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The Barchester Chronicles

95 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The cozy community of Barchester is rocked from its complacency when a crusade against the Church of England's practice of self-enrichment misfires. Overnight, Septimus Harding (Donald Pleasence) becomes the pawn in a political battle begun by his younger daughter's beau, John Bold, and kept kindled by his older daughter's husband, Archdeacon Grantly (Nigel Hawthorne).


The first two episodes of this BBC miniseries only hint at the delights to come. A lawsuit aimed at church reform in the town of Barchester forces a decent middle-aged clergyman (the august Donald Pleasence, best known in the U.S. for the Halloween movies) into a moral crisis and a conflict with his son-in-law, a pompous archdeacon (Nigel Hawthorne, The Madness of King George). The gracefully written and acted narrative shows glimpses of dry wit--but in episode 3, the arrival of a new bishop (Clive Swift, Keeping Up Appearances), his imperious wife (Geraldine McEwan, The Magdalene Sisters), and his devious chaplain (Alan Rickman, Truly Madly Deeply, the Harry Potter movies) launches The Barchester Chronicles into a satirical power struggle all the more mesmerizing because of the smallness of the territory. The scheming of the citizens and clergy of this British town is both Byzantine and wonderfully comic as the tempestuous personalities claw and dig at each other.

Rickman, in one of his first film or television roles, turns in a tour de force of oily ambition. McEwan's ferocious machinations are downright terrifying, while the sputtering Hawthorne (The Madness of King George) seems constantly in danger of bursting a vein. At the center of it all is Pleasence. Making goodness compelling has always been difficult, since wickedness is always more dramatic; but Pleasence brings a deep and stirring passion to his role that proves as engaging as all the back-biting that surrounds him. And these are just the more familiar faces; a host of lesser-known actors give equally superb performances. The final episode (of seven) will have you on pins and needles. The Barchester Chronicles, adapted from two novels by Anthony Trollope, is one of those marvels of British television, a skillful production that proves intelligent fare can be hugely entertaining. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

  • Biographies
  • Featurette

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Alan Rickman, Nigel Hawthorne, Susan Hampshire, Donald Pleasence, Geraldine Mc Ewan
    • Directors: Various
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Original recording remastered
    • Language: English (Mono)
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Number of discs: 2
    • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
    • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
    • DVD Release Date: May 16, 2006
    • Run Time: 385 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B00065GX96
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,772 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "The Barchester Chronicles" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    274 of 283 people found the following review helpful By GEORGE RANNIE on January 7, 2005
    Format: DVD
    There must really be a god; the commercial release of the BBC production of Anthony Trollope's "The Barchester Chronicles" is answer to this heathen's prayers. I watched this presentation on A&E (having missed the PBS program) in the mid-1980s and managed to make a very poor tape of the program. Since that time I wished intently that The Barchester Chronicles would become commercially available before I die. Now it is on DVD! (and obviously I'm not dead either) This BBC presentation is one of the best things I have ever witnessed either on stage, big screen or small screen.
    Although the ads to this DVD emphasize that Alan Rickman has a leading role, (he IS wonderful) he is NOT the only superb actor in this film; he is just one of many! Everyone in this presentation gives an outstanding performance. As stated before Alan Rickman is wonderful as the slimy Mr. Slope (really Slop; however, he added the "e"!)-watch how he moves like a snake which the character is!) His sparing partner is Geraldine McEwen. They start off as "chums" but by the end of the story they are bitter enemies. Their "duals" will have you on the floor with laughter. Geraldine is most frightening as the bishop's wife (actually she is the REAL bishop and has all of the power because her husband has no spine and is given to numbing migraine headaches brought on by his wife-the bishop's role is played delightfully by Clive Swift). One of my favorite actors, the late great Nigel Hawthorne plays the "about to explode at all times" Archdeacon who tries to keep things as they are while the Clergyman (Rickman) and the ferocious Bishop's wife (McEwen) are determined to change things to their own benefit.
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    118 of 125 people found the following review helpful By randomartco VINE VOICE on February 15, 2005
    Format: DVD
    BBC & Trollope's fascinating look at corruption in the Church of England

    Based on the book by Anthony Trollope, "The Barchester Chronicles," is a fascinating and satirical look at corruption in the Church of England, and the reformers who wish to make changes, and end up getting more than they bargained for.

    Reverend Septimus Harding (Donald Pleasence), a decent, gentle and caring man who values music and it's relation to God above all else, is the clergyman in charge of Hiram's Hospital. John Hiram, a rich and influential man, has died decades before, leaving money for the forming and management of a men's hospital, intended for worn out old men to take refuge in the country and live their last days out in peace. Appointed by Bishop Grantly (Cyril Luckham) to his post almost 12 years ago, Rev. Harding is suddenly attacked in a lawsuit by reformers who claim that corruption and nepotism have invaded into the town of Barchester. They begin calling for reform and although the lawsuit is defeated at the end, Rev. Harding ends by honorably resigning from Hiram's Hospital, to live poorly and struggle on as a clergyman in Barchester.

    Not too long after, a change in government calls for a change in church leadership: when a new prime minister is named just as Bishop Grantly passes away, Dr. Grantly (who had hoped to become the next bishop) is passed over for a new appointment: Bishop Proudie. Enter Alan Rickman (in an early role pulled off with resounding success), playing the fantastically flirtatious and social-climbing devious chaplin, Reverend Obadiah Slope. Slope is chaplin to shy, quiet, stammering Bishop Proudie, who is controlled by his wife, Mrs. Proudie (Geraldine McEwan), in nearly everything he does.
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    55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Melek Paoti on December 25, 2005
    Format: DVD
    After reading one customer's complaint that crucial parts of the series were missing from this DVD set, I first rented it from my local video store to watch. I can assure everyone interested in this excellent series that the allegedly missing scenes are DEFINITELY included! Part 4 is very much there! And in general, not once during the progression of the story did I have the impression that important information had been left out. Based on the high "helpful"-reading of said review, a lot of people may have decided not to buy this DVD set, and that's too bad. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful series. I just got my own copy, and I know I won't regret it!
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    39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Tiggah on March 1, 2005
    Format: DVD
    Based on The Warden and Barchester Towers, the first two of Anthony Trollope's six "Barsetshire" novels, The Barchester Chronicles is an intelligent, witty, and deliciously humorous 1982 dramatisation set in 1850s' England in the fictional town of Barchester. The series focuses on corruption within the church and the battle between conservatism and modernism which threatened to tear it apart. An interest in church politics of the time is not necessary, however, for this is as much a story about the individuals involved as it is about the church. The series, which is faithful to the original novels, consists of seven 50-minute episodes and features an all-star British cast. DVD extras: Text-based bios and (oddly) a 30-minute profile of Peterborough Cathedral.

    Donald Pleasence stars as gentle, non-confrontational, soft-spoken, kind-hearted Mr. Harding, the caring Warden of a small hospital within the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Barchester. With few responsibilities and a wopping annual income of 800 pounds, it's a plum position. Sadly for him, however, misappropriation of church funds (of which this is a prime example) is a bone that the sensation-seeking Jupiter newspaper has decided to chew on; and they have chosen Mr. Harding as their target.

    Being a good, decent man, it appals Mr. Harding that anyone should think him guilty of acting immorally or unethically. Whilst the unassuming Mr. Harding would be content to just fade into the woodwork, he is blessed (or should I say "cursed") with a very intelligent and shrewd but hot-headed and domineering son-in-law, Dr.
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