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The Thorn Birds
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Based on the bestselling novel, the film follows a priest and his struggle between his calling and his carnal lusts.
The second most-watched miniseries (after Roots) of all time, The Thorn Birds was originally broadcast in 1983 and captivated viewers with its story of a lifelong conflict between the spirit and the flesh. Adapted from the bestselling novel by Colleen McCullough, the production stars Richard Chamberlain as a Catholic priest named Ralph de Bricassart, whose life in Australia between 1920 and 1962 is one long torment as he pines for his lover, Meggie Cleary (Rachel Ward), while seeking advancement in his clergyman career. The passion and the guilt make for compelling drama, but a stellar cast of supporting players adds muscle to the proceedings: Barbara Stanwyck (who won an Emmy for her work as Meggie's tough aunt), Jean Simmons, Richard Kiley, Christopher Plummer, Bryan Brown, and Mare Winningham. Chamberlain, who was something of the king of the miniseries form at the time, is very good in the lead, as is the often-underrated Ward. Their affair is indeed irresistible to watch, which proves to be true, too, of the story's thick weave of church politics, forbidden desire, social change over decades, and family secrets. --Tom Keogh
- The complete miniseries on two discs
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Kudos to Richard Chamberlain and to Rachel Ward for fine performances of yesteryear. "The Missing Years" sequel
should have casted Rachel Ward. Chamberlain was the perfect "Father Ralph" and Ward was the only "Meggie."
`The Thorn Birds' boasts an excellent cast of well-knowns and lesser-knowns along with some bright, new faces that for the most part delivered the most memorable performances of the production. Of course if you've seen the film you already know that when I speak of bright new faces I'm primary referring to the enchanting, adorable Sydney Penny in the role of little Meggie Cleary as the child who steals the heart of Father Ralph de Bricassart (Richard Chamberlain), the ambitious Catholic priest who is to become trapped forever between his desires for both divine and human love.
The first half of the film featuring Sydney Penny is by far my favorite. Her relationship with the adoring Priest is innocent and nurturing and Sydney's smile lights up the screen with such warmth and love you can't help but fall in love with both her and the storyline.
Eventually Meggie grows up and is replaced by the stunning Rachel Ward, definitely not a bad swap but unfortunately from that point onward the film takes on the mood and texture of a harlequin romance dominated by Father Ralph's inability to act decisively and choose who he loves more, God or Meggie. The portrayal of his constant "inner struggle" made the plot a little too redundant at times. I think if I had heard him say "but I love God more" just one more time I might go mad.
Of course what irritates one viewer is quite often just what other viewers are looking for and I'm certain that some of what I've written will be preceived as a lack of sensitivity and experience in the ways of the heart (such is the fate of men). Be that as it may, the long enduring popularity of this film certainly cannot be denied, nor dismissed and its long overdue release on DVD is without doubt going to find a large, passionate audience anxiously awaiting to have their hearts broken all over again.
My Rating: -4 ½ Stars-.