Helen Mirren at the BBC (DVD)]]>
Long before The Queen
, long before Prime Suspect
's DCI Tennyson, Helen Mirren was honing her craft with a cast of literary characters on par with the great actresses of all time--all in teleplays for the British Broadcasting System. This boxed set is both a treasure trove of English language classics, well known and obscure, and a brilliant window into the building of the talent and career of Mirren, starting as a young, Gwyneth Paltrowesque ingénue. The five discs feature costume dramas from just about any period of English history imaginable. Teleplays include versions of The Changeling
, The Apple Cart
, Caesar and Claretta
, The Philanthropist
, The Little Minister
, Miss Rhinehart
, Soft Targets
, and other, shorter presentations.
Among the gems are The Changeling, shot with lush production values and a leisurely, very British pace. Mirren is Joanna, a young lass already torn by love and commitment, and Mirren is riveting even as a cherubic youngster. ("I adore Jacobean tragedy," Mirren says of this play in the commentary--and who doesn't?) In Bernard Shaw's The Apple Cart Mirren doesn't appear until nearly an hour into the play, but is compelling as a wily mistress type: "You are as slippery as an eel," she tells her ne'er-do-well companion, "but you shall not slip through my fingers."
The set is as compelling for the appearances of other actors who costar with Mirren, including a young, tormented Ian Holm in Stephen Poliakoff's Soft Targets. Not to be missed are the interviews with Mirren, including Helen Mirren Remembers, which gives a great overview of the set, and how she grew into the splendid actress she later became. "You're going to be very exposed" in front of a camera, she says--and that's the true delight here for all Mirren fans. --A.T. Hurley