The greatest actor of the 20th century presents five works by great 20th-century playwrights. Stars include Olivier, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Maureen Stapleton, Alan Bates, Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Joanne Woodwa... more »rd, Carrie Fisher, Greta Scacchi, and Joan Plowright.. The Plays
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams. A rich plantation owner and his family come to grips with their greed, envy, and self-delusion.
The Collection by Harold Pinter. What did, or did not, take place in a Leeds Hotel ruffles the lives of four habitués of fashionable London.
Hindle Wakes by Stanley Houghton. An independent young mill worker refuses to bow to convention after an indiscretion with the boss?s son.
Come Back, Little Sheba by William Inge. Loss and regret bubble to the surface of a troubled marriage after a young boarder moves in.
Saturday, Sunday, Monday by Eduardo de Filippo. A monumental argument erupts, smolders, and subsides over a weekend in the life of a boisterous Italian family.
The Ebony Tower, the novella by John Fowles adapted by John Mortimer. A young artist studying the work of a great painter becomes intrigued by the elderly man?s female companions. Contains some nudity.« less
"I bought this for the version of 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' included in it. Olivier is excellent as Big Daddy, and Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner are very good as well.
The photography and sets on these plays are reminiscent of a mid-seventies soap opera; fairly cheesy sets, glarey lighting. That would be tolerable, but the sound is recorded so muddily that it's really hard to understand the actors-so much so that I haven't been able to finish some of the plays.
I can't believe that the DVD producers couldn't have spruced up the sound. If they can reissue CDs of Caruso and McCormack with listenable sound, surely they could have restored this soundtrack to some degree of clarity.
What makes it even worse is that they don't include subtitles on the DVD. Hey, producers, a play is all about the WORDS, ya know? They're important, and if they aren't accessible through the soundtrack you might consider subtitles.
Given that you can't understand half of what's said, I see no reason for anyone to ever buy this item. It's sad, because there seems to be some pretty good acting in these plays."
Natalie Wood At Her Finest...Finally On DVD "CAT ON A HOT TI
Kenneth Benjamin | Spring Creek, NC United States | 11/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have waited for 30 years to see "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" from 1976 which I saw one night on TV back when it first aired in 76 and at 19 years old I was already a Natalie Wood fan for quite some time and I was in Awe that night!I never seen that TV Play again since nor could I find it on VHS or DVD...I wrote the movie company and Ted Turner's cable station and after a half dozen letters I finally heard that this DVD set had just come out.I was so happy to finally get this DVD set in the mail from Amazon and to see Natalie Wood at her finest and most beautiful.Both Natalie and Her Husband Robert Wagner head this fine cast with Olivier and Marureen Stapleton to boot!But I must say all eyes are on Natalie when she comes in the room and you see her for the first time as soon as the film rolls.With her finest Southern accent since This Property Is Condemed back 10 years eailer she look a bit older but like fine wine she aged for the better.If you liked her in This Property then you will love her in Cat.and you will surly be very happy with this DVD.The Color and quality could not be better,infact I have not seen a DVD this clear and all the other stories on this set is a added bounus for me and I truley enjoyed them all.GET THIS!!! You will not be sorry...."
Uneven collection but with great standouts
Uncle Waldemar | Norway | 01/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This collection features the five episodes of the late '70s British TV series "Best Play of the Year", all five plays directed by and starring Laurence Olivier. As a bonus is an adaptation of a John Fowles novella, "The Ebony Tower", also featuring Olivier.
The productions suffer from some of the innate problems of filmed plays, as well as the limitations of video technology of the time and a few instances of miscasting. However, they serve as good documentations of these plays, and a couple of them make for interesting comparisons with the more well-known Hollywood adaptations. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", for instance, is far more faithful to the original play than the film version is. Natalie Wood does a memorable job as Maggie. On the other hand, Olivier is not wholly convincing as Big Daddy, partly because of his accent. Whereas Burl Ives' performance in the movie (he had performed the part on stage) is pretty definitive.
The plum here is the version of Harold Pinter's "The Collection". This "chamber play" is in any case more suited to television than the other plays, and Pinter as usual wrote the screen adaptation himself, making the "opening up" of the play wholly in tune with the original. It's archetypal Pinter, full of spoken and unspoken menace, conjuring a fascinating world of betrayal, deceit, denial and self-denial, asking more questions than it answers and thus inviting the viewer to fill in the blanks. And the cast is magnificent: Olivier, Alan Bates, Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren. For anyone interested in Pinter, I would also recommend the movie version of "The Caretaker" especially, again with great performances by Bates, Donald Pleasence and Robert Shaw; and (to a slightly lesser degree) "The Birthday Party" with Shaw and "The Homecoming" with Ian Holm."
INCREDIBLE Acting, cheesy 70's production is worth enduring
S. Fraser | WA, USA | 07/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've watched three of these plays so far, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", "Hindle Wakes", and "Come Back Little Sheba". They've all exceeded expectations, the acting is amazing. You need to overlook the production in terms of lighting and such, that's obvious given the era and the fact these were made for television. But it's adequate enough, and keeps you focused on the acting, which I've been particularly impressed by. Olivier, Maureen Stapleton, Joanne Woodward, Natalie Wood - all amazing. The general cast in Hindle Wakes did an excellent, fine job. A surprising and very progressive play for 1912.
My favorite so far: "Come Back Little Sheba", which blew my mind, it was searing. WOW. I felt like I was watching a tornado slowly form, in excruciating detail; I was an entranced and queasy witness to this family story. This play really winds itself into a force of nature, gathering horribly to a explosive, insane peak. It seemed so real, I believed it. The acting by Woodward and Olivier was utterly convincing, and PAINFUL to watch. It caught me off guard. Kudos also belongs to the playwright, it's a masterpiece.
In "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", Natalie Wood and Maureen Stapleton were fantastic, and I found Olivier's performance virtually flawless. I found his accents to be beyond reproach. Amazingly, I didn't even realize it was him at first, that's how good his acting is.
I could easily dock this DVD one star if the acting weren't so superb. However, I cannot bring myself to take the fifth star off my rating."
CLASSIC PLAYS WITH SUPER-CLASSY CASTS
Harold Wolf | Wells, IN United States | 10/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"5 late 1970's TV productions plus one bonus from 1984 makes this treasured collection of stage presentations a collector's item. All are 20th century theatre winners turned into TV productions for British viewers. Now these nostalgic and classic examples of some fine plays are preserved in a 20th century form for new fans of the 21st century to enjoy. It is similar to the 20th century archiving silent films for generations and generations to come. WELL DONE.
One of the 6 plays did not have Laurence Olivier in it's cast, but instead as producer. For another, Olivier was actor and producer. The plays have a certain amount of "play characteristics", such as minimal musical background, and more camera work following the actors than sudden view-bouncing, more common in contemporary TV and film. For some that's nostalgic. All 6 plays also included location shots, mostly of outdoor scenes, giving the play a combined television feel & stage presentation. Sets often resembled live-theatre stage sets rather than sets designed to look like on-location views in today's filming. For those sophisticated in theatre/stage performances, this is a plus, making one feel they have the expensive seats just on the outside of the orchestra pit.
If the title, LAURENCE OLIVIER PRESENTS, is not a star-endorsement for you enough to encourage this purchase (Olivier is arguably the largest actor in British 20th century entertainment history) then take a peek at only a part of his supporting cast. Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Maureen Stapleton, Jack Hedley, Alan Bates, Helen Mirren (Painted Lady), Malcolm McDowell, Pat Heywood, Rosalind Ayres, Donald Pleasence (Robin Hood), Joanne Woodward, Carrie Fisher, Joan Plowright (Bronte), Edward Woodward (Callan), Frank Finlay, Greta Scacchi, Roger Rees, and Toyah Willcox. Some of these best-of-the-best cast members are no long living, making this also an historic preservation DVD set as well as entertaining.
The missing subtitles would have been nice in one Italian play with the fast dialogue, but not absolutely necessary, hardly worth a mention, unless you really are hearing impaired. I could follow the dialogue and hear fine. Other bonus material: facts on the plays themselves, the Olivier bio, & cast filmographies for each play, add to the historical significance of this play preservation DVD set. It lasts over 500 minutes.
The plays: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF---What a cast in this American south story of love vs wealth. THE COLLECTION---My least favorite of the 6 but it is about a desperate search for truth and trust. HINDLE WAKES---Even without Olivier, this is a fantastic period play (1912) now timeless in its plot. One of the best for me. Olivier produced. COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA---It all works for a dramatic performance of a powerful play presented on TV. Sets, love, lush, loss, and more. SATURDAY, SUNDAY, MONDAY---Great set, wonderful Italian family situation, Olivier and wife (Plowright), delightful play, a winning combo. THE EBONY TOWER---An old artist and his tantalizing models. Nudity involved in this love story/play.
I'm a bit slow at finding this treasure. I'm glad I own it. It's almost like being in the live audience."