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Brideshead Revisited (1981) – DVD Review

Brideshead Revisited


Written by: John Mortimer based on the book by Evelyn Waugh
Directed by: Charles Sturridge and Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Starring: Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Diana Quick, Sir John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, and Sir Laurence Olivier


  • Brideshead Revisited Companion Guide
  • Production Notes
  • Photo Album
  • Cast and Crew Bios
  • “Behind the Scenes” at Castle Howard, the real Brideshead

Released by: Acorn Media
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: 1.33:1

My Advice: Rent it, if you like period dramas

Charles Ryder (Irons) is a melancholy British army officer in 1944. He has been assigned to move his brigade headquarters to a new location, a magnificent castle called Brideshead, the former home of the Marchmain family. Upon seeing Brideshead, he is swept back in time to his youth in 1922 when he was a student at Oxford. While there he meets Sebastian (Andrews), the youngest son of the Marchmain family. Sebastian takes him into the world of the privileged and introduces him to unbridled pleasures and charm. Charles is welcomed into the Marchmain family, despite Sebastian’s displeasure. Over the next twenty-two years, Charles plays an integral role in the Marchmain family affairs. He evolves from Sebastian’s dearest companion, to Sebastian’s sister Julia’s (Quick) fiance. He begins his journey with this family as a modest student and develops into an architectural painter, then to an army officer. Throughout the decades, he battles with his own struggles with being an agnostic as compared to the Marchmain family’s devout Catholicism.

[ad#longpost]This is a compelling epic and an enticing story. Over a whopping eleven hours, you really get to know Charles through his development from a naive student to a dejected and jaded middle-aged man. The locations are incredible! Castle Howard stood in for Brideshead. It is a remarkable palace and is still a pilgrimage site for fans of the series. It was also shot on location in Venice, Malta, Gozo, and throughout the UK.

The Special Features were weak for a series which contained such an ensemble of actors. They simply consisted of textual production notes and a slide show of cast and crew. There are textual biographies of cast and crew as well. One feature I was anticipating was the sneak peak behind the scenes at Castle Howard. I was surely disappointed. The castle is truly splendid and it was a real disappointment to only see a collection of stills.

Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder

One nice aspect of the DVD package, though, was the Companion Guide. It’s a textual guide to the making of Brideshead, notes about the author Evelyn Waugh, as well as episode descriptions and details on filming locations. They really should have incorporated all of this information into the DVD itself and at least had once of the directors talking about it. A talking head interview at the very least would have sufficed and given us something.

Sir Lawrence Olivier in Brideshead Revisited

Overall, I would recommend this title if you are an admirer of long series and have the patience to wait for a payoff. If you enjoy period films and really getting to know a character, you will find this intriguing. The performances by the cast are exceptional and Olivier even won an Emmy for his portrayal of Lord Marchmain. Don’t miss this if you take pleasure in a first-class British drama series.

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