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Devil's Disciple, The (Shaw Collection, The)

3.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Devil's Disciple, The (Shaw Collection, The) (DVD)

In New Hampshire in 1777, Dick Dudgeon's father dies. Called back home to the unhappy family he revolted against years ago, Dick finds he has been named heir, much to the horror of his religious mother (Elizabeth Spriggs). And to complicate matters, the British, led by General Burgoyne (Ian Richardson), have arrived and are readying for an execution. As events reach a crisis, Dick, the self-proclaimed "Devil's Disciple," finds he must confront his true nature, as must the village minister (Patrick Stewart).

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The Devil's Disciple is not generally considered one of George Bernard Shaw's best plays, but it may be among his most enjoyable. In a New England village during the Revolutionary War, disreputable and self-proclaimed Devil's disciple Richard Dudgeon (Mike Gwilym) finds himself inheriting the bulk of his father's estate, much to the fury of his estranged mother (Elizabeth Spriggs, Sense and Sensibility). But when British soldiers mistake Dudgeon for the Reverend Anthony Anderson (Patrick Stewart, Star Trek: The Next Generation) and arrest him as a rebel, Dudgeon goes along with the error and consents to be hanged in Anderson's place--forcing Anderson's wife Judith (Susan Woolridge, Hope and Glory) to decide whether to save a man she loathes at the cost of her husband's life. The Devil's Disciple starts slowly, but the tension mounts steadily, as does the humor. The courtroom debate between Dudgeon and the cynical General Burgoyne (Ian Richardson, Gormenghast) is rife with Shaw's typical wit and paradoxes--but the rise of feeling between Dudgeon and Judith give the production an emotional kick many Shaw plays lack. The DVD also includes a BBC special, in which Christopher Plummer and others recite classic passages from Shaw's plays and letters. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

Featurette: The Wit and World of George Bernard Shaw : This 104-minute piece explores Shaw's life story, as told by Christopher Plummer. Featurette: The Wit and World of George Bernard Shaw : This 104-minute piece explores Shaw's life story, as told by Christopher Plummer. Featurette: The Wit and World of George Bernard Shaw : This 104-minute piece explores Shaw's life story, as told by Christopher Plummer.

Product Details

  • Actors: Various
  • Directors: Various
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 16, 2006
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000E8JNQA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,614 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Devil's Disciple, The (Shaw Collection, The)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan Alexandratos on May 21, 2006
I just watched this wonderful 2-hour BBC program now on DVD. The wit of Bernard Shaw is crisp and biting in the dialogue. The actors, namely Patrick Stewart and Ian Richardson, pump just the right amount of energy, sarcasm, drama, and humor into their lines to make this piece truly enjoyable. Shaw is the only playwright who has ever had the power to make me laugh and cry at the same time. This piece will undoubtedly do that for you.

The DVD transfer is nothing special, though. Some images look a bit grainy. The sound quality is fairly crisp, but everything is perfectly audible. This DVD has one extra, which is also marvelous: a program titled, "The Wit and Wisdom of G. Bernard Shaw." It is a great biography of the playwright's life with scenes and quotes recited by (a 1980s) Christopher Plummer among other fine actors. I would recommend this DVD for purchase by anyone with a remote interest in Shaw or the actors in the program. Also, if you're interested in stories set in Revolutionary War America, I would recommend this to you as well. Basically, if you've clicked on this page out of curiosity, you have what it takes to fully enjoy this program! Enjoy!
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The Devil's Disciple is not one of George Bernard Shaw's best-known plays, perhaps because it lacks the cynicism and misanthropy of classic Shaw (Pygmalion, Man and Superman). The characters in The Devil's Disciple are generally likeable people who come to generally good ends. This does not mean that Shaw's satire is absent. His targets in this play are religious and class hypocrisy. The kind of class snobbery represented by General Burgoyne (Ian Richardson), who is determined to commit his atrocities in a gentleman-like manner, may be lost on modern audiences, but Shaw's attacks on religious hypocrisy are quite timely.
The play is set in New England during the American Revolution. Richard Dudgeon (Mike Gwilym) has been called back to his Puritanical home village after his father's death. Richard is in rebellion against the strict morality of his upbringing and does everything he can to shock and scandalize his neighbors and family by claiming to be the Devil's disciple. Richard also brings the news that British troops are marching toward the village arresting and hanging suspected rebels. The local minister, Anthony Anderson (Patrick Stewart), determines to reclaim Richard. The minister invites the reprobate into his home over the protests of his pretty young wife, Judith (Susan Woolridge), then leaves the two together while he answers a parish call. British troops break in, seeking not the reprobate Richard but the upright minister. The British arrest the wrong man, leaving the minister's wife torn between desire to save an innocent man and desire to save her husband. Her confusion is furthered when neither man acts the way she expected.
This 1987 BBC production boasts an incredibly strong cast.
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I so much wanted to like this production. I bought it because I was flipping channels not long ago and came across a film version with Kirk Douglas and, in the role of Gentlemanly Johnny Burgoyne, a fantastic actor who I realized only later was Laurence Olivier. I had missed some of Olivier's best lines and so tried to buy the film here on Amazon, only to realize that it wasn't available for purchase in DVD. So the BBC production was the next best thing.

Still, I had very high hopes for it -- with Patrick Stewart and Ian Richardson it seemed almost impossible for it to go wrong. However, if I had thought it through and noticed the date I would have realized that Stewart was playing the Minister, not Burgoyne, which is the role I foolishly expected him in. I'm sure that if it were made again with him in that part he would do it beautifully, as indeed Ian Richardson does here. But Stewart is less suited to the Minister role and I was disappointed not to be getting his Burgoyne.

All in all, the production, while generally enjoyable, was somehow rather tepid. Richard's opening scene should have some irony in it; he should be looking for a reaction in every line that he says, as the only purpose for his hamming it up is to unsettle his relatives; here it is played entirely straight, as if he wholly means what he is saying.

Similarly, Minister Anderson should always give a slight impression of a powerful man not quite placed in his life until he comes into his own at the end; instead, he is curiously bland.
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I love George Bernard Shaw, and this is one play I'd never seen. It boasts an all-star British cast of Patrick Stewart, Mike Gwilym, Elizabeth Spriggs, and - in a tour-de-force performance as General Burgoyne - Ian Richardson. The directing, the cast, the sets, all are unbeatable. And it's a nice piece of American Revolutionary history, by the top British actors you could imagine!
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