Today?s legal minds could take a lesson or two from Horace Rumpole, one of the most colorful characters ever to approach the bench. Rumpole also maneuvers behind the scenes, using his brilliant mind and sly sense of humor... more » to make his case. Stylishly played by Leo McKern, he throws the courtroom into an uproar for twenty episodes that seamlessly blend comedy, mystery, and drama.« less
Paul N. Walton | SF Bay Area, California, USA | 02/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have been watching Rumpole on PBS for about 15 years and was pleased to buy this recent set from A&E Home Video. While the quality of the video on these DVDs is quite good, and they are worth owning, I am disappointed with the sloppy job on the packaging. Each box has descriptions of three episodes with photos that don't match up. It's as though the people putting them together were unfamiliar with which photo went with which episode.
The written descriptions themselves are worse. One of the DVD boxes refers to Rumpole as an "embattled Bailey", the writer apparently not realizing that the "Bailey" in the series' title refers to London's Central Criminal Court, not its lawyers. Another of the descriptions on the boxes states that Rumpole's wife Hilda "takes an assist", whatever that means.
Of even more concern is that the on screen content in the DVDs contain at least one remarkable blunder. One episode (Rumpole and the Old, Old Story) has a scene selection menu chapter entitled PROSECUTING "COUNCIL" rather than PROSECUTING COUNSEL.
It's surprising enough that the people in charge of packaging this set are unfamilar with the Rumpole episodes, but how could they be so unfamiliar with the English language and be in this line of work? I hope A&E will improve its quality control and do a better job with any future Rumpole DVDs.
Finally, and most disturbing of all, these episodes have been edited to omit the old graphics that were part of them at the half-way point when they were broadcast on British television and later PBS. Originally, a graphic was displayed at the end of the first half that stated "End of Part One", shortly followed by a graphic that stated "Part Two". In removing these graphics, A&E has chopped out entire scenes around them. In the Old, Old Story, for example, the scene in which Rumpole is shocked to see Hilda sitting next to the judge on the bench is gone. In the Blind Tasting, the scene in which Liz Probert drives Rumpole to Brixton and theorizes about whether the defendant comes from a broken home is also gone. Their absence is made all the more noticeable by the characters' subsequent references to the missing events. Other episodes have similar edits. One edit is so sloppy, part two begins in mid conversation between an attorney and a witness on the stand. Why A&E had to edit these episodes at all is puzzling enough but I am more puzzled by how poorly the edits were carried out. I'm used to getting extra scenes when I buy a DVD, not fewer scenes than are available when I watch the same episodes on television.
In short, I love the Rumpole episodes but this particular incarnation has to be the one of the most disappointing DVD sets I have seen of any film or television program. I want to recommend them but can't overlook the awful job A&E has done with them. Unless series 5 and 6 are a vast improvement, you might wish to consider getting a multi-region DVD player and trying the UK Rumpole DVDs available through Amazon's UK site."
Nicolas S. Martin | Indianapolis, IN United States | 12/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you saw at least some of the series and you wonder if a set is worth springing for, I think it is.
Leo McKern is unfailingly perfect as the idealistic libertarian tempered by a weathered cynicism of legal and government machinations. The other actors are usually quite good, though the roles are somtimes a bit caricaturish. In a sense, though, the caricatures are apt since they reveal attorneys and judges as priggish hypocrites they so commonly are. Rumpole recognizes that we are victims of these fools that he suffers not so gladly. Unlike most people, he is neither snowed by nor kowtows to the pretensions of the the legal system. He does, though, care a great deal about the ideals of justice that are given little more than lip service in reality.
The stories are not brilliant, but they are consistent and sufficiently good to showcase McKern. There are two reasons I've bought the DVDs. The first is McKern, and the second is a sense of civility one experiences watching Rumpole. TV is so relentlessly moronic that one gasps for the fresh air that a series like this affords. It's striking how TV content -- including that provided on so-called public television -- has deteriorated since Rumpole first ran. Long gone are the days of I, Claudius, The Singing Detective, and Sherlock Holmes. Now the offerings of Masterpiece Theater and Mystery! are often embarassingly bad. Rumpole is a welcome respite."
Why no closed captioning or subtitles?
Helen Rice | Honeoye Falls, NY United States | 01/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Would have given the set 5 stars, but for the lack of closed captioning/subtitles. I don't know why Amazon says this set is closed captioned when it isn't. It makes me glad I have season 1 & 2 from when they were originally released, rather than the A&E re-release, as that was captioned. Shame on A&E for not doing this for deaf/hearing impaired people!"
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.
Rumpole Improves With Age
John D. Cofield | 04/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 3rd and 4th series of Rumpole of the Bailey continue and improve on the fine tradition established by the first two series. Leo McKern remains utterly magnificent as the intrepid barrister who never pleads Guilty (although he does break that tradition once), the scourge of the pompous and the pettifoggers of his chambers at Equity Court in the Temple and in the courtrooms of the Old Bailey. He tackles a series of cases, many of them outside of London in various rural locales, and once at a military base in Germany. Whatever his milieu, Rumpole is always master of the situation.
These series have a larger number of women characters than the first two. Besides Phillida Trant Erskine-Brown, Rumpole's chambers also boast two female barristers-in-training: Fiona Allways, an upper-crust sort who seeks out Rumpole when her sister badly needs assistance; and my favorite among the minor characters, Liz Probert, the brilliant daughter of a left-wing Labour Party leader who joins Rumpole in championing the poor and oppressed (although they have considerably different views as to what sorts of people are included in that category.) There is also Hilda "She Who Must Be Obeyed" Rumpole, who is played by a different actress starting in the 4th series, but who remains as indomitable as ever.
There are some old favorites among the minor characters like Claude Erskine-Brown and the petty-thieving Timson clan. Guthrie Featherstone is now a judge, but he has been replaced as Head of chambers by "Soapy Sam" Ballard, a highly religious and insufferable twit who is a perfect foil for Rumpole.
Although these stories were filmed in the 1980s they remain fresh and funny, a breath of air tinged with the smoke of Rumpole's old cheroots and a splash of Chateau Thames Embankment."