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4.5 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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(Apr 29, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Golden-Globe winner Ian McShane (Deadwood, Sexy Beast) gives an acclaimed performance as the color and flamboyant politician Benjamin Disraeli. Heading a powerful British ensemble cast, McShane captures the charm, determination, and political brilliance that won Disraeli the favor of Queen Victoria and eventually the nation. Beautifully shot on location, and spanning five decades this multiple-Emmyr nominated, original miniseries and is an engrossing portrait of one of Britain's most controversial leaders.

Anglophiles will find much to admire in the 1978 production Disraeli, a comprehensive look at the political and personal lives of one of that nation's most important historical figures. Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), played by Ian McShane (Deadwood, The Golden Compass) in a bravura performance, was "an enigma even to myself," as he puts it. Born to Jewish parents but baptized into the Anglican Church as a boy, he had already established a reputation as an author of "scandalous" novels, not to mention a silver-tongued flatterer and ladies man, when he began pursuing his political ambitions in his early thirties. His career didn't exactly get off to a flying start; it took him five tries to win a seat in Parliament as a "progressive conservative," and even then his defiant, blustery style earned him little favor among the somnolent stiffs who comprised much of that august body, some of whom dismissed him as "a tinseled coxcomb" whose attire resembled that of "an Italian dancing master" (Disraeli was known to sport lavish amounts of jewelry early in his career). Anti-Semitism didn't help, either. But he persevered, going on to serve twice as Prime Minister (the first and thus far only Jew to do so) and proving himself to be an eloquent and able leader with a dynamic vision that government should be more than simply a monarch ruling through an enlightened aristocracy (Rosemary Leach charmingly plays Queen Victoria, the monarch in question, with whom Disraeli formed a close and fruitful relationship).

The series also details his personal life, focusing on his 33-year marriage to the considerably older Mary Anne Lewis (Mary Peach), the widow of Disraeli's former patron and a seemingly frivolous chatterbox whom he admittedly married for her money ("I never intend to marry for love," he said. "It's a guarantee of unhappiness"), only to end up completely devoted to her. Along the way, Disraeli and his fellow politicians also deal with issues ranging from India and the Suez Canal to Ireland and the looming threat posed by Germany's "Iron Chancellor," Otto von Bismarck. All of this is accomplished primarily with words (including Disraeli's own, as well as those of scriptwriter David Butler), and there are lots of them. Disraeli isn't exactly action-packed--indeed, this is a genteel, stately, and occasionally rather tedious undertaking--but those willing to stick with it for its four-plus hours will find no shortage of rewards. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • Ian McShane biography
  • Ian McShane filmography

Product Details

  • Actors: Ian McShane, Rosemary Leach, Mary Peach, Brett Usher, John Carlisle
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: April 29, 2008
  • Run Time: 253 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012IV3Q4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,832 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Disraeli" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By F. Behrens HALL OF FAME on May 4, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
There was a time when Masterpiece Theatre truly showed masterpieces rather than sordid and foul detective series or more recent novels that are perhaps a notch above Harlequin Romances. One of the better series, I recall, told the story of the life, loves and political triumphs of Benjamin Disraeli; and I have often longed to see it again, knowing full well it went the way of many old films introduced by Alistaire Cooke in the good old days. Well lo and behold! Acorn Media has made Disraeli: Portrait of a Romantic available once more in a boxed set of four one-hour video tapes. Like most BBC historical recreations, this one-although produced on a modest budget, as one can tell from the absence of crowd scenes-is extremely accurate as to décor, dress, speech patterns, body language, and all those details that so add to our enjoyment and appreciation of the subject matter. Then again we have the grand British acting tradition in which even the smaller roles are played with individuality and an avoidance of stereotyping. Ian McShane is our Disraeli and viewers of `Lovejoy " and "The Dick Francis Mysteries" just might recognize him. The historically accurate way in which the younger Disraeli overdressed himself as a defense against anti-Semitism is worth the price of the set alone, as are the looks he gets when he changes to almost Puritan black and enters Parliament as a new man. After what we just went through in our nation's capital, it is refreshing to see the story of a truly talented man who acted for the good of his country and when he thought his Party wrong, told them so! Even when he decided that marriage with a rich widow considerably older than himself was the only way to pay his debts, he spent most of the rest of his life as the happiest of married men.Read more ›
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
In a bravura performance, Ian McShane (of Deadwood fame currently and, I think, a very underrated actor) brings to fascinating life one of the most intriguing, multi-dimensional figures of English (or any) history. Benjamin Disraeli was a Jew, a fact that would normally have precluded him from ever rising in the British government. However, he was no ordinary man and this retelling of his story is utterly absorbing. From his start as a romantic novelist and outrageous fop, we follow his rise to the leadership of his country, admiring his skill in learning his way around English society (one of the most effective ways into English politics), charming all the right women, intriguing and outwitting the men, and developing into a genuine statesman along the way. His relationship with Queen Victoria and her consort, Albert, and then with the Queen alone after Albert's death is worth the price of admission (though maybe not the resale price) alone. Victoria, herself often misunderstood and underestimated, found a trusted advisor, brilliant political tactician, and real kindred spirit in Disraeli and this film captures it to perfection. Filled with the usual outstanding (in British productions)secondary performances, this is a series to be treasured.
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Format: DVD
Ian McShane does a superb job of playing Benjamin Disraeli from the time he is a young politician, losing 5 elections in a row, to the time of his death after serving as Prime Minister of England twice. He is able to portray the handsome curly haired young dandy covered in gold chains and also the elderly stately politician with his large bald forehead. He is supported by a superb cast that includes Rosemary Leach as Queen Victoria and Mary Peach as Mary Anne Lewis Disraeli, the two women in the life of Disraeli that were most supportive of his political career and ambitions.

McShane is great as the young Disraeli, of Jewish heritage but baptized in the Anglican Church as a child. Disraeli's family was highly supportive of his ambitions and intellectual curiosity. Disraeli wrote novels and was relatively successful as a novelist before becoming a politician in his 30s, however he continue to write some also during his political career. It took 5 attempts before he was finally elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative. Yet over time he reveals himself to be a progressive conservative, steering the conservative party toward continued successes in policy. He was Prime Minister twice, much to the liking of Queen Victoria who appreciated Disraeli's philosophy, politics, and social interactions with herself. Disraeli married a wealthy widow woman 13 years his senior but their 33 year marriage was strong and supported by their mutual fascination with politics. Disraeli dealt with multiple challenges during his years of leadership including his political rivalries and allies, crisis in India and Ireland, the purchase of controlling stock in the Suez canal, and the rise of a unified Germany under the control of Otto von Bismarck.
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By Constantin on December 8, 2008
Format: DVD
An excellent film (all 4 episodes) in every respect- acting,scenery,dresses,dialogues-I have watched all of it twice until now and I think it goes a long way towards placing the viewer in the centre of events. However,I had to do a lot of reading to follow the exact chronological sequence of events-even British viewers shall have to do that since it is not easy to recall the precise circumstances of the often alternating succession of British Prime Ministers of the time-Peel,Russell,Derby,Aberdeen,Palmerston,Disraeli,Gladstone...I think a
relevant one-page note should be incuded in the DVD box. And lastly-concerning historical accuracy and fairness, I think the film does not do
justice to Disraeli's rival, W.E.Gladstone, a very moral person and, argueably, the best 19th century British Prime Miniser (the contestant to that quality being Lord Salisbury)--I think a film on Gladstone, if ever there was made one - should restore this evident unfairness...
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