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4.7 out of 5 stars 160 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons stars in this sweeping adaption of Dava Sobel's best-selling book of high seas adventure and political intrigue. Determined to stop shipping losses on the oceans of the 18th century, Britain's Parliament offers a fabulous cash award to anyone who can devise a way to determine longitute at sea. Convinced he can solve the problem that has defeated England's best minds, rural clock maker John Harrison (Michael Gambon) begins an obsessive, 40-year struggle to claim the Longitude prize with his ingenious marine clock. 200 years later, naval officer Rupert Gould (Jeremy Irons) stumbles across Harrison's forgotten chronometers and devotes himself to restoring these long-neglected mechanical masterpieces.

Gracefully adapted from Dava Sobel's extraordinary bestseller, the four-part TV production of Longitude combines drama, history, and science into a stimulating, painstakingly authentic account of personal triumph and joyous discovery. Equally impressive is the way writer-director Charles Sturridge has crafted parallel stories that complement each other with enriching perspective. The first story involves the successful 40-year effort of 18th-century clockmaker John Harrison (Michael Gambon) to solve the elusive problem of measuring longitude at sea. In 1714 the British Parliament had offered a generous reward to anyone who solved the problem, and Harrison devoted his life to that solution. The second story, some 200 years later, involves the effort of shell-shocked British Navy veteran Rupert Gould (Jeremy Irons) to restore the glorious clocks that Harrison had built. Like Harrison, Gould is the most admirable type of obsessive, but, also like Harrison, he risks his marriage to accomplish his difficult task.

Thousands of sailors perished at sea before Harrison's triumph changed history, but Longitude demonstrates that Harrison's glory was slow to arrive--and his prize money even slower. A fascinating study of 18th-century British politics and clashing egos in the arena of science, the film is both epic and intimate in consequence, and Sturridge's magnificent script inspires Gambon and Irons to do some of the best work of their outstanding careers. The ever-reliable Ian Hart appears in Part 3 as Harrison's now-adult son and apprentice, and Longitude approaches its dramatic climax with the exhilarating tension of a first-rate thriller. Rallying after sickness to prove the integrity of their marvelous seafaring chronometers, the Harrisons still had to fight for official recognition, and Gould's restoration of the Harrison clockworks provides a fitting coda to this exceptional story about the thrill of discovery and the tenacity of remarkable men. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • Making of

Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Gambon, Christopher Hodsol, Jeremy Irons, Peter Cartwright, Gemma Jones
  • Directors: Charles Sturridge
  • Writers: Charles Sturridge, Dava Sobel
  • Producers: Antony Root, Catriona McKenzie, Delia Fine, Kris Slava, Pippa Cross
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Unknown)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: August 29, 2000
  • Run Time: 200 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004U2K1
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,692 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Longitude" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on June 30, 2002
Format: DVD
This film is described as an adaptation of Dava Sobel's book of the same name. It is far more than an adaptation, however. Charles Sturridge took a somewhat threadbare tale and turned it into a stirring, dramatic account of the life, tribulations, and ultimate achievement of the 18th century English horologist, John Harrison. It's not that Sobel's book is poorly written. It is in fact entertaining and engrossing as far as it goes. The trouble is that she doesn't go into enough detail and leaves a lot of questions unanswered for the reader. Sturridge takes up her story and fleshes it out, providing the sort of background and character development that the book lacks. Providing the audience with a parallel storyline involving the WWI veteran, Rupert Gould (briefly noted in Sobel's book) also is a stroke of genius on the writer/director's part. The parallels between the lives of the earlier inventor and the shell-shocked vet are striking and poignant.
It does nothing to hurt Sturridge's cause to have assembled such a sterling British cast. Irons and Gambon have great roles to their credit, but they surpass themselves in this production. Sturridge has demonstrated that he can squeeze good acting out of a virtual lemon (Ted Danson in Sturridge's adaptation of "Gulliver's Travels"). He has far more to work with here, and the results are remarkable. Gambon, perhaps best known to American audiences for his lead role in "The Singing Detective," and the recent "Gosford Park," again delivers the goods in this masterful performance. He captures perfectly his character's idiosyncrasies, vicissitudes and ultimate triumph.
Much of the series of course focuses on the "chase" for a solution to the longitude problem that plagued seamen from time immemorial.
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Format: VHS Tape
I first watched this story on A&E network, but only saw the last few minutes of it. The second time I caught it was the same, but I saw even less of it, frustratingly broken up with the inevitable commercials. However, since celestial navigation at sea is one of my skills and interests, I ordered the VHS tapes (there are four of them.)

One of my Bowditches (American Practical Navigator), attests to the accuracy of the research involved in the story. John Harrison, the son of an English carpenter, was born in Yorkshire in 1693. He followed his father's trade but soon became interested in the repair and construction of clocks. In 1714 the British Parliament offered a reward of 20,000 pounds sterling for an accurate method of finding longitude at sea, which can be found using spherical trigonometry with an accurate time piece set to and kept at the time of the place of departure. (For practical purposes, all such chronometers are set to the time of the so-called Greenwich meridian--the Prime Meridian, which traverses Greenwich, England.) Since it requires approximately 24 hours for a complete rotation of the earth (360 degrees), each hour of time the earth rotates 15 degrees regardless of the latitude (At the equator, the surface spin is faster.

Harrison undertook to make such a timepiece, and submitted his first attempt (Harrison No. 1) to the Longitude Board in 1735, at the age of 42. Eventually he submitted a total of four separate instruments, before he was finally awarded the prize money at the age of 80, and then only through the intervention of the Crown and, in the story, the Parliament.
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Format: DVD
In the 18th century much had already been achieved in the exploration of the world: In addition to the achievements of Columbus, Cabot , Vespucci, Cartier, da Gama and others in the discovery of the Americas, Portuguese sailors commissioned by Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) had sailed along the western African coast; Bartolomeu Dias (1457-1500) had circumnavigated the Cape of Good Hope; Vasco da Gama had been the first explorer to reach India by sea (1498); 1518-19 had seen Francisco Magellan's almost-complete global circumnavigation; in the mid-16th century Portuguese merchants and Jesuit missionaries had made contact with Japan; and about 50 years later the Dutch had established their first trading posts in South-East Asia. On their voyages, these early explorers had overcome storms, hunger, scurvy and uncertainty about their exact course and the feasibility of their aim; and they had suffered from a severe navigational handicap: For while it is comparatively easy to determine latitude, the exact determination of longitude requires consideration of the world's fourth dimension - time. Only the knowledge how long the rotation of the earth vis-a-vis the sun takes from one point to another enables a seaman to determine where precisely he is at any given moment; wherefore he needs to know both the time at his departure port and the time aboard ship. The inability to make that determination invariably adds the danger of getting lost at sea to the perils of every naval voyage (and in fact, even da Gama's Indian expedition was almost derailed when the navigator miscalculated his position off the African coast).Read more ›
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