Pennies from Heaven
DVD | Box Set
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Pennies From Heaven (Miniseries) (DVD)
Dennis Potter's astonishing six-part miniseries remains one of the edgiest, most audacious things ever conceived for television. The story tells of one Arthur Parker (Bob Hoskins), a sheet-music salesman in 1930s England. Beaten down by economic hard times and the sexual indifference of his proper wife (Gemma Craven), Arthur cannot understand why his life can't be like the beautiful songs he loves. On a sales trip through the Forest of Dean, he meets a virginal rural woman (Cheryl Campbell) he suspects may be his ideal. Ruination follows. Punctuating virtually every scene is a vintage pop song--lip-synched and sometimes danced out by the characters. This startling innovation makes the contrast between Arthur's brutish life and his bourgeois dreams even more dramatic.
Potter's dark vision digs into British stoicism, sexual repression, the class system, and even the coming of fascism in Europe. But it is especially poignant on the subject of the divide between art and reality. Piers Haggard directs the long piece with deft transitions between songs and story. (It was shot partly on multi-camera video, partly on film.) The cast is fine, especially the extraordinary Cheryl Campbell, who imbues her character with keen intelligence and no small measure of perversity. Bob Hoskins triumphs in his star-making part, bringing a demonic energy to his small-time Cockney, nearly bursting his button-down vests with frustration and appetite. Pennies from Heaven was remade in 1981 for the big screen (with Steve Martin), an interesting, Potter-scripted adaptation; it's one of the reasons the original has been unavailable on home video for so long. --Robert Horton
- Six episodes on three discs
- Photo gallery
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We have yet to watch Pennies from Heaven but expect it to be good too.
The other two greats of the fantastic three, were " THE SEVEN KEYS " by Alfred Hitchcock, and of course the greatest BBC movie of all times, " THE SINGING DETECTIVE ".
PS: If anyone out there ever knows were I can legally purchase a DVD copy of the " THE SEVEN KEYS " by Alfred Hitchcock, please be sure to email me through this review. It's the only one of the "Fantastic Three" I do not own. The other two are available through "Amazon.com" and are quality DVD reproductions.
I hope you enjoy my tribute to you " Elwy " , it's lacking by your standards, but I thought you would enjoy knowing that we all truly miss you !
Jonathon T. Ontario Canada.
The performances here are absolutely first rate, from Hoskins and Campbell, to Kenneth Colley as The Accordion Man, to Freddie Jones as a headmaster, and Hywel Bennett as a deeply cynical, cruel man who uses Campbell. The miniseries has a rather disturbing tone to it for many reasons. The songs that Potter uses are the cheery songs of the depression, which were in major contrast to what was really happening. The songs are at first quite jarrring, but soon you get used to it, and realise it's a great narrative device. Hoskins plays a sexual obsessive man who feels neglected at home, and the language is rather frank for its time. The miniseries features an abortion, prostitution, murder, and just plain old fashioned cruelty of life. One of the most memorable scenes is the farewell that Freddie Jones gives to Cheryl Campbell in the film. Campbell teaches at a rural school, and she becomes pregnant by Hoskins. Jones learns of this, but instead of doing a Puritannical thing on her, he is quite moving in his speech to her, realising that he cannot have her teaching at the school, despite the fact that he knows she's really a beautiful woman and a gentle soul who just made a stupid mistake. The miniseries takes the viewer on quite a journey, and it's really one of the most unique experiences in TV ever made. Potter was as much an auteur as any director, and he was one of the greatest teleplay writers the U.K. ever produced. This and The Singing Detective are his legacy, and it's a great one.