A family vacation in Tuscany leads to intrigue and mystery in a Masterpiece Theatre presentation written by John Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey) and starring Sir John Gielgud in an Emmy Award(r)-winning role. — The m... more »inute she sets eyes on it, Molly Pargeter (Susan Fleetwood) knows that the Tuscan villa she has found to lease is perfect for her family's summer holiday. She is powerfully drawn to its rustic beauty and to the enigma of its absentee landlord. Never mind that her husband and teenaged daughter are vocally unenthusiastic and that her outrageously extroverted father (Sir John Gielgud) tricks them into taking him along.
As the family goes sightseeing and gathers for candlelit dinners on the terrace, Molly becomes increasingly obsessed with unraveling the secrets of the villa's owner and of the British expatriates and locals they encounter. Her father lends a hand with the sleuthing while remaining on the prowl, zeroing in on a certain rich widow with whom he shares a romantic past.« less
"I caught this mini-series on PBS in the 80's and I have never forgotten it. I have, in fact, longed to see it again so much that for years I searched the internet for copies of it and hassled the people at Scarecrow Video. At last, I saw that it was available and snatched it up as soon as I could. Not only was I NOT disappointed with the show, I was even more intrigued and enchanted by the mystery and the wit and of course the lucious scenery of the Tuscan villa and surrounding landscape. Its a wonderful blend of Italian and English sentiment and character. While waiting for this to be available I read the Mortimer novel on which it was based and even that paled in comparison to this production!"
Vicki F. Miller | Richmond VA | 08/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember this mini-series on Masterpiece Theatre when it was shown in 1989. I loved the scenery (Italy/Tuscany) the terra cotta planter, the beautiful Tuscan architecture. Plus Sir John Gielgud was terrific as the "libidnous father" who weasles an invite to come along with the family. There's a plot, and of course, there's art: Piero della Francesco Renaissance artist, actually photographed in situ, and an almost documentary depiction of the Palia in Sienna. I studied in Tuscany some years later, and when I went to the town square in Sienna, I knew I'd seen it before (site of the Pallia). The dialogue is absolutely masterful at times. The author is the same as the one that wrote "Rumpole of the Bailey". (Sorry Senior moment--can't remember it--John Somebody.) The father/Gielgud at one time exclaims, "Oh! This coffee is as cold as chastity!."
I invited several of my girlfriends over to view this (yeah, it's a bonafide chick flick!!). We had vodka and caviar and then a cookout. Don't miss it!"
A Fine Mystery For Anglophiles And Italophiles
John D. Cofield | 01/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Summer's Lease is a nicely done mystery series produced in the 1980s by the writer/playwright John Mortimer based on his novel of the same name. Mollie Pargeter is a forty-something London housewife who rents an Italian villa for the summer holidays. Neither her barrister husband (who is conducting a semi-respectable flirtation with a former client) nor her three daughters are very enthusiastic, but Mollie insists and they all wind up in Tuscany at the Villa "La Felicita," along with Mollie's father Haverford Downs, an ancient roue who writes a column for a magazine.
Immediately mysteries crop up. A host of eccentric characters appear, all of them cagey about the whereabouts of the owners of the villa, who are nowhere in evidence beyond some odd instructions, pictures, and lists. The water supply is shut off and the swimming pool become a murder site. And what is the significance of all the references to Piero della Francesca, especially his painting of "The Flagellation?" Mollie is fascinated by it all, and stoked by her rereading of Sherlock Holmes' "The Copper Beeches," begins to investigate. Eventually she discovers the truth, not just about "La Felicita" but about herself and her marriage as well.
The mystery is complex and takes some time to unwind, and in typical British fashion much is left for one to ponder and work out on one's own. The scenery is gorgeous (especially the scenes of the Palio in Siena) and most of the characters appealing, and the outcome, while sad and somewhat equivocal, is satisfying and leaves one happy for Mollie."
You have a bad batch of DVDs, I believe
Judith A. Matthews | Okemos | 11/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dear Amazon - I'd be happy to review this product, however BOTH copies I ordered were corrupted and unwatchable. Because I was traveling a lot, I wasn't able to return them to you in time. However, I just want you to know that you may have a bad batch of this DVD."
Hoist the Jolly Roger!
F. S. L'hoir | Irvine, CA | 08/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although I am still not certain who did what to whom and why, I nevertheless enjoyed a second watching of John Mortimer's mystery, "Summer's Lease," which I saw when it was first broadcast on PBS. "Summer's Lease" is John Gielgud's show. It does not matter how old he is; he still steals every scene as the outrageously libidinous old pirate of a father to Molly(coddle) Pargeter, a repressed 40-something wife and mother, who cannot help being embarrassed by his unrepentant tales of jolly "rogering", which he will tell to anyone, anywhere, and at any time, no matter how inappropriate the occasion. Mortimer has given Gielgud some of his best lines; one of my favorites is his apology for being a poor excuse for a socialist in a capitalist world: "Until we've got the red flag flying, we've got to live with the rat race!"
Among the delights of this series are the magnificent locations of Umbria and Tuscany, renamed Chiantishire by the British expatriate characters, since so many of them live there. As a former resident of Italy, I reveled at the sight of the cypress-dotted hills and at the sound of so many birds chirping (now a rarity in my part of California). Watching this series is equivalent to going on a vicarious vacation to some of the most stunning parts of Italy; and to put the panna on top of the gelato, as it were, we are treated to the magnificent frescoes of Piero della Francesca.
As for the mystery, it is suspenseful, as all of Mortimer's mysteries are. If it leaves us rather unsatisfied because it does not tie up all the loose ends, it nevertheless makes us think about what actually might have happened. The body in the swimming pool is a reality, but are the contessa and the British residents as sinister as they seem? Or are we, the viewers, merely seeing them through the eyes of Molly, not only a stranger in a strange land, but also a woman whose emotions are raw due to the strains put on her marriage by her philandering husband? Are we perhaps influenced by Molly's misinterpretation of her surroundings? Such a scenario renders Molly's blunderings and their catastrophic results the more convincing.
My only complaint is with Acorn Media, who, as usual, provides no subtitles that would aid those unused to British accents, or extras, other than a filmography of the actors that is difficult to read on a thirteen-inch screen (but perhaps it is more intelligible to those with a larger screen). Nevertheless, if you love Italy and enjoy John Mortimer, buy this DVD (but you might want to check out the "used and new" category on Amazon, because, as I discovered by accident, there are many new copies, straight from the manufacturer, at a much lower price, even with the $2.98 shipping and handling fees)."