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on June 25, 2012
Memory is a quixotic element, something we all know, especially the older we get! What we select, what we reject, what defined moments represent inner truth, which of these bubbles in time define and shape us. Being an artist with intense visual and verbal recall, it amused me to be surprised that this compelling series imprinted itself in my memories as if it had been broadcast in color, watching this as a child. Aside from that, this 1967 masterpiece is exactly as excellent as I remembered, even if Irene's hair is not butter-yellow, but a light within the back and white spectrum (the re-mastered picture resolution is sharp). One dark, difficult Montana winter, I immersed myself in Galsworthy's epic, written between 1906 and 1921. Art and what it means to be true to self are well explored, as in the ennui of the 20th century. The BBC casting of the 1967 mega-hit depicts the characters true to Galsworthy's vision. Nyree Dawn Porter was a softly curved and gentle, and exquisite foil to the perfection of Eric Porter as Soames Forsyte's obsession. He reminds me of the 18th century's Barnabas Collins, whose grim resurrection in the 1960s was a rage in Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 1 -Dark Shadows Collection 26 (shades of darkness lost in the camp vampness of the recent Burton remake). Given that Soames is the backbone, the structure of the Forsyte Saga, I couldn't abide his miscasting in the 2002 version. Eric Porter will always be the true Soames, the hard slate upon which all the other characters dance around. The specials on the last disk are an absolute treat, taking viewers back to England in the 60s, as people debate the Saga as if the Forsyte clan were members of their own family. Which, in a sense, they were. Churches and pubs were emptied across the U.K., as audiences were utterly mesmerized by the story of a family moving from humble country roots to wealthy, upper-class status. Soames, upon visiting the rural graves and home sites of his ancestors, wonders what the Forsyte family lost in this process of London-based prosperity. Contemporary viewers of Downton Abbey, as well as those who remember this Saga fondly, will truly enjoy this classic.
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on August 3, 2015
As readers of these reviews can see, the characters in this series are so well-drawn and credible they force the emotional and moral engagement of most viewers. I decided to own this series because most of the important characters are each a careful, and very credible, mix of virtue and amorality.

My personal favorite is Irene. Misunderstood "everywoman" or sociopath? I come down on the side of sociopath if only for fear that she is very close to being "everywoman." Here and on IMDb, I have read endless feminist apologies for her choice to marry Soames that all come down to "she had no real choice in the matter because the cards were so stacked against the women of her era." Doubtlessly true, but nevertheless inadequate justification for agreeing to marry him, particularly since she had no apparent interest in EVER trying to soften him, meld with him, find peace in the relationship, etc. Others, including the young French woman, virtually leapt at the chance, and made a fine go of it, by the standards of the day. Add to this the blithe betrayal of her closest friend AND her husband (albeit in name only) and you have a character that appears to care little that she is leaving a very wide field of debris in her wake, particularly in a family that has shown her every courtesy, again by the standards of the day.

Another finely-drawn, multi-faceted character is Soames himself. The politically correct among us have him as the villain of the piece while others are more or less evenly split. I would say that, yes, he is not perfect by late 20th and early 21st century standards. In his own time, I suspect he was far above the norm. His is a cautionary tale about the consequences of marrying outside your circle where everyone agrees on the rules of conduct, and living as well as possible with the choices you are not always as free as one would wish to make. His passions and his decent into obsession are entirely believable to this "Old Dog attempting to embrace New Tricks." Men are passionate creatures (as are women) but, for the sake of others, a great many of us keep a lid on it. He was used as a meal ticket by an otherwise maladjusted woman and, yes, in a perfect world women would be able to get away with all such abuse... cleanly free of having to enjoy the consequences. Sad for a great many of both genders that things do not always turn out that way.
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on July 5, 2015
What otherwise would have been a fine production was ruined by the hopeless miscasting of the two leading actors, who have been outstanding in other roles more suitable to their styles and gifts. Better to choose the earlier TV series or even, despite issues, THAT FORSYTE WOMAN, an MGM film of 1949. Or better still, read the book by John Galsworthy.
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on February 6, 2012
I was very interested in viewing The Forsyte Saga but didn't realize it had been updated in a new production. I was stunned at how really awful the first production was and haven't been able to watch more than 2 episodes. I would love to return the DVD's I have and exchange them for the newer version which I hear is wonderful.
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on May 1, 2013
I bought this for my 92 year old mother. As my mother is hard of hearing, it is very important that any video I get her has closed captioning. This product is clearly marked CC. However I was unable to on playing the video, get the cc to work. There is no subtitle menu on the disk. I contacted BBC, and they replied very quickly, that I needed to activate the cc using my TV. Trying on two different TV's and blu-ray/dvd combo's, I was unable to get closed captioning to turn on, it always said "closed captioning unavailable". On consulting the Vizio web site I found out why. This type of cc is analog, and modern TV's are all digital. So the cc on this disk would only play on an older TV-DVD that is analog. I contacted BBC again regarding this,pointing out that few video setups would be able to produce cc, and only in much older analog setups, and never heard back from them. For my mother these disks are useless and I'm sure my surprise gift for her was very disappointing. And for me a total was of money. IF YOU NEED CLOSED CAPTION---DO NOT BUY.
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on July 20, 2015
Bought this 4 disc PBS issue of the modern remake because it was cheaper than the other (Acorn) set. It has the usual PBS intros and each episode must be selected separately - there's no 'play all' option which Acorn dvds usually have. Granada (ITV) produced this in two series: 8 episodes in 2002 and 5 in 2003 but PBS didn't release it until 2015. It certainly lives up to the high standards of a British costume drama. However, even though it's in black and white, I prefer the original, 26 episode version from the BBC in 1967 which was shown as the first PBS Masterpiece Theatre in 1969.
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on March 14, 2003
Possibly the greatest TV miniseries of all time, it is wonderful that it has been released with great care and pride in this marvelous DVD set.
What sets this particular adaptation apart from others, especially the recent (2002) version, is the outstanding ensemble acting and rich characterizations. For example, as Soames, compare Eric Porter's crisp, impeccable diction in this version with Damian Lewis's mushy delivery in the 2002 version. Compare the delightful, comic realization of James (Soames's father), played by John Welsh in 1969, with the indistinguishable-from-all-the-other-Forsytes character in 2002. Most compelling, compare Nyree Dawn Porter as Irene in 1969, with... well, there really is no comparison here.
Of course, visually, this version suffers compared to last year's. It's shot in black and white, mostly on stage sets. Clearly, they used very few takes (another tribute to the actors), as minor defects like coats falling off racks, cameras getting bumped, slightly muffed lines are retained. But, really, who cares when you're watching the finest combination of acting and screenwriting ever put on TV?
This DVD not only contains the entire set of 26 fifty-minute episodes, but also additional material: cast interviews, behind-the-scenes, even deleted scenes and outtakes. Altogether, a beautiful job.
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on September 7, 2008
Besides my interest in British movies from this era, I look for movies I will enjoy and I feel comfortable having on my shelf for my grandchildren to run across. Although the story was fascinating as it weaved relationships in and out of the lives of the characters, it appeared that infidelity was a way of life. I gave my series of The Forsyte Saga to a mature friend.
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HALL OF FAMEon August 12, 2012
A labour of love for writer/producer Donald Wilson, the BBC's sprawling 1967 miniseries of THE FORSYTE SAGA is still the benchmark upon which all the great costume dramas must be measured against. Based on the legendary series of novels by John Galsworthy ("The Man of Property", "Indian Summer of a Forsyte", "In Chancery", "Awakening" and "To Let"), the story follows three generations of the Forsyte family, whose lives are all forever changed by incidents surrounding key figures Soames, Irene and Young Jolyon.

The story begins in the late 1800's. Trapped in a loveless marriage, watercolour painter Young Jolyon (Kenneth More) earns the ire of his family and must make his own fortune when he runs off with governess Helene Hilmer (Lana Morris). This action forever splinters the Forsyte family and makes Young Jolyon even more of a "black sheep" than he was before.

On the other side of the family, Young Jolyon's cousin Soames (Eric Porter), a successful London solicitor, is intent on marrying the lovely Irene Heron (Nyree Dawn Porter). Nudged on by her unscrupulous stepmother and repulsed by the lecherous advances of her prospective new stepfather, Irene makes no secret that she doesn't love Soames, but eventually accepts his proposal, on the condition that, if the marriage doesn't succeed, he'll let her be free. This promise will haunt the pair for the rest of their lives. Several years pass, in which time Irene hasn't learned to love her domineering, martinet husband. Instead, she has fallen into an affair with architect Philip Bosinney (John Bennett) - the fiancé of Young Jolyon's now-grown daughter June (June Barry).

Soames' sister Winifred (Margaret Tyzack) stumbles along in a shambolic marriage to Montague "Monty" Dartie (Terence Alexander), an alcoholic womaniser and wastrel who (apart from two children) brings her nothing but grief. Long-separated from Irene and yearning to get married and start a family with the lovely young Annette (Dalia Penn), Soames pushes Irene to a divorce, only to find that she has fallen into the sympathetic arms of Young Jolyon.

Despite the deep feud surrounding Soames and Young Jolyon, the two sides of the Forsyte family stubbornly refuse to stay estranged, as evidenced when Young Jolyon's daughter Holly (Suzanne Neve) falls in love with Winifred's son Val (Jonathan Burn). As the story moves into the 1920's, the spotlight shifts to the lives of Soames' now-grown daughter Fleur (Susan Hampshire), Irene's son Jon (Martin Jarvis) and their own stormy romance - made all the more painful and difficult in the wake of their parents' bitter past union.

Donald Wilson fought passionately for many years to secure the rights to THE FORSYTE SAGA, still owned at the time by MGM (who had created a film from the first novel entitled "That Forsyte Woman" in the 1940's but hadn't touched the property since). Notably, THE FORSYTE SAGA was one of the final BBC series taped in B&W - Donald Wilson himself said he would have preferred the series in colour, but it must be said that the story does lend itself beautifully to the B&W palette, especially in the Victorian/Edwardian portions (where, amongst other events, real footage of the death of Queen Victoria was able to be seamlessly incorporated into the drama). The photography also provides a haunting, ethereal quality to many scenes. Donald Wilson worked with a small coterie of writers (Anthony Steven, Lawrie Craig, Vincent Tilsley, Constance Cox and Lennox Phillips), who together managed to reign together Galsworthy's labyrinthine maze of plots into a steady series of 26 fifty-minute episodes.

Picture and sound quality greatly varies in this DVD boxset but on the whole the quality is surprisingly good (although certain episodes look better than others). The BBC took great care of the series and it appears that the original studio 'quad-tapes' were used in the remastering for this DVD collection. There are several fascinating extras included on the last DVD, including some rare colour footage taken from the taping of the final episode; and some illuminating on-set interviews with Donald Wilson, costume supervisor Joan Ellacott and cast members Kenneth More, Nyree Dawn Porter, Eric Porter, Maggie Tyzack, Nicholas Pennell and Susan Hampshire.
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on January 7, 2016
Oh my. Who knew the late Victorians were so decadent -- ripping bodices, having adulterous affairs and children out of wedlock, in a series that gave birth to "Masterpiece Theatre," catapulted Susan Hampshire to the first of three Emmy awards and revived Kenneth More's flagging career. But such is the quality of showrunner Donald Wilson and script staff's adaptation that this adaptation of John Galsworthy's novels that it never devolves into the mere soap opera of, say, "Downton Abbey." Here we have characters of depth, behaving in ways that are not always sympathetic but which keep one glued to the screen. Wilson & Co. also structure the episodes so that each one ends leaving us wanting more. It's a sad moment when the ultimate fade-out comes. True, some patience is advised for the back half of the saga, which is totally dominated by the character of Fleur (Hampshire) and is studded with longeurs that include subplots that don't go anywhere interesting and subsidiary characters of little purpose. Most of the richness lies in first half, filled to bursting with the older generations of Forsytes, whose loves and peccadilloes seem to pass all too swiftly.

As the central character, Soames Forsyte, the chiseled Eric Porter is watchable, complicated and -- if not sympathetic -- always understandable even at his most bestial. He is the firm spine that holds the series together. As another reviewer said, rightly, "Most compelling, compare Nyree Dawn Porter as Irene in 1969, with... well, there really is no comparison here." It is the perfect meeting of actress and role. Hampshire holds the series' back end up as best she can but Fleur is simply not drawn with the depth of Soames, Irene and Young Jolyon (More). The supporting cast is large and mostly splendid (the two British actors attempting to play Americans from North Carolina fail miserably, though), especially Margaret Tyzack as Winifred, Soames' patient sister. Michael York even turns up briefly, as the ill-fated Jolly Forsyte.

Warner Bros. has done an outstanding job with the presentation, right down to the handsome packaging. Bonus features include deleted scenes, alternate takes, behind-the-scenes footage, 41 minutes of outtakes, cast interviews, two British talk shows devoted to the series' impact -- including one called "Soames vs. Irene," plus cast biographies. A great deal of loving care was obviously taken to bring this to home video. Yes, the imagery is sometimes grainy, but we are talking about video tapes that are pushing 50 years old. This "Forsyte Saga" gripped me as the BBC color remake did not and I recommend it heartily.
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