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DVD: Oscar Wilde BBC Collection, The (1969-1988) - 2-disc set
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May 21, 2002



Genre: Television/Drama  
Classic BBC productions of Oscar Wilde's plays: "The Importance Of Being Earnest" (1988), "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" (1976), "An Ideal Husband" (1969) and "Lady Windemere's Fan" (1985)  



Directed by:

Screenplay by: Oscar Wilde
Music by: various
Produced by: various

Nicholas Ball,  Judi Bowker,  Jeremy Brett,  Charles Carson,  Keith Cranham,  Peter Firth,  Rupert Frazer,  Sir John Gielgud,  Sara Hampshire,  Gemma Jones,  Sara Kestelman,  Robert Lang,  Margaret Leighton,  Helena Little,  Alex McCowen,  Paul McGann,  Keith Mitchell,  Natalie Ogle,  Joan Plowright,  Gillian Raine

Content Length: 408 mins Process/Ratio: 1.33:1
Colour Anamorphic DVD: No  
Languages: English Mono
Special Features :  

Plays: "The Importance Of Being Earnest" (110 mins), "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" (98 mins), "An Ideal Husband" (82 mins), "Lady Windemere's Fan" (117 mins) / Documentary: "The Life And Loves Of Oscar Wilde" 8 chapters (60 mins)

Comments :

The works of Oscar Wilde shall forever be examples of a brilliant mind that was effectively neutered by a Victorian scandal, when Wilde was jailed for two years for homosexual activities.

This excellent collection features four of Wilde's best-known works, originally produced for the BBC, with veteran and then-up-and-comers in British theatre. Photographed on videotape, the limitations of the older tube cameras and early lenses are evident, with noticeable grain in darker scenes, and variable levels of soft focus. The overall production of the teleplays, though, is quite rich, showing off the ornate set décor and creamy colour schemes. "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" offers some interesting off-white shades of green, whereas "The Importance of Being Earnest" exploits the heavy contrasts between Victorian red, green and woody brown.

The original mono soundtracks are a bit hissy and low, but relatively clean, since the emphasis was on dialogue, and the rudimentary sound effects and sparse music are well-balanced. The documentary, "The Life And Loves Of Oscar Wilde," contains an excellent stereo mix, with aggressive music, layered sound effects and dialogue. Similarly, the doc's visuals are quite rich, and though there's some grain and slight artifacting, the transfer is quite good.

More than six and a half hours of play material are padded with informative cast notes, featuring brief bios and key film/tv credits. Basic synopsis and brief cast highlights are spread between the outer slipcase and the rear DVD case, but a more meaty history of these productions would have placed them in a more precise context; it's fine that they're identified as legendary BBC productions, but a recap of the network's mandate and broadcast history should have been included.

Disc 2 includes the excellent 1995 BBC documentary on Oscar Wilde's life, which combines textured graphics - various sets, oversized vintage photographs - with layered audio narratives. Using spoken fragments from Wilde's correspondences, plays and court speeches, these recreations bridge segments with two key participants: Oscar Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland; and Lady Alice Douglas, great-grandniece of Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas.

Sadness and overwhelming tragedy colour the documentary, as Holland states the original family name has remained a mark of shame for 100 years - unused and abandoned, even by Holland, who had a chance to legally change his name but felt the timing still wasn't right. Lady Douglas hid her family's true shame from close friends - it was her great-grandfather who pilloried Wilde in three court challenges, ultimately destroying his life - and now carries openly the family guilt, having chosen a career rehabilitating convicts, so she can comprehend Wilde's suffering, and assist those sharing a similar fate.

© 2002 Mark R. Hasan

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