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Pride and Prejudice (Blu-ray Review)

9 Apr, 2009 By: John Latchem

Pride and Prejudice

Street 4/14/09
$49.95 two-disc Blu-ray
Not rated.
Stars Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle.

It doesn’t take a Jane Austen scholar to appreciate the excellence of the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. This new Blu-ray edition offers not only a great opportunity to introduce the show to those who haven’t seen it, but also makes a great gift for wives and mothers to whom it is a beloved treasure.

The six-part miniseries is widely considered to be the definitive Austen adaptation due in no small part to the exquisite performances of the leads — Colin Firth as the haughty Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as the astute Elizabeth Bennet. The program in its day inspired not only a renewed wave of Austen appreciation that persists more than a decade later, but also a revival of costume dramas in general.

The romantic plot, a rumination on marriage and social politics in 18th century England, is accessible to both men and women thanks to Andrew Davies’ wonderful script, which puts more emphasis on the male roles while maintaining the spirit of Austen’s original story and dialogue. That it somehow lost the 1996 Emmy for best miniseries to the Ted Danson version of Gulliver’s Travels is an astonishing oversight.

The high-def transfer has preserved a lot of the original film grain, giving the picture a very textured look, almost like a portrait. For a fuller appreciation of the restoration work, one need only compare the Blu-ray print’s quality to the bonus materials’ untouched versions of the scenes, which appear somewhat dark and undistinguished.

The best extra on the Blu-ray is the new featurette “Pride and Prejudice: A Turning Point for Period Drama,” highlighted by an insightful interview with Davies. The production caused a sensation in the British press, with one critic speculating it filled a cultural void opened by the split of Charles and Diana.

Carrying over from the DVD is the hourlong 10th anniversary behind-the-scenes retrospective “Lasting Impressions,” which features interviews with the producer and some of the actors but is sadly missing the reflections of Firth and Ehle. An adjunct to this special is the “Walkabout” of the estate used for the Bennet home, with actors Adrian Lukis (Wickham) and Lucy Briers (Mary). The Blu-ray sadly does not include the Austen “Biography” episode from the DVDs.

Rounding out the disc is a brief glimpse at the miniseries’ digital restoration, in which engineer Vincent Narduzzo relays his hopes that the process of scanning original negatives for high-def, though time consuming, could open the Blu-ray market to a wide array of classic television shows.

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