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The Henry James Collection (The American / The Portrait of a Lady / The Wings of the Dove / The Golden Bowl / The Spoils of Poynton)

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Product Description

Henry James Collection, The (DVD)

Best known for his novels the chronicle the passions and missteps of 19th century Americans in Europe, Henry James continues to appeal to modern sensibilities with his deep understanding of character. This collection of adaptations from the BBC archives includes: The American with Matthew Modine and Diana Rigg, The Portrait of a Lady with Suzanne Neve, Richard Chamberlain and Edward Fox, The Spoils of Poynton with Gemma Jones and Ian Oglivy, The Wings of the Dove with Elizabeth Spriggs, Betsy Blair and John Castle, and The Golden Bowl with Daniel Massey, Barry Morse and Cyril Cusack.

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The novels of Henry James are celebrated for their psychological nuance and social detail--which becomes the raw material for surprisingly juicy and lavish television, thick with seduction, betrayal, sinister motives, and troubling secrets. The five BBC adaptations in The Henry James Collection transform high literature into the best soap opera you could ask for, resulting in a rich and satisfying collection of mini-series and movies. The most famous of the lot, The Portrait of a Lady, is unfortunately the weakest, despite the presence of Richard The Thorn Birds Chamberlain. Screenwriter Jack Pulman's stiff script leads to brittle performances, though Beatrix Lehmann has many marvelous moments as an acidic matriarch (a delicious character type that recurs in almost every James novel). When her effete son rhapsodizes about Isabel Archer, the American heiress visiting their estate, Lehmann pulls the rug out with "She's just a young girl on a trip to Europe; don't make such a meal of it." This mini-series is too much of a meal, all too faithful to the novel's plot but losing much of its drive.

Pulman does a much better job with The Golden Bowl by turning one of the novel's side characters--an elderly man with a nosy wife--into its narrator; and in the hands of top-notch Cyril Cusack, this narrator combines seeming obliviousness and sly understanding as he unwinds the story of a perhaps overly close father and daughter, whose familial bond threatens to destroy both of their marriages. The Golden Bowl also benefits from a lively, handsome cast and some gorgeous fashions--style mavens will drool over the creations of costume designer Ian Adley. The Spoils of Poynton, though not ranked highly among James' works, proves enormously entertaining as a mother and son manipulate a kind-hearted young woman in their fight with each other to claim the treasures of the family estate. Gemma Jones, Ian Ogilvy, and especially Pauline Jameson (as, of course, a scheming matriarch) skillfully balance light and dark as simple acquisitiveness turns into bitter struggle. The last two adaptations are movie-length, but what they lose in detail they gain in momentum and dramatic force. The American stars Matthew Modine as a wealthy American in love with a widowed Parisian gentlewoman; Diana Rigg is magnificently poisonous as the young widow's mother who spurns Modine, driving him to seek revenge. The most visually stylish of the set, The American takes a minor James novel and gives it plenty of zest; Modine, often bland, is perfect here, earnest and direct and all the more appealing for it. Finally, The Wings of the Dove vividly captures James' vision of Europe as shark-infested waters in which naive Americans get chewed up. Two British lovers, prevented from marrying by their lack of money, try to solve their problem by taking advantage of a wealthy American orphan, Milly Theale. Lisa Eichhorn's performance as Milly is so endearing and so hapless that the machinations around her grow increasingly horrifying--especially as the lives of the lovers themselves turn to ruin. --Bret Fetzer


Special Features

  • Includes: The American (1998), The Portrait of a Lady (1968), The Spoils of Poynton (1970), The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl (1972)

Product Details

  • Actors: Diana Rigg, Matthew Modine, Richard Chamberlain, Suzanne Neve, Edward Fox
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: January 13, 2009
  • Run Time: 872 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001GJ4U5A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,831 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Henry James Collection (The American / The Portrait of a Lady / The Wings of the Dove / The Golden Bowl / The Spoils of Poynton)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 88 people found the following review helpful By J. Faulk on February 6, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
From the inexhaustible pen of American author Henry James (1843-1916)and the well preserved archives of the BBC,two adaptations at 80 min, one at 3 hr, and two at 4 1/2 hr. The stories are laid in England and Italy, involving moneyed characters with very scrupulous attitudes, and some with manipulative and predatory cunning. Marriage is sought as the Earthly Grail, but the more the talk, the longer the delay, the worse the prospects become. The outcome is loss and resignation. "The American" is the most sensational, including a brief scene of brutal sex and a needless death in a duel. "Spoils of Poynton" concerns disputation over the contents of a house between a young man's mother, his fiancee, and a second young woman who would be a better choice. "Golden Bowl," referring to an objet d'art with a rather obscure flaw, explores a quadrangle relatonship: daughter and father are overattached, she marries an overcharming Italian count, her father marries her scheming "friend," who then resumes an amorous relationship with the count. Both "Wings of the Dove" and "Portrait of a Lady" include principal characters who are deathstruck (in Portrait, Richard Chamberlain giving a fine performance), and their generosity does not bring happiness to its recipients. In Bowl and in Portrait, note the actress Kathleen Byron whose modulated, humorously weary delivery, here and there sliding up to a musical note, is so engaging--happily, you can also see her as the nun who goes berserk in "Black Narcissus." To end, the Henry James Collection is splendid and a great buy.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Harold Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWER on September 3, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a must for any Henry James (the writer) literary fan. You'll soon become a film fan of his stories as well. Also a must for the Victorian film lovers. This collection contains 5 of Henry James' important works put into films with lengths ranging from 81 minutes to 264 minutes, like full-length movie features.

Henry James wrote romances before Hollywood created "THE" acceptable ending. You'll never know till it's over how these stories will end. Each story is performed using a wonderful cast made up of some of the best stars of Britain, some in early roles within their careers.

Details:
THE AMERICAN, 87 minutes, original airing 1998
Christopher, the American, a self-made millionaire takes on Parisian aristocracy due to his desire for a beauty named Claire. It's new money vs old money and more important those time-honored ways of life.

THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY, 264 minutes, 6 episodes, 1968
This is about a girl (Isabel Archer) who takes charge of her destiny, but more in the contemporary style of a 21st century liberated lady. But is the Victorian period ready for Isabel?

THE SPOILS OF POYNTON, 169 min., 4 episodes, 1970
Gemma Jones (very well known now as "The Duchess of Duke Street"--highly recommended Masterpiece Theatre DVD set) is Fleda Vetch. Miss Vetch gets caught in the middle between passions of a mother, an engaged couple, and the artifacts of Poynton. Scenes are as Victorianly beautiful outside as the inside sets in this story taking place in 1897. With so much at stake, who will be the winner?

THE WINGS OF A DOVE, 81 min., 1979
Rich London girl loves poor London boy. Mama forbids it due to his income. Enter rich American girl and a plot forms. Will love win over wealth in these Victorian times?
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140 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Book reader on April 20, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
When I bought this I had no idea what I was buying. Here is a list:
The American: 1998, 87 minutes.
The Portrait of A Lady: 1968, 264 minutes.
The Spoils of Poynton: 1970, 169 minutes.
The Wings of The Dove: 1979, 81 minutes.
The Golden Bowl: 1972, 257 minutes.
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73 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Little Dorrit on May 20, 2009
Format: DVD
Contrary to another reviewer I LOVE the older BBC productions of great novels, they made them with respect for the original. The only modern one included in this set, the American, is simply an abomination of a James story. Be warned that it includes a graphic sex scene, I guess today's no talent filmmakers can't make a film great by sticking to the original and so have to throw some trash in to get an audience. Sad, really really sad.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Gayle V. Hunnicutt on February 7, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This collection contains some of the best six hour BBC Classic Series made in the 1970's and later aired on PBS in the USA. They are all based on the novels and novellas of Henry James whose long novels adapt brilliantly for television. I appeared as Charlotte Stant in THE GOLDEN BOWL which is the final disc (they play on both sides and each novel is 6 hours long) I enjoyed watching each series, some of which I missed when they were originally aired. This collection gives the viewer over 30 hours of great television adapted from some of the most intriguing novels ever written. I was delighted to both watch them and to give them to a number of my friends. Gayle Hunnicutt
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Aunt Ruthie on July 10, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
- are brought beautifully to life in this collection. Gayle Hunnicutt plays the quintessential Charlotte in "The Golden Bowl". And, although the collection brochure ranks "Portrait of a Lady" as the weakest in the group, a young Richard Chamberlain gives a riveting performance as Ralph, redeeming this production to rank with the others. Many hours of pleasure.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Loren Bryant on September 17, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Some stories are more memorable than others but the collection is worth seeing. The films were much less grandiose when these were created so the viewer must expect to view them as one would a play. The characters, in most cases, are complex and the stories are involved centering on in-depth dialogue between interesting characters, well-acted, in the complexities of human relationships. The subtitles are a necessity for many of the older generation and should be mandatory on all films sold in today's marketplace.
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The Henry James Collection (The American / The Portrait of a Lady / The Wings of the Dove / The Golden Bowl / The Spoils of Poynton)
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