01/01/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
Region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD 1317. 4 DVDs 505 minutes 18 * 25 minute episodes plus extras. Price: it varies but I pulled it before the current GBP15.00 (UK) price. You can pull a black cover edition for about GBP 6.00 (UK) which looks like it has the same content) .
It’s hard to believe that this third version of the ‘Chronicles Of Narnia’ is some twenty-two years old at the time of me writing this review. I would have loved to have seen the first TV version from 1967 again because even that one, where even Aslan walked on two feet had some charm. With the new films setting up a new mark in production, seeing how the BBC did theirs again seemed a little overdue. Made over two years, the series ended with ‘The Silver Chair’, leaving three books unadapted. It’ll be interesting to see whether these will be made as films. If you’re getting pangs for more Narnia, then it might be appropriate to watch these.
The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
cast: Richard Dempsey, Sophie Cook, Jonathan R. Scott, Sophie Wilcox, Barbara Kellermann and Michael Aldridge
Do I have to elaborate on the elements of the story plot for you people out there? It should be pretty ingrained now. The four Pevensie children are evacuated from London and stay at an old house with a Professor and obnoxious housekeeper. Lucy finds her way into Narnia through a wardrobe and is befriended by Mr. Tumnus the faun who confesses that he was in the pay of the White Witch to hand any humans over to here. It is the White Witch who ensures it is always winter but never Christmas. Liking Lucy he decides not to do this and sees her home. As no time has really past the other children, Peter, Susan and Edmund, don’t believe her.
During a game of hide and seek, Lucy again uses the wardrobe to visit Tumnus, Edmund follows but meets and gets enchanted by the White Witch who really wants to meet his siblings. Lucy and Edmund meet in the forest but her brother says it’s all a story when they get home.
Eventually, they all get to Narnia and discover Tumnus has been taken to the White Witch and decide to rescue him. They are picked up by a beaver and at his and wife’s lodge, they are told Aslan is on the move. Distracted, they don’t spot Edmund has fled to the White Witch and they have to flee before they are attacked. Edmund discovers the White Witch’s promises are nothing and his siblings meet Father Christmas, as winter thaws, and finally Aslan. The great lion arranges for Edmund’s rescue but a later encounter with the White Witch has to redeem his own like for the traitor brother. Aslan’s self-sacrifice on the eve of war gives him a chance to restore the status frozen at the White Witch’s house and come to the rescue at the war. The siblings then become kings and queens of Narnia.
The plot is so ingrained that it can never be regarded as spoiler zone. Although the effects are somewhat limited by the budget, even a couple decades ago, they aren’t a deterrent from watching this six part series. Barbara Kellermann as the White Witch is truly scarey. Aslan himself might appear a little stiff but they had to work within the limitations of the day. By the way, Ailsa Berk who was part of the two team inside Aslan many years later went on to chorograph the cybermen and whathaveyou in ‘Doctor Who’.
cast: Richard Dempsey, Sophie Cook, Jonathan R. Scott, Sophie Wilcox, Big Mick, Jean Marc Perret and Robert Lang
The second two books were recorded as a second entity, mostly because it was realised that ‘Prince Caspian’ could not make a six-part serial. The splitting of the scenes with Caspian and the Pevensie children was cut a lot tighter.
With King Miraz out to kill the true heir to Narnia when his own wife has a baby son, Caspian flees and meets the real inhabitants of his kingdom. With most of them trapped at Aslan’s How, Caspian uses Susan’s magical horn to call for help and Trumpkin (actor Big Mick) goes to Cair Paravel to see who turns up. The Pevensie children rescue him and on the way back, they meet Aslan and Peter takes command to aid Caspian. This entails Peter battling Miraz in personal combat than all out war, although things don’t turn out quite as they should with the latter’s own lords seeing their own way to kingdom.
It’s amazing how much was squeezed into fifty minutes and still achieved the same aim and stayed faithful to the book.
The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader
cast: Sophie Cook, Jonathan R. Scott, David Thwaites, Samuel West, John Hallam and Warwick Davies
In many respects, ‘The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader’ lends itself better to episodic television than movies simply because it is a succession of stories as Prince Caspian (actor Samuel West) seeks out the missing seven lords than his now deceased uncle, King Miraz, banished from Narnia. Into this mix are the arrival of Lucy and Edmond and their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb (actor David Thwaites) to accompany Caspian and his crew aboard the Dawn Treader.
From sorting out the slave trade to Eustace being turned into a dragon to finding three lords asleeping, this series follows the novel closely and stands up well today.
The Silver Chair
cast: Tom Baker, David Thwaites, Camilla Power, Barbara Kellerman and Richard Henders
In many respects, I do wonder why the BBC didn’t continue and complete all seven books, especially as two of the stories are somewhat standalone. I’ve always felt ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ would have been something right up the Beeb’s tree but there was diminishing viewing figures with ‘The Silver Chair’, they never got further.
Again, this adaptation holds up rather well as Eustace (actor David Thwaites) and new companion, Jill Pole (actress Camilla Power) are looking for King Caspian’s lost son, Rillian. With them is the rather pessimistic Puddleglum who played by Tom Baker is a sadness to behold and a good choice of casting as the marsh-wiggle. Together, they travel into giants territory and finally underground in their pursuit. The end dialogue between them all and the Green Lady (actor Barbara Kellerman) practically takes a Shakespearian edge. If anything, the only real deviation from the book is the under-people not rejoicing in their release from the Green Lady but that’s a minor quibble.
I should also point out that Tony Harding, the man behind the special effects, and stunt co-ordinator Terry Welsh also contributed to the original ‘Doctor Who’ series for a number of years.
The extras look at how these series were made and a reunion of the four now adult Pevensie children, two of which are still actors was the most significant to me. On top of that, there is also a look at the costume design, out-takes and special effects. Although I doubt if your children will be interested in all of this, if you remember watching the series from young, seeing how it was all put together is still fascinating.
As it is, this selection of Narnia stories holds up well on a low budget compared to the recent films and if your spogs are impatient for the next film, this DVD should help them pass the time.
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