the Cranford Chronicles, based on Elizabeth Gaskell's story is a stellar production. It is a lush period drama and is very authentic in its portrayal of people living in a little hamlet called Cranford. The sets are beautiful as are the costumes, and of course the production is elevated to a level of excellence by its impeccable casting. Writer Heidi Thomas does a wonderful job of adapting Elizabeth Gaskell's story [purportedly based on Gaskell's own hometown] and though liberties are taken, the stellar cast more than makes up for whatever deficiencies there may be in the faithfulness of the adaptation. Dame Eileen Atkins [Miss Deborah Jenkins] and Dame Judi Dench [Miss Matty Jenkins] portray two spinster sisters in 1842 who live in the little town of Cranford. Far from being a quiet little hamlet, this little town hums with activity and village gossips, especially a Miss Pole [Imelda Staunton]who flits around from one hearsay to another, avidly passing on any little nuggets of gossip to the other inhabitants.
Cranford is set aflutter by the arrival of a new doctor, Dr Harrison [Simon Woods] who is young, handsome, single and very much into trying new methods of treatment, to the initial consternation of the townspeople. Dr Harrison finds himself attracted to a beautiful local lass, Sophy [Kimberly Nixon] though he inadvertently attracts the romantic affections of other single women in Cranford. But the story does not merely focus on romance, as there are other more serious themes underlying the series. For one, there is talk of a railroad being built that would go through Cranford, and disrupt the idyllic life in the village, giving rise to the inevitable battle between modernization and the desire for things to remain unchanged. The local rich lady, Lady Ludlow portrayed by Francesca Annis is very much opposed to change, and not only opposes the railroad but also any form of societal change, such as literacy amongst the lower classes [she refuses to hire a maid who is literate, saying the girl's parents did her a disservice by teaching her to read].
There is also the theme of lost love, death and grief. Miss Matty Jenkins[ Judi Dench] finds herself recounting the tale of her lost love [played by Michael Gambon]. This is what makes Cranford such an engaging viewing experience - the absurd [the story of the cat swallowing an antique lace and how the lace is retrieved] is interlaced with tales of poignancy and everything unfolds leisurely. It is a tale that we wish will never end, and hope to revisit again and again.
Return to Cranford (2009)
This is not really a sequel (though some story arcs from the original do get developed here), but a 2-part special that is inspired in part by Cranford, and also two other stories by author Elizabeth Gaskell, i.e. "The Moorland Cottage", and also "The Cage at Cranford", see Three Tales of Cranford: Cranford, The Cage at Cranford, and The Moorland Cottage. Besides the familiar and beloved cast of the original Cranford such as Miss Matty (Dame Judi Dench), Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton), Mrs Forrester (Julia McKenzie), Miss Tomkinson (Deborah Findlay), etc. several new characters are introduced, such as Lady Glenmire (played by Celia Imrie), and the conjuror Signor Brunoni(Tim Curry).
The first part is set in summer 1844 - it has been two years since dear Miss Matty (Dame Judi Dench in another luminous portrayal) lost her beloved sister Deborah, and a year since Sophy Hutton married Dr Harrison (these two characters are no longer in this show). Miss Matty seems content with the presence of her brother Peter (Nicholas Le Prevost) who is home from India, and helps look after Tilly, the baby of her maid Martha and carpenter Jem Hearne. The continuity from the original Cranford is seen in the railway project which still looms menacingly over the town. Things are also made more exciting with the arrival of Mr. Buxton, a wealthy widower who lives with his ward Erminia (Michelle Dockery) and his son William (Tom Hiddleston who is quite the eye candy). Life in Cranford is always full of surprises and when Lady Ludlow's long absent son Septimus (Rory Kinnear) arrives, things take unexpected turns, precipitated by a tragedy in the family. The old tensions are there - especially between those that are against the railroad project and those ,like Captain Brown and young William who feel that modernization is essential to Cranford's long-term survival. Miss Matty, in her usual subtle fashion, gets involved in some of these village proceedings, with some rather startling results.
The second part is set later in the year 1844, October up till Christmas - Miss Matty and her friends are predictably excited at the visit of Lady Glenmire (Celia Imrie) but when Mrs Jamieson (Barbara Flynn) feels no one amongst her peers is of suitably high rank to meet her, she and Lady Glenmire get snubbed by Matty and company and it is left to Lady Glenmire to set things right in a most memorable way. Matty also faces some challenges that involves a falling out amongst her circle of friends,a serious romance between William and a young woman deemed unsuitable by his father (which has Matty pondering the wisdom of her 'involvement' in bringing the pair together), and more tragedy on the horizon, affecting the citizens of Cranford.
A fair note of warning - this particular installment in the Cranford franchise is much more subdued than the original and there's quite a fair bit of tragedy - there's death (involving a couple of familiar characters who were also in the original), grief, tension, family drama, imperiled friendships, the age-old battle between those opposed to change and those who embrace the challenges of modernization, etc., but there's also romance and lighthearted moments. However, I can understand how this particular follow-up might disappoint purists who loved the original and how well it adhered to Gaskell's novel. Personally, I loved the original Cranford and thought it was a superior production, and though I like RTC, the plot is not as engaging as the original. As for the production qualities - they are excellent. The cinematography is gorgeous, capturing the beauty of the village surroundings as well as the period details, and the score complements the story perfectly. For the price offered here, this boxed set is value for money (I am getting this for my aunt as I've already purchased the two productions separately).
Annie Oakley | Bonita Springs FL | 03/05/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I happened to catch part of this story on PBS and was so intrigued that I just had to have the series. I was not disappointed as it was quality performances and the DVD quality was top notch. Anyone who loves these types of movies will be delighted with the Cranford series."
Excellent Drama for the Entire Family
Jennifer Bogart | Alberta, Canada | 02/19/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having long been a fan of Regency-era costume dramas that tend toward the romantic, my journey into the small English town of Cranford, circa 1842 -- with a passion for the smaller domestic dramas of life -- was a fresh and uncharted voyage. Based upon 19th century novelist Elizabeth Gaskell's work, this BBC mini-series is a conglomeration of Gaskell's adapted novellas; not only Cranford itself, but also My Lady Ludlow, and Mr. Harrison's Confessions.
The town of Cranford in the North West of England in 1842 is poised on the brink of change. Long governed by an unusually high population of older, single women, its culture revolves around propriety and social calls. The slightest hint of change in fashions, residence, or circumstance prompts a torrent of talk. Still, despite the oft-times virulent stream of misunderstandings and troubled times, Cranford is a town with deeply held friendships and strong loyalties.
Cranford: The Collection is a beautiful two-volume boxed set that includes both the original Cranford with five parts on two DVDs, and the two parts of Cranford: Return to Cranford on a single DVD. With each episode running approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, this is no lightweight drama; Cranford: The Collection boasts a total running time of 468 minutes, excluding each volume's "making of" segment with insights into the writing process, filming, period costumes, and more.
Performed by an absolutely dazzling cast of British talent, Cranford fairly soars on the wings of its talented ensemble. Peopled with many well-recognized actors - Eileen Atkins, Alex Jennings, Michael Gambon, and many others - the centerpiece of Cranford's heart is Judi Dench's portrayal of Miss Matty. Dench is absolutely luminous in her tender portrayal of the uncertain, loyal, and incredibly tender Matty
When a new, young, bachelor doctor arrives in Cranford, the residents are atwitter with flights of romantic speculation both actual and unfounded. Dr. Harrison is certainly a central focus of the original Cranford but the complex and rich sub-plots involving Captain Brown and his daughters, the plight of Harry's impoverished family, Matty's losses and discoveries, and the lively antics of Mrs. Forrester and Miss Pole create a vibrant tapestry of the timeless concerns of life.
Return to Cranford further explores the lives of the town's beloved residents though some characters seem to be missing with little explanation. A new set of troubles besets the residents with the rapidly approaching railway, the demise of Lady Ludlow, and the troubled courtship between William Buxton (son of the local salt mine owner) and Peggy Bell. Featuring much of the core cast of the originalCranford some favorites are now missing due to demise or supposed relocation. This second series is somewhat darker than the first, with less outright jollity and absurdity - nothing can replace or supersede the original.
While the core of Cranford's life is a core of spinsters and widows who thrive on propriety, stability, and social niceties, it would be a misconception to believe that the series is anchored in the lives of the town's older citizens. Rather, a broad spectrum of players are present from the youthful and romantic to the passed by and disappointed.
The emotional depth of the series encompasses both fresh undertakings and bittersweet reminiscences as seen through the town's wealth of female citizens. This balanced, broad perspective prevents Cranford from becoming a period Grumpy Old Men for women, and dramatically transcends it, becoming a deeply felt, authentic drama that appeals to all ages; it is truly excellent family viewing.
I regularly discard DVD packaging in order to save shelf space, but Cranford: The Collection is so beautifully packaged that I doubt I'll be able to part with this sturdy box set. Not only is the box itself sturdier than most, but each DVD case resembles a hardcover book - truly lovely.
A voyage to the reclusive town of Cranford is a richly rewarding experience. The combination of jaunty humor, small-town community spirit, and thrumming emotional undercurrents result in a captivating small-screen experience that rivals that of any large-screen production. It is in the details that Cranford truly comes to life, the small yet meaningful gestures of kind-heartedness, historical authenticity, and care for the smallest nuances. I highly recommend you to experience this special community for yourself."
A romantic escape
Michele Magic | Pensacola, FL USA | 02/18/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those of you who love the romantic and proper days of the Victorian era, this series is for you! These are the days when men courted women, and women dreamed of marrying, raising children and running a household. Men were chivalrous and proper and women were classy with impecible manners. It's a shame, sometimes, that progress happens, because these are times when innocence and virtue were not bad things. Just the tiny events that happen in Cranford were made much bigger by reactions, overreactions, gossip and horrible misunderstandings. Not to mention, the very saddest times were overcome by family support, deep and lasting friendships, and a deep faith in God and, well, kindness to one's fellow man. Judi Dench is wonderful, as are most of the lesser-known cast members (although there are several well-known actors who are superb - Imelda Staunton being one). Wonderful on a cold Saturday or Sunday night when nothing is on cable."