It's easy to stay glued to all 390 fascinating minutes of this 1981 television series, which concentrates, in great detail, on an agonizing decade in the political life of Winston Churchill. Ousted in 1928 from his powerfu... more »l position in Britain's Conservative government, Churchill (Robert Hardy) assumes--for the first of many times to come--that his career is over. But a pattern emerges: Churchill, the maverick defender of Britain's empire, is pressed back into service only to be attacked for unpopular views about the King's abdication and Hitler's threat. Time and again Churchill is banished, but this sprawling drama provides much colorful detail about the great man's trips to America (what a sight: Churchill in Monument Valley), his passion for his family, and his prescient drive to complete a historical tome before 1939--the year he becomes Prime Minister. Hardy is superb; excellent support comes from, among others, Eric Porter as Neville Chamberlain. --Tom Keogh« less
"...If necessary for years, if necessary alone..."
Francisco J. Calderon | Mexico City, Mexico | 05/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These wonderful miniseries are every Churchillian's Nirvana, and one inevitably compares them with HBO's acclaimed movie "The Gathering Storm" since they both dwell on the same topic. However there's no match between the two, and this Masterpiece Theater production clearly wins the day.No offense to Albert Finney -Emmy Award and all- but he doesn't hold a candle to Robert Hardy's Churchill, a tough act to follow if ever there was one. The same can be said for Sian Phillips ("I, Claudius") as Clemmie, Eric Porter as Chamberlain and, for that matter, everyone else in the cast.The movie covers the ten lonely, frustrating years of Churchill's political comeback. Sacked for his Gallipoli blunder, failed as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was long considered an embarrassing has-been. Epicurean, pigheaded, politically incorrect at the time, histrionic -even pedantic- he alone, nevertheless, had the guts to cry wolf against the rising Nazi menace and call for rearmament, only to be ignored by hesitant MPs and tremulous PMs. On top of it he suffered bouts of jealousy and depression, family and financial problems and even an automobile accident in New York City. Yet, all through his ordeals he still managed to paint, write, lecture, garden, ride, hunt, build a brickwall by himself, and deliver the finest speeches of the XXth Century! "Never stop, never weary and never give in!" ...and never give it another thought: don't miss this!P.S.: Although he never met Churchill personally, Hitler makes a sinister cameo early in the series. He is played by Günther Meisner, a German actor who should enter the Guinness Book of Records as the longest running Hitler bit in history. Honest to God, I've never seen this guy in a role other than Hitler ("Winds of War", "Ace of Aces") -or a Nazi ("Is Paris Burning?", "Boys from Brazil", "Under the Volcano", etc.)! Talk about typecast!"
An Extraordinary Recreation Of Churchill And A Dangerous Tim
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 03/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This British miniseries is probably one of the best reconstructions of a dramatic period in history ever put together. It's the story of Winston Churchill, from 1929, out of office with everyone, including himself but not his wife, believing his political career is finished, to 1939 when, in the face of Hitler's invasion of Poland, Neville Chamberlain reluctantly calls on Churchill to become First Lord of the Admiralty. During these ten years Churchill is ignored, feared, plotted against and often disdained by his political foes. He also, as Germany rearms, is seen by some as the only force for realism and action that Britain has. And Churchill? He is a dominating force, by turns petulant, noble, sulking, roaring, overpowering with words, a dangerous opponent in a debate, sometimes outmaneuvered, sometimes quixotic. But more than any of the others, he was right about the things that mattered.
Robert Hardy plays Churchill in a performance that is extraordinary, far better than I've seen other actors' attempts at Churchill. Like so many British productions, the acting depth gives power and nuance to the program. Sian Phillips is Clementine, who loves her husband, believes in him and who knows he at times can be a child. As two prime ministers, Peter Barkworth (Stanley Baldwin) and Eric Porter (Neville Chamberlain) give fascinating portraits of men in power and how they behave. Baldwin, Churchill said once, was the most formidable politician he'd ever met. Baldwin is avuncular, sly, gets what he wants even if it means a bit of betrayal without ruffling a feather. Chamberlain is sincere, prissy, often ineffectual and an ultimately sad failure. There's Edward Woodward as Sir Samuel Hoare, ever ready to compromise except with Churchill; Tim Pigott-Smith as Brendan Bracken, firmly a Churchill man and an advocate for action; Clive Smith as Sir Horace Wilson, a senior civil servant who has far too much influence with Chamberlain; Peter Vaughn as Sir Thomas Inskip, who knows how to make the law work in favor of his party in power; Nigel Havers as Randolph Churchill, overshadowed and frustrated by his father; and so many others.
For those who are interested in the mistakes, the maneuvering, the decisions, the personalities and the plotting that led up to Britain finally intervening on behalf of Poland in 1939 with the declaration of war against Germany, this is a fine place to start. And for those who enjoy the complex and erratic nature of Churchill, this will also be a treat.
The production is first class, from the bespoke-looking suits of the politicians to the incredibly substantial-looking and detailed recreation of the House of Commons, where much of Churchill's genius is shown. Location shooting took place at Chartwell, Blenheim Palace, Clivenden and the U.S. Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years - 1929-1939 runs to eight 60-minute episodes over two discs. The video transfer is a bit soft but otherwise is just fine. There are a few extras."
Britain's Greatest Defender ...
C. O. DeRiemer | 06/18/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is THE most compelling mini-series dealing with Winston Churchill and the period in his life that carved a political rebirth of a man who believed his time was past, and life was soon to end. Little does he realize that while he can sense the fate of his nation, and Europe under the growing shadow of Nazi Germany's potential, Winston can little determine what life has awaiting him in the 20th century's most tumultuous era. Spanning from 1929 to 1939, these 8 hour long episodes detail the amazing journey of Britain's outspoken mastiff during a time of political abuses and short sighted,ineffectual, liberal strategies. In some ways, Winston is the modern Job who loses his vitalities one piece at a time. He is shoved backwards, politically, by his own party, loses his money in the Amercian stock market crash, loses battles against his own government's abuse of priviledge, becomes crippled in a car accident, witnesses the empire carved apart as it lets free India, then helplessly barks as Britain slowly disarms and appeases the burgeoning German juggernaut. But as faithful hound who can smell evil and not be swayed by gestures he sinks his teeth in and refuses to let go of issues that are corrupting the world about him; forces luring his domain into the catastrophic World War II. After years of being forced into political wilderness, Churchill finds meek voices warning him of the dangers looming on all fronts confirming his fears of disaster. In the final moments, his stalwart determination win him the admiration of his country who recognize his merit and empower his rebirth into political control and save Britain from invasion. While the audio and video are rather unenhanced, and contain all the hallmarks of something primitive and emphatic from the early eighties, the story and acting excel this DVD set. Robert Hardy portrays a definitive Churchill, Timothy Pigott-Smith is brilliant as Brendan Bracken, Sian Phillips, Nigel Havers, Eric Porter, Edward Woodward and the long list of supporting cast are all excellent in their roles as Winston's family and contemporaries. This is one of the finest historical TV mini-series made. While sad and deteriorating for the majority it ends with the victorious emergence of hope as Britain takes arms against a foe it has ignored. If Britain's leaders had been vigilant during the 30's the Nazi war machine might never have advanced. Wishful, idealistic thinking is no alternative for prudent action; a valuable lesson for today's starry eyed society."
Hardy Brings Winston to Life
azphil | Prescott, AZ United States | 05/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Robert Hardy is wonderful in the role of Winston Churchill. This rendition of Churchill's perceptive battle in the 30's to combat Hitler and awaken Britain from it's torpor is infinitely better than the recent HBO film "The Gathering Storm". The supporting cast is superb, particularly Peter Barkworth as Baldwin, Edward Woodward as the slippery Sam Hoare, Eric Portman as Chamberlain and Sian Phillips as Clemmy. It covers all of the major political controversies that Churchill was involved with, India, the abdication in addition to the battle over re-armament. A MUST buy."
Perhaps the best television drama ever produced
Terrence J. Martin | Chatham, Illinois United States | 01/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anyone with an interest in Churchill MUST VIEW this series. It is history at it's best. I viewed this series and taped in on VHS and treated myself over the years by rewatching it. In fact, based on this series I named my son after Churchill, with Winston as his middle name. In short I can't say enough about the quality of this series. It will hold your attention for every minute, educate you on the main events and political drama affecting England in the 30's, and more importantly, give you the insight into how the politcal elite can lead themselves to craven acts of national destruction AND, how one man standing on principal can still save a nation from itself. The lessons here are timeless.I would also echo the sentiments of the other reviewer who noted that this is far superior to "A Gathering Storm" which, though a good effort,is cartoonish in its characterization of Churchill, compared to Robert Hardy's performance. Hardy deserves the equivalant of the oscar for "Best Televison Performance of the 20th Century". Get it, then watch it at least once a year. Each time, you'll come away with new insights, and new respect for what Churchill accomplished, and sacrificed, to save England from those willing to choose shame over war, only to get both.Terry Martin"