Pride & Prejudice: Keepsake Edition (Blu-ray)

A&E Home Video / 1995 / 611 min / NR

The Show:

I once asked my grandpa why he watches all those British period pieces and Jane Austen adaptations with grandma. He said that while he didn't much care for the stories he enjoyed the production values of the costumes and environments. I finally realized what he meant after seeing at least a dozen Masterpiece Theaters and BBC miniseries. The same stories get adapted so many times that the only thing you can really judge them by is the acting and production. And if you're looking for the best of the batch when it comes to classic tale of Pride & Prejudice, nothing can beat the 1995 miniseries.

So what exactly raises this particular interpretation of the classic novel above the mass of other versions in the media? For one, the casting is perfect. You completely buy Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. They inhabit these classic roles so well with the precise amount of emotional tone and humor that most actors would gloss over. They are not merely phoning it in nor do they allow themselves to be mere props for the spectacular scenery. Essentially, they help to not only enhance the tale's theme of pursuing passion, but give it a surprising amount of depth. Credit should also be given to the stellar supporting cast who are able to keep up with the main roles just as well.

And, of course, I have to discuss the crucial role of the 19th century eye candy. Shot in the village of Lacock, England, director Simon Langdon achieves the perfect level of ambiance. The vivid countryside and detailed interior designs do an exceptional job of placing you right in that period. It's all infused with a timeless appeal similar to the story itself. But, most importantly, it maintained the illusion. It's far too easy for these types of productions to slip into soap opera territory and this mini-series manages to avoid every pitfall with grace. There are too many great scenes to drink in from the horseback rides across the grassy plains to the decadent parties. The production values are so high at times you forget that this was just a mini-series.

Keep in mind this is from the perspective of a reviewer who never really cared much for Pride & Prejudice. It never really did much for me, but this production helped elevate my interest. So I guess I've inherited my grandfather's appreciation for these period pieces. Sure, the story has never been my particular cup of tea, but I know a great mini-series when I see one. I don't always watch Jane Austen productions, but when I do I prefer the 1995 Pride & Prejudice mini-series.

The Disc:

Similar to the previous Blu-ray release from A&E, this is unbelievable quality. Transferred from the original 16mm film source, this is a top-notch remastering with great color, little compressions and a handsome 1.78:1 widescreen video for a 1080p transfer. The same goes for the audio with a crystal clear Dolby Digital 2.0. It's amazing how spectacularly this miniseries from the 90's has been restored to the highest possible quality.

The Extras:

In addition to the carry-over extras from the previous release, there are four new featurettes included. Each one examines a different aspect of the story and production which includes the book itself, marriage of the time period, the soundtrack and the wealthy lifestyles of the 19th century. These are fairly in-depth examinations with lots of interviews from experts and detailed discussions of all things Pride and Prejudice.

Carry-over extras include some interviews, a look at the elaborate restoration process of the video, another long documentary on the production of the miniseries and a walkabout of the sets.

Our Say:

If you have to see only one production of Pride and Prejudice in your lifetime, make it this one. It's well-acted, beautifully shot and looks particularly handsome on this lavish Blu-ray set. In other words, it's one of the best mini-series BBC has ever produced. Highly recommended for hardcore Austen fans and newcomers alike.