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Forsyte Saga Collection, The

Release Year:         2003 – 2004
Studio:         Acorn Media
Format:         Colour; NTSC; Widescreen
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         5/10
Running Time:         702 minutes + bonuses
DVD Release Date:         August 14, 2012
Creators:         Based on John Galsworthy’s epic Forsyte novels
Screenwriters:         Stephen Mallatratt
Actors:         Damian Lewis, Gina McKee, Rupert Graves, Ioan Gruffud, Julian Ovenden, Corin Redgrave
DVD Features:         SDH subtitles; 20 minutes making-of featurette; photo galleries; John Galsworthy biography and booklist; cast biographies and filmographies
E:Top Picks Rating:         9.5/10

Acorn Media Write-up:  
Featuring outstanding casts led by Damian Lewis (“Homeland”), THE FORSYTE SAGA COLLECTION arrives to DVD in a value-priced set from Acorn Media, including the two complete miniseries that tell the story of a family bitterly divided by ambition, adultery, and revenge. Based on John Galsworthy’s epic Forsyte novels, the sumptuously addictive adaptations impressed critics and fans alike when they aired on PBS’ Masterpiece theatre from 2003 – 2004 and were voted #2 on the list of viewers’ favourite programs of all time. Featuring sumptuous costumes, bold characterizations, and slow-burn action, the dramas also star Gina McKee (“Notting Hill”, “The Borgias”), Rupert Graves (“Sherlock”, “Garrow’s Law”), Ioan Gruffudd (“Horatio Hornblower”, “Ringer”), Julian Ovenden (“Foyle’s War”), and Corin Redgrave (“Trial & Retribution”). The DVD 5-disc boxed set includes the complete unedited UK broadcast edition, featuring more than 20 minutes of Series 1 footage not included in the edited US broadcast; as well as a bonus 20-minute making-of featurette, photo galleries, booklist, and more.

Spanning generations and chronicling one family’s turbulent transition to the modern age, Series 1 stars Damian Lewis as Soames, the scion of the wealthy Forsyte family. A model of Victorian repression, Soames is a successful London solicitor whose ruthless self-control is challenged by his covetous feelings for the beautiful but destitute Irene (Gina McKee). Longing to possess her, he makes a promise he is not ready to keep in order to make her his wife. Adultery, betrayal and sexual jealousy ensue as the tumultuous Forsyte clan encroaches on Soames’ seemingly golden existence. Based on the first two of John Galsworthy’s nine books about the Forsytes, this sweeping drama follows the family through two tumultuous decades that reflect the pivotal times in which they live.

Series 2 tells the story of young lovers in the next generation. They meet by chance as youngsters and make an indelible impression on each other. A decade later, unaware of the secret that so bitterly divides their families, they meet again and fall instantly – and disastrously – in love. This era in the saga of the privileged Forsytes unfolds amid the gaiety and social upheaval of the 1920s, the dawn of the modern age.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:    
Sumptuous, romantic, compelling.  The list of adjectives that could be compiled to describe this brilliant adaptation of the “Forsyte” novels of John Galsworthy would be lengthy indeed.  If your cup of tea is period drama, this high-class soap opera will quench your thirst.

The long shadow of the 1967 version of Galsworthy’s magnum opus has finally been matched (if not eclipsed) with this lovingly-produced series that presents multiple generations of the Forsyte family, a family of considerable means and flaws in late 19th-Century and early 20th-Century England.

A bit of history is needed to fully appreciate the achievement of this production.  In 1967, when Galsworthy’s novels were first serialized, THE FORSYTE SAGA became such a smash hit first in the U.K. and then in North America, that peoples’ social lives were impacted.  It was even the first BBC serial to be sold to the Soviet Union.  During its second broadcast in the U.K. on Sunday evenings extending into 1969, the final episode attracted some 18 million viewers.  While not in the same league as the Davy Crockett craze of the mid-1950s (when every boy in America had a ‘coon-skin cap), one must remember that the saga of the Forsytes is a period drama, not an historical adventure.  Programs like this aren’t expected to be this popular.  Yet that is precisely what it became.  Though wrongly attributed to be the first BBC soap opera, it was nonetheless the first mega-hit soap.  All this to say that it was inevitable that such a legendary production, drawn from such rich source material, should be made again, especially in light of the one flaw in the original version–the fact that it was one of the last major BBC productions to be shot in black and white video.

It isn’t always possible to say this, but here it is wholly applicable: “Thank Heaven for re-makes!”

At the centre of this panoramic family history is the conflicted, fascinating character of Soames Forsyte, played to perfection by Damian Lewis.  Considering Lewis was preceded by the great Eric Porter in the ’67 version (and Errol Flynn in a 1949 film adaptation!) this is high praise indeed.  Rupert Everett also stars as cousin Jolyon Forsyte, the black sheep of the family whose estrangement from the “respectable” Forsytes provides the basic foundation of the series.  Of the plethora of outstanding performances Corin Redgrave particularly, as Old Jolyon, is simply wonderful.  He should’ve won an award for his subtle, layered performance.  The only sour note in the acting department is the over-the-top caricaturing by Michael Maloney, who can’t seem to play any role straight and always seems to be winking at the audience with an “aren’t I clever” look about him.  This is a minor aberration in a splendid company of artists.

Production values are very high and there is rarely a false note, though the occasional use of distorted, almost “fish-eye” close-ups in the first series was a bit off-putting.  Such shots seemed “modern” and out of keeping with the look and feel of a period drama which has otherwise been so effectively realized.

Series 1 of THE FORSYTE SAGA is six 70-minute episodes.  Series 2 is four episodes.  You’ll want to immerse yourself as the series’ charm works its magic.  It is well worth the investment of your time.

One final thought: if the final shot of Damian Lewis as Soames Forsyte doesn’t move you, you are made of stone.  Lewis doesn’t say a word, but his silent statement speaks volumes.