Christmas DVD Review – ‘North & South’ (1975)

Hello everyone! 🙂

Welcome to ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog and I’m Tim Bradley!

For Christmas 2018, I gave my Mum a Blu-ray edition of ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’. I also gave her a DVD of the 1975 BBC TV adaptation of ‘North & South’, starring Patrick Stewart and Rosalind Shanks. My parents and I enjoyed this interesting adaptation of the original novel by Elisabeth Gaskell.

Beforehand, my parents and I saw the 2006 BBC TV adaptation of ‘North & South’, starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. Thus we knew what to expect in terms of the story when coming to watch the 1975 version. It was a pretty different viewing experience compared to the 2006 version!

The story of ‘North & South’ is set in the 19th century and is about a young woman named Margaret Hale who with her family moves away from her idyllic village in Southern England to live in an industrial Northern town where there’s a cotton factory. There, Margaret attracts the attention of Mr. Thornton.

‘North & South’ explores a lot of issues regarding class and gender that happened in the 19th century around that time in the Industrial Revolution. John Thornton, who is a cotton factory owner, has a growing attraction for Margaret Hale, but it clashes with her support towards the town’s mill workers.

And yes of course, Patrick Stewart stars as Mr. Thornton in this 1975 TV adaptation of ‘North & South’. Patrick Stewart is well-known for playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. This was way before Patrick Stewart went on to star in ‘Star Trek’ itself as well as in the ‘X-Men’ movies.

It was extraordinary to see Patrick Stewart in an earlier role in his acting career before he did ‘Star Trek’ and ‘X-Men’. Patrick of course is an actor of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was also pretty eerie to watch Patrick Stewart looking young with hair on his head before he went to become bald. 😀

Another interesting aspect about the 1975 BBC TV adaptation of ‘North & South’ is that it’s directed by Rodney Bennett. Rodney also directed ‘Doctor Who’ stories for the Tom Baker/Philip Hinchcliffe era. The tales include ‘The Ark In Space’, ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ and ‘The Masque of Mandragora’.

Because of this, I was able to recognise actors whom Rodney Bennett worked with when directing ‘Doctor Who’. These include Norman Jones as Mr. Higgins and…Ian Marter as Henry Lennox. WOW! Ian Marter who played Harry Sullivan in ‘Doctor Who’ was in this! This was something worth watching!

There’s also Tim Pigott-Smith as Frederick Hale, Margaret Hale’s brother. Tim Pigott-Smith was also in the 2006 version of ‘North & South’ playing the Mr. Hale, Margaret’s father character. I discovered this when reviewing ‘The Masque of Mandragora’. It is partly why I bought this for Mum on Christmas.

This version of ‘North & South’ also features Rosalind Shanks as Margaret Hale who I found very good in this. There’s also Rosalie Crutchley as Mrs. Thornton, John Thorton’s mother; Robin Bailey as Mr. Hale, Margaret’s father; Kathleen Byron as Mrs. Hale; Peggy Ann Wood as Dixon and Pamela Moiseiwitsch as Fanny, John Thornton’s sister. Cyril Luckham also stars in this adaptation as Mr. Benn.

What I noticed in terms of a difference between the 1975 and 2006 versions of ‘North & South’ is that the 1975 feels more theatrical than the 2006 version. My parents and I are rather spoilt by the 2006 version, especially since there seemed to be plenty going on and the drama was more dynamic in that.

The 1975 version did feel at times slow-going and there was a lot of talking between characters in certain scenes. There were also fewer scenes inside the cotton factory compared to the 2006 version. There is the rebellion scene in ‘Part Two’ of the story as the workers go on strike against Mr. Thornton.

And yes, like the 2006 version, this version of ‘North & South’ is divided into a four-part story with the episodes lasting the length of an hour. There also seemed to be plenty of deaths that happened very quickly especially for Mr. Hale and Mr. Benn’s character, which took me totally by surprise as I saw it.

Otherwise, this 1975 version of ‘North & South’ has been enjoyable to watch. I’m glad my Mum liked it when she saw it. I think it’s fair to say my Mum prefers the 2006 version compared to the 1975 version. The 1975 version seems tamer and it may be closer to the original book than the 2006 version.

But I’m glad my parents and I saw this version and it was exciting to watch Patrick Stewart in a role before he became properly famous in ‘Star Trek’ and the ‘X-Men’ films. Also…Ian Marter is in this?! I can’t get over how he makes an appearance in this! I just finished re-watching Season 12 of ‘Doctor Who’! 😀

Thanks for reading!

Bye for now!

Tim. 🙂


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