Part lawyer, part detective, Horace Rumpole is one of the most colorful characters ever to approach the bench. With his brilliant mind and sly sense of humor, Rumpole's adventures behind the scenes and center stage in the... more » British legal system are a delightful mix of comedy, mystery and courtroom drama. Justice has never been served with such style and wit. Now, for the first time and exclusively for this DVD collection, the acclaimed and much beloved PBS Masterpiece Theater series "Rumpole of the Bailey" has been brought together in its original sequence of stories. The ebb and flow of Rumpole's career, his relationship with "she who must be obeyed," the politics of "Chambers," and the cases themselves - from shoplifting vicars and philandering actors to tongue-tied husbands and improper English teachers - can all be enjoyed as they were first meant to be in the series the Wall Street Journal called "uproarious!" BONUS PROGRAM: The feature-length "Rumpole's Return" in which a retired Rumpole returns to uncover the mystery of a murdered Lord, a question of blood and their link to the mysterious "Children of the Sun." --- DISC 1 - SEASON 1 RUMPOLE AND THE YOUNGER GENERATION Director Herbert Wise Young Jim Timson has been accused of robbery with violence - and his only alibi lies with a son of the Malloy family with whom the Timson's have a long-standing feud. RUMPOLE AND THE ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY Director Herbert Wise Rumpole finds himself on a commune called Nirvana in the West Country. He's there to defend a young girl accused of buying drugs from a policeman posing as a dealer. RUMPOLE AND THE HONORABLE MEMBER Director Graham Evans A local politician stands accused of rape - a charge he denies - admitting only to consensual sex with a fellow party worker. RUMPOLE AND THE MARRIED LADY Director Graham Evans "She who must be obeyed" believes that Rumpole has taken a mistress when he defends Mrs Thripp in a divorce action against her husband. DISC 2 - SEASON 1 continued RUMPOLE AND THE LEARNED FRIENDS Director Graham Evans Rumpole has been called upon to assist in the defense of a safe blower who may have been 'set up' by Inspector "Dirty" Dickerson. RUMPOLE AND THE HEAVY BRIGADE Director Herbert Wise Regardless of his tatty hat, which has been the subject of idle gossip in chambers, Rumpole has been called to the Old Bailey to defend a murderer. DISC 2 - SEASON 2 RUMPOLE AND THE MAN OF GOD Director Brian Farnham Rumpole is engaged in defending a vicar from a shoplifting charge, but the vicar will take neither the stand nor the oath in his own defense. RUMPOLE AND THE CASE OF IDENTITY Director Derek Bennett Christmas is coming - along with a complicated case of mistaken identity. And what is going on behind closed doors between the Head of Chambers and his new secretary Angela? DISC 3 - SEASON 2 continued RUMPOLE AND THE SHOW FOLK Director Peter Hammond It's an actor's life for Rumpole as he finds himself center stage in the case of an actress accused of murdering her philandering actor husband. RUMPOLE AND THE FASCIST BEAST Director Robert Knights Captain Rex Parkin, an avowed fascist, has been accused of inciting a crowd to racial violence and, to the surprise of many, Rumpole is eager to take the case in his defense RUMPOLE AND THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE Director Brian Farnham When a young English teacher finds himself accused of improper relations with one of his pupils, Rumpole rises to his defense, though intimate letters point a finger of guilt RUMPOLE AND THE AGE FOR RETIREMENT Director Donald McWhinnie Can retirement be just around the corner for Rumpole? And how did a14th century painting of Christ end up in Percy Timson's garage? DISC 4 - RUMPOLE'S RETURN Horace Rumpole has been persuaded to retire with "she who must be obeyed" to Florida. But when Rumpole hears tell of a murder case in London - the stabbing death on a subway platform of the Honorable Lord Rory Canter by an innocuous accountant - something stirs in the sleeping legal giant. So it's off in the dead of night to London and the old Chambers, where his unexpected arrival causes quite a stir.« less
Easily re-watchable, and have seen all of the episodes 3 times now. Even watched the entire series with my father, who greatly enjoyed it. Rumpole is based on John Mortimer's books, who was a barrister himself. Rumpole is one of the most nonchalant characters you'll ever run across, who's real fire blazes in the courtroom. An uncanny ability to suss out the truth, an irreverence towards blockhead judges, and wisecracks galore under his breath. There's quite some witty remarks in here. And, of course, he has an affinity towards the innocent and does his best to protect them. A very offbeat courtroom drama. Highly recommend!
An Excellent Collection
Paul N. Walton | SF Bay Area, California, USA | 08/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"HBO Home Video has done a nice job of presenting the first two Rumpole series in this initial DVD collection. The set contains twelve one-hour episodes (six per series) and the two-hour film, "Rumpole's Return". The picture is sharp overall, particularly in the indoor scenes originally recorded on studio videotape, while the outdoor scenes done on 16 mm film are as well as can be expected (the production values of the Rumpole episodes improved considerably over time. These episodes are from the late 1970s). The DVD menus are good and provide about six scene selections per episode. There are also a few extras, such as bios of John Mortimer and Leo McKern, and some information about the British legal system. I have looked forward to seeing Rumpole on DVD for several years and am pleased with this set overall. Presumably, there will be two more sets like it to complete the Rumpole collection, and I would certainly buy them too. If I could have made a suggestion or two to the people in charge of the packaging, I would have liked to have seen the collection in a hard case rather than a paper one, and I would have tried to find more flattering photos of Rumpole than those used on the outside of the box. Also, the photo used to illustrate the episode "Rumpole and the Younger Generation" is from another episode in which Phyllida (Trant) Erskine-Brown appeared (she was not in the Younger Generation). Otherwise, a good job and I hope to see the other two sets soon. [A&E has changed the packaging on these DVDs since I wrote this review. They are now in a plastic box with different photos so some of my comments are a little outdated]."
Damian Housman | Naples, Florida United States | 01/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I like to collect Rumpole videos. Unfortunately, that isn't made any easier when the video does not have the titles of the episodes. I have several Rumpole videos, but there are several sources for them, each with its own "volume" number on it. I don't want to buy videos I already own. How about a list of the episodes? If you include that, you will probably sell a lot more videos to people like me who are only hesitant because we may have them already."
O Frabjous day!
Michael D. Kelley | Leesburg, Florida | 02/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As someone else here noted, a Rumpole fan needs no urging to buy this set. For the uninitiated, however, be aware this may well be an acquired taste -- all the best things in life are.Here's a litmus test: see if you find this story amusing. A judge had before him an elderly con who's been convicted so many times they are on a first name basis. He sentences him to 20 years and the man looks up and says "But, your honor, I'm a very old man and don't have too many years left. I don't know that I can do 20 years." "Well," says the judge, "you just do as much as you can."That's one of the stories that Rumpole loves to tell, and it's typical of the kinds of scenerios this barrister finds himself facing. One of the best things about having these episodes on DVD is you can quickly skip back and reply scenes -- every single reviewing will reward you with new treats.Leo played a part written especially for him, and it's almost impossible to tell where he leaves off and Rumpole begins. The Rumpole series has never been collected in this organized a fashion before (previous releases came in a bewildering array of assorted sets that mixed years willy-nilly) and this is a perfect place to get aquainted with the most erudite and witty barrister the other side of the Big Pond. Nothing can replace Mr. McKern, but this set at least preserves his best performances for all time."
Showcases one of the most unique actors ever on TV
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 04/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Film and television has over the decades seen the appearance of a host of enormously talented character actors who have only rarely had opportunities to assuming lead or starring roles. Charles Laughton was the great exception, somehow managing a host of starring roles over the decades. But the great Bert Lahr, despite his considerable gifts, had a great stage career (including Samuel Beckett's landmark WAITING FOR GODOT) managed only one great film, as the Cowardly Lion in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Robert Newton managed a few good screen roles, including a turn as the greatest Long John Silver ever in the 1950s Disney version of TREASURE ISLAND, but for the most part cinema never found a way to incorporate his considerable but over-the-top skills. The fact is that many of our greatest character actors project a persona that is a bit too large for either film or TV. Bert Lahr had the gigantic personality of a Warner Brothers cartoon character, and there were simply very, very few film roles that could accommodate his talent.
Leo McKern is very much in this tradition of the great ham character actor whose personality outstrips all but a very few roles. No one who had previously seen him in films like RYAN'S DAUGHTER (as Ryan) or A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (as More's prosecutor) or the legendary TV series THE PRISONER (as the best Number Two on the show) could doubt his talent. But the force of his personality and the power of his voice, as well as his short, stout build and globular face (as well as having a glass left eye as the result of a childhood accident), made him in appropriate for almost all film and television roles. He wasn't merely bigger than life: he was bigger than the silver screen and television. Thankfully, near the end of his life he managed the role of a lifetime as Horace Rumpole in the serialization of John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey stories. The role is a perfect showcase for McKern's talents, and he clearly threw himself into it with all the gusto of which he was capable. It is almost impossible to imagine anyone else in this role so completely does he make it his own. To be honest, McKern is the only thing that makes these shows worth watching a quarter of a century after their first appearance. The stories are often fun, frequently clever, and the supporting cast is consistently superb, but the fact is that there have been dozens of excellent shows over the decades, and few lay legitimate claim for our attention. RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY does lay such claim, but almost entirely because of McKern's transcendently excellent performance as the title character. Obviously, the show's writers knew this at the time, for every second of the show is structured to give McKern as fine a platform as possible for the display of his particular virtues as an actor. Whether quoting English poetry, or cross-examining a witness during a trial, or wincing under the complaints of "she who must be obeyed," or reacting to some inane comment by some absurd English judge, every conceivable opportunity is provided for McKern to boom out in that marvelous voice of his Rumpole's words.
I don't want to imply that McKern is the only good thing in the show. The scripts, largely adapted from stories by writer and sometimes barrister John Mortimer, are consistently interesting and contain a host of marvelous moments. The series is also enriched by a large and highly talented cast, including Peter Bowles as Guthrie Featherstone, head of chambers for much of the series, though his ambition takes him to many new roles; Patricia Hodge as Phyllida Erkine-Brown nee Trant, whom Rumpole dubs their chambers' "Portia; Julian Curry as Claude Erskine-Brown, whose interests in "the Law" run as counter to Rumpole's as possible; and, of course, the Peggy Thorpe-Bates, the first of two actresses to portray Hilda, "she who must be obeyed."
This is not among the greatest shows ever made, but it is certainly one of the most enjoyable and contains what is unquestionably one of the great characters in the history of TV. The cable TV network Bravo recently compiled a list of the 100 Greatest Television Characters, which was very poorly named, since it considered only American television characters. Had English shows been included, there is little question that Horace Rumpole would have occupied a prominent place on the list."
The legal gang's all here--on DVD at last
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 12/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"By far, one of the more popular series that came over the Atlantic to our PBS television stations was the six-season "Rumpole of the Bailey" with Leo McKern as the craggy-faced barrister. Few of us realized that there was once a single Rumpole teleplay, "Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt," now available on an Acorn Media DVD (AMP-6684), that inspired the series and is a Must for fans of what followed.
While all six seasons have been long available on video tapes, about a year ago HBO finally came out on DVD with the first two seasons. After a wait for the rest, A&E has suddenly put out not only the first two seasons as a redone boxed set (AAE71659)but at the same time has given us seasons three and four (AAE71664). Added to the format are introductions to each episode by Rumpole's creator, John Mortimer; but I am afraid all he talks about is the plot and reveals too much of what follows. Better to skip them on first viewing.
So now we have the first 12 episodes with all the amusing characters, most of whom drive Rumpole up a wall, the leader being his wife "She Who Must Be Obeyed" Hilda Rumpole, played first by Peggy Thorpe-Bates, then by Marion Mathie. Most of his fellow lawyers are pretty incompetent chaps: Guthrie Featherstone (Peter Bowles), Claude Erskine-Brown (Julian Curry), and "Soapy Sam" Ballard (Peter Blythe). Even worse than these are the judges-from-hell: Graves (Robin Bailey), Bullingham (Bill Fraser), and Oliphant (James Grout).
The professional women are far more competent: Elizabeth Probert (played first by Samantha Bond, later by Abigail McKern) and Rumpole's favorite "Portia," Phyllida Trant and later Mrs. Erskine-Brown (Patricia Hodge).
Other than the humor, the insight into the British legal system, the high quality acting, and the immortal family of villains, the Timsons, we have the double plots. Each episode develops a theme that is the basis of both the trial in question and of the events of the framing device. For example, the trial of a neo-fascist who wants a purely white England takes place after Hilda has commented on the number of non-white faces in London lately.
An added inducement to purchase the first boxed set of seasons 1 and 2 is the inclusion of the feature-length story "Rumpole's Return." Seeing him stretched out by a pool in Florida is worth the price alone.
Grab these and wait with me impatiently for seasons 5-6 to appear shortly.