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Gilbert & Sullivan: Master Collection

3.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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(Oct 22, 2002)
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$299.95 $128.99

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Featuring the london symphony orchestra and a host of international stars, including vincent price, joel gray, peter marshall, keith mitchell, frankie howerd and peter allen. Filmed in england and created especially for tv, they have delighted fans on pbs and the bbc.

The Master Collection includes 10 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas produced for British television. The Opera World series (1982) is the only comprehensive Gilbert and Sullivan series on video. It comprises 12 G&S works (if you cheat and count Cox and Box, written by Sullivan without Gilbert), including, for some titles, the only available version. (Cox and Box and the one-act farce Trial by Jury, their first collaboration, are not part of this set.) In terms of quality, the series is uneven. There are some treasures, but some productions have a disconsolate penny-pinching look, and a few need more rehearsal. The casts are a blend of Broadway singers, British and American comedians, and D'Oyly Carte veterans, with stars including Vincent Price (Ruddigore), Joel Grey (The Yeomen of the Guard), and singer-songwriter Peter Allen (The Pirates of Penzance). Frequent standout performers include Keith Michell, Clive Revill, Kate Flowers, and Anne Collins, who shines as a procession of unloved older women.

Of the series, the standouts are Ruddigore, a trifle of a ghost story set to gorgeous music, and The Sorcerer, a buoyant tale of a magic potion that causes a whole village to fall in love with the wrong people; Iolanthe (a House of Lords satire mixed with ethereal fantasy), The Gondoliers (with Sullivan's Italianate, most radiant score), and Princess Ida (a satire of higher education for women set in an Arthurian kingdom) are also well worth seeing. The others--The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, Patience, and The Yeomen of the Guard--are less satisfying. --David Olivenbaum

Special Features

  • Includes The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, The Gondoliers, Patience, Iolanthe, Princess Ida, The Sorcerer, Ruddigore, and The Yeomen of the Guard
  • Making-of featurettes
  • Song index
  • Gilbert & Sullivan profile
  • Libretto

Product Details

  • Actors: Keith Michell, Alexander Oliver, Janis Kelly, Peter Allen, Gillian Knight
  • Directors: Dave Heather, Barrie Gavin, Rodney Greenberg
  • Writers: William S. Gilbert, Arthur Sullivan
  • Producers: Edward Simons, George Walker, Judith de Paul
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Classical, Color, Full Screen, 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: 10
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: October 22, 2002
  • Run Time: 1140 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006JU6K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,503 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Gilbert & Sullivan: Master Collection" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Walter P. Sheppard VINE VOICE on February 12, 2003
Verified Purchase
For many (most?) of us, this set provides the first chance to see as well as hear all of the principal G & S operas except "Trial by Jury," in all their "innocent merriment." That said, I have to observe that the set is not a source of "unalloyed pleasure." The individual productions range from very good to unmitigated disasters. At the same time, I must acknowledge that it is something of a miracle that any of them are even acceptable because they were produced under conditions that virtually guaranteed that excellence was impossible: the principals apparently worked under the handicap of singing to pre-recorded accompaniment, allowing them no flexibility of phrasing for expression. In addition, each production was rehearsed for only a week and then taped in a week. All are plagued by generally poor diction, especially from the chorus, and by lots of busy, pointless moving around, especially by the chorus. When the chorus has to brandish swords, staffs, lilies, etc., the members rarely are together. Dancing, choreographed by Terry Gilbert (no relation, I'm sure!), is at best passable. Finally, the scenery and costumes mostly look low budget.
Casting is odd. The producers apparently didn't trust the material, so they brought in a "name" performer or two to "star" in each production whether or not they could contribute anything but their names. Some of them are very good, others are disasters. Clive Revill gives excellent performances as John Wellington Wells ("Patience") and Ko-Ko ("Mikado"), and Joel Grey is a wonderful Jack Point ("Yeomen"). Peter Allen brings nothing special to the Pirate King, but he does not disgrace himself or spoil the production.
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This is the "Brent Walker" series, noticeably missing from home video for some time. The set makes up the bulk of the G&S popular canon. Recorded but missing are "Trial by Jury" and "Cox & Box" (more on that in a minute).

I saw the series on PBS when it was originally aired about twenty years ago and enjoyed it very much. Bootleg off-air copies and a short-lived VHS release of the series have been all that's available of the Brent/George Walker set until now. I hear that copyright fights over the videos have resulted in years of delays. There must still be a problem with what would be the 11th DVD in the set: "Trial by Jury", coupled with "Cox & Box", which had been released on the the VHS tapes. Perhaps someone else has the facts about this omission.
Over the years aficionados have argued the videos' production values which seem to vary somewhat from opera to opera. However, the use of close-ups and conventional television effects make for good television, and these are definitely not videos of live stage performances and should not be judged as such.
-True, it's not D'Oyly Carte.
-True, each opera has had some trimming - lines of dialog here and there, a dropped verse or even a song now and then, but they still flow nicely over all.
-True, the choice of comic and romantic lead singers seem strange at times (William Conrad as "The Mikado"!).
-True, these DVDs do have the annoying introduction and intermission lectures by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. which no one I know has ever thought necessary.
-True, optional subtitles might have been nice to have, especially for the some of the rapidunintelligiblepatter songs.
BUT - This is probably the best we're going to get of (almost) everything under one roof.
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I purchased the Favorites Collection from the same series, which contains most of the DVDs included in the Master Collection. Let me start by saying I love Gilbert and Sullivan, but the productions in this series are so bad I winced watching them. When Captain Corcoran first appeared on deck, I furrowed by brow and said out loud, "No, it can't be." But sure enough, a check of the credits revealed that the hardy captain of the H.M.S. Pinafore actually was game show icon Peter Marshall. That claim to fame and his constant horse-toothed grin were distracting enough, but his terrible performance made watching this version of Pinafore almost unbearable. Pete should have stuck to the likes of Yahtzee! and Hollywood Squares. Frankie Howerd speaks most of his lines as Sir Joseph. That may have worked fine for Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, but it was a deep disappointment to a diehard G&S fan waiting to hear some of his favorite songs actually sung. The cast includes a plain-looking Josephine and downright ugly (and aging) Ralph Rackstraw. I focus here on Pinafore because it is usually my favorite and was so horribly wrecked here. But the other productions in the series are no better. The choreography is consistently overwrought to the point of being downright silly. The singing, while at times good, is generally uneven. Spoken lines often are poorly delivered. The series was taped in 1982. It shows its age, and not only from the silly looking, big 70s-80s hair on all the men. The camera work is awkward, the sets invariably cheesy. In one scene in Pirates of Penzance, the camera rises from behind a potted plant in an effect reminiscent of early public access cable television.Read more ›
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