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Cambridge Spies

44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Cambridge Spies (Dbl DVD)

In 1934, four brilliant young men at Cambridge University are recruited to spy for Russia. Fueled by youthful idealism, a passion for social justice, a talent for lying and a hatred for fascism, the four take huge personal risks to pass Britain's biggest secrets to Moscow. Starring four of Britain's most talented young actors, this epic yet intimate drama brings one of the twentieth century's most compelling true stories to exciting new life.

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This moody BBC 2003 dramatization of the most notorious debacle in the history of the British Secret Service raises the specter of the treachery of Philby, Burgess, MacLean, and Blunt for a generation of viewers who can only imagine the shockwaves generated by their duplicity. Inevitably the story suffers from the basically repellent quality of its raw material. Determinedly nonjudgmental, it frequently stumbles along a precarious path between romantic eulogy and fact-based fable of the perils of idealism. For all the handsome casting, the characters have little charm to compensate for their deeds. Their motivations are sketched only vaguely. Even in moments of personal vulnerability, however poignant the performances, sympathy is at a premium. But it has its high points as an atmospheric soap opera: the recreation of a period that stretches from the radical aspects of 1930s university life at Cambridge to cold war London, dipping into the Spanish Civil War and the Washington diplomatic circle en route, is vivid. The acting, too, is fine. Tom Hollander's rampantly dissolute Burgess verges constantly on parody. But Toby Stephens (Philby), Samuel West (a frosty Blunt), and Rupert Penry-Jones (an emotionally wrung-out MacLean) work wonders with Peter Moffat's insubstantial script. --Piers Ford

Special Features

Documentary: 45 minute documentary "Great Spy Stories of the Twentieth Century: The Cambridge Spies" Featurette: "A Cambridge Spies Historical Scrapbook" - a collection of rare interviews, news clips and other footage featuring the real Cambridge Spies. Other: TrailersDocumentary: 45 minute documentary "Great Spy Stories of the Twentieth Century: The Cambridge Spies" Featurette: "A Cambridge Spies Historical Scrapbook" - a collection of rare interviews, news clips and other footage featuring the real Cambridge Spies. Other: TrailersDocumentary: 45 minute documentary "Great Spy Stories of the Twentieth Century: The Cambridge Spies" Featurette: "A Cambridge Spies Historical Scrapbook" - a collection of rare interviews, news clips and other footage featuring the real Cambridge Spies. Other: TrailersDocumentary: 45 minute documentary "Great Spy Stories of the Twentieth Century: The Cambridge Spies" Featurette: "A Cambridge Spies Historical Scrapbook" - a collection of rare interviews, news clips and other footage featuring the real Cambridge Spies. Other: TrailersDocumentary: 45 minute documentary "Great Spy Stories of the Twentieth Century: The Cambridge Spies" Featurette: "A Cambridge Spies Historical Scrapbook" - a collection of rare interviews, news clips and other footage featuring the real Cambridge Spies. Other: TrailersDocumentary: 45 minute documentary "Great Spy Stories of the Twentieth Century: The Cambridge Spies" Featurette: "A Cambridge Spies Historical Scrapbook" - a collection of rare interviews, news clips and other footage featuring the real Cambridge Spies. Other: TrailersDocumentary: 45 minute documentary "Great Spy Stories of the Twentieth Century: The Cambridge Spies" Featurette: "A Cambridge Spies Historical Scrapbook" - a collection of rare interviews, news clips and other footage featuring the real Cambridge Spies. Other: Trailers

Product Details

  • Actors: Rupert Penry-Jones, Samuel West, Toby Stephens, Tom Hollander
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Video
  • DVD Release Date: January 31, 2006
  • Run Time: 240 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000C23D5
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,762 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Cambridge Spies" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 83 people found the following review helpful By F. S. L'hoir VINE VOICE on January 12, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This gripping, well-acted film launched me on a reading odyssey, beginning with Philby's "My Silent War" and including Seale and McConville's "Philby: the Long Road to Moscow," G. Borovik's "Philby Files," Yuri Modin's "My Five Cambridge Friends" (Y.M. was one of their KGB handlers), Philip Knightley's "Philby, the Life and Views of the KGB Master Spy", and Miranda Carter's "Anthony Blunt, His Lives", among many others (some of which are less than sympathetic). As a result, I can appreciate the intense research that went into this outstanding TV series.The portrayals are brilliant: the subtle nuances of Toby Stephens' Philby; the ambiguity of Samuel West's Blunt; the vulnerability of Rupert Penry-Jones' Maclean; and finally, the brilliance of Tom Hollander's Burgess. Hollander's portrayal of the outrageous original is so convincing that when one reads Guy Burgess' actual quoted words, one 'hears' Tom Hollander.

Moody and suspenseful, the drama dwells on a theme worthy of Sophoclean tragedy: the conflict between the obligations to oneself (friends and family) and the obligations to the State. Each of the characters, tragically flawed, reaches what seems to be the pinnacle of success, only to suffer a reversal of fortune and be cast down by outside events (here, the intrusion of the Cold War). The tragedy in Mr. Moffat's drama rests not in the fact that Philby, Blunt, Maclean and Burgess spied for the other side. These are mere plot points in an Aristotelian sense (although the repercussions on the State cannot be denied). The tragedy derives from the fact that as each man is compelled to betray his ideals, friends or family, he recognizes the enormity of that betrayal.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By GEORGE RANNIE on May 27, 2004
Format: DVD
This BBC-PBS T.V presentation is superb. It is not something that you can look at while darning socks, knitting, washing dishes, talking on the phone or having an evening party-it is NOT light entertainment. Go to commercial TV for that. You've got to sit-down, shut-up and concentrate on what is going on. In fact, it took me two viewings to fully understand what actually was going on. LISTEN closely; the script is fantastic.
All of the actors are superb with Tom Hollander as Guy Burgess a standout. The production is on a par with some of the best BBC productions that I have had the privilege of seeing. With the gorgeous sets and costumes, it creates a feeling of the era that is being portrayed.
If you are into historical presentations and love superb acting buy this DVD.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on March 8, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This 2003 BBC miniseries about the much-analyzed Cambridge spy ring of Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Blunt takes as sympathetic a view of the four as might be possible: they are represented as acting out of the highest ideals (a hatred for fascism and reactionary politics), and are shown to be extremely sympathetic men who suffer for their cause and who hold their friendship with one another among their highest ideals. This presents a very unusual take on the story that's rarely been seen before (except in the langurous but somewhat silly film ANOTHER COUNTRY). The production values are terrific, and some of the acting is quite good, especially from Tom Hollander, fittingly over the top as the brilliant but impossible narcissist Guy Burgess, and Samuel West, surpisingly hunky as the smooth and cautious Anthony Blount. The production values are excellent, and there are lovely cameos from Anthony Andrews as King George VI (struggling to overcome his speech impediment) and Imelda Staunton as his wife Queen Elizabeth, who slyly toys coversationally with Blount about his sexual preferences.

One of the best things about this DVD package is that it comes with a one-hour documentary from the History Channel about the Cambridge spy ring that takes almost the opposite take of the mini-series, presenting the spies are mercenary and corrupt and the entire Soviet system in as negative a light as possible. (The documentary also takes affirmative stands on questions concerning the spy ring the mini-series denies, such as the possibility of John Cairncross being the group's "fifth man" and the possible bisexuality of Donald Maclean.) The documentary is so righteous and portentous in its conservative editorializing that it seems almost astonishing it postdates the fall of the Berlin Wall; nonetheless, it provides a useful balance to the extremely sympathetic view the mini-series takes of four of the most demonized Englishmen of the twentieth century.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 23, 2003
Format: DVD
Watching "Cambridge Spies" on BBCAmerica was eye-opening and insightful. By now, most viewers will have heard of Britain's most notorious spy ring. The story of the traitors (I was surprised the BBC hasn't lauded them as heroes) is edited and condensed quite well to fit miniseries time constraints. While in most movies there is at least one character to empathize or sympathize with, there is no character here that one feels inspired to "understand." One finds himself or herself just waiting to find out how and when these folks "got what was coming to them." Overall, the acting was superb, especially that of Toby Stephens. (Sidebar: He's the young Clint Eastwood in "Space Cowboys," if you can believe that. The guy's got a wide acting range.) As a avid viewer of BBCAmerica, I look forward to more terrific series as this one.
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