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Pride and Prejudice
BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 327 mins . G . PAL

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While Jane Austen's classic novel about the five Bennett sisters and their search for suitable partners might seem more than a little bit quaint and un-PC to modern audiences unfamiliar with Austen's work, Pride And Prejudice is undeniably a well-crafted tale. Set in the rarefied world of English high society in the early 1800s, it's an intricately-observed look at both the manners and oddities of the upper-class of the time that plays today more as a satirical comedy than a serious drama - though Austen devotees may disagree on that point!

This six-episode BBC production was made in 1995 and is of the highest standard - this is, after all, the stuff that the BBC specialises in, and the talented cast - particularly American stage actor Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett - bring this classic drama from another time to life in much the same way Kenneth Branaugh did with Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The exquisite (and largely baroque) music used throughout was written by Carl Davis, who also composed the memorable theme for The World At War.

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BBC DVDs have always been of generally high quality, and this one's no exception, with the six episodes placed three apiece across two dual-layer discs. The second disc features a bonus Making-Of half-hour featurette, also produced for television.

Shot entirely on 16mm film, Pride And Prejudice does suffer from a fairly lacklustre telecine transfer - 16:9 enhanced, it's saturated and rich enough but does suffer from a gauze-like haze over the image, a common problem in film transfers intended for broadcast TV. What you're basically getting here is a pristine, best-available copy of the TV master tapes, and with that in mind the DVD transfer is fine - the crystal-clear opening and end titles prove the quality of the authoring here. Remember, too, that this production and its transfer pre-dates DVD. The audio, in two-channel stereo, is crisp and vibrant, if a little too compressed.

Fans of this excellent mini-series, though, will not be looking for 21st Century state-of-the-art, and will not be disappointed with this release, which once again shows how handy the DVD format is when it comes to TV series.


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