DVD releases of new Austen adaptations in Netherlands and Australia

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Alert Janeite Aad, who keeps us up to date on Dutch DVD releases, let us know that House of Knowledge has released a 3-DVD set called “Klassieke Boekverfilmingen,” which includes MP07, NA07, and E96 (Beckinsale). (The cover shows a photoshop of Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse, and John Thorpe. We’d like to be a fly on the wall at THAT tea party.) Aad commented,

Personally I find this release a bit of a letdown, several productions cramped together in a hideous ‘faux’ classic book-design box. Uncertain about the possible release of decent ‘single’ dvd’s, this could be the only way Dutch fans could get these Austen adaptations, so I would recommend getting the original English dvd’s.

Aad also let us know that on April 11, Just Entertainment will release a 6-disc set, collecting their previous releases of Northanger Abbey 1986, Persuasion 2007, Pride and Prejudice 1980, and S&S71, and Becoming Jane will be released by A-Film on May 8.

Also, Alert Janeite Lucy discovered that a three-DVD set including E96, NA07, and MP07 will be released in Australia (Region 4) on March 3. Lucy suspects that means NA and MP at least will be shown on Sunday, March 2, as they usually release DVDs immediately after television broadcasts, but the ABC television guide does not at present go past March 1. So keep your fingers crossed down under–you might be seeing these soon in some form or other.

The Very Secret Diary of Henry Tilney, Part the Second

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So then I staked itBy request, and because it amuses us much more than it should. Part the First may be found here.

Day 7: Went to Cotillion Ball, danced with Miss M. The troglodyte tried to talk to her. Upon closer inspection, appears to be a werewolf. Definitely need to keep poor girl away from that one. Fortunately she appears to have understood the muslin bit. Still the wittiest.*

Day 8: Realized today that Miss M.’s particular friend is a succubus. Exposed upthrust bosom is dead giveaway. Remember tried to teach warning signs to Bertram at Oxford, but he would have none of it. Wanker.

Day 9: Received note from Sir W— E— in Camden-place. Typical story, hides true identity behind facade of upper-class idiot, blah de blah de blah. Thinks Miss M. may be The One. Lovely girl, but hardly demon warrior–though she DID go out driving with werewolf rather than take country walk with us; and perhaps has chosen succubus as particular friend in order to study method of defeating her. Hmm.

Day 10: Eleanor practicing with nunchuks in sitting-room. V. annoying when she shows off fancy ninja training, also frightens the servants. A good sturdy stake is all I’ve ever needed. Maybe a bottle of holy water as backup.

Day 11: Sir W.E. wants me to train Miss M. Beechen Cliff excellent spot. Saw Miss M. at theatre. Pretended to be annoyed with her for skipping walk–worked like a charm, she tumbled Mrs. Allen’s gown while assuring me that she has no regard for werewolf. Definitely understood the muslin bit.

Day 12: Walked at Beechen Cliff with Miss M. and Eleanor. Miss M. likes horrid novels. An excellent beginning.

*Full attribution to Sophie; too brilliant to not use.

The Complete Jane Austen News Roundup: Are We Outraged Yet? Edition

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As we mentioned previously, the news flow around The Complete Jane Austen is slowing down some, but has not completely stopped. We found a common theme among some of the latest items: either they express outrage at the latest crop of adaptations, or spark outrage in the reader.

Alert Janeite Surreyhill sent us a review of Mansfield Park from the Flick Filosopher, who apparently took Agent Scully’s ridiculous introduction of MP07 a little too much to heart.

There’s a term for characters like Fanny Price: Mary Sue. And it’s not a particularly nice term. Mary Sues are stand-ins for the author, the author idealized, as Fanny surely must be for Jane Austen in Mansfield Park. Fanny is beautiful, kind, faultless yet modest, noble of heart and spirit but of humble origins that prevent her from being spoiled. She is, in a word, perfect. Fanny may have pleased Austen herself, but she makes for less than compelling drama for the rest of us, at least in the new adaptation of the novel that just aired on Masterpiece Theater, and lands on DVD today.

WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.

And misses the whole bloody point of the book. Thanks for playing, enjoy your lovely parting gift. (And we’ve thought of another Fact About Fanny Price: Fanny Price knows you don’t like her, and knows it doesn’t matter.)

Alert Janeite Lisa sent us an interview with Virginia Newmyer, who was to lecture on Jane Austen films at the Corcoran, and expresses her opinions very, um, decidedly.

» EXPRESS: Do you think that, overall, the film adaptations have done a good job at capturing Austen’s novels?
» NEWMYER: I can’t say that, because they started adapting “Pride and Prejudice” [practically] in silent films. They’re not all good. I’ve seen most of this stuff and I know the books quite well. I mean, Andrew Davies did the miniseries adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” — that was absolutely wonderful — but he’s done some of these things that are on television this January that are not worthy of him or of Jane Austen.

I don’t insist on faithful adaptations. One of the best adaptations is Patricia Rozema’s adaptation of “Mansfield Park” and she turns it into a modern look at Jane Austen. “Mansfield Park” is the most problematic of Jane Austen’s books — of the good ones — and Rozema removed all the problems.

*head explodes*

There’s more. Keep reading. We shall retire to Bedlam.

Theresa Hogue expresses genteel outrage with the films so far in the Corvallis (Oregon) Gazette Times. We enjoyed it up until…

Of the three so far that have aired in the series, I can safely say that “Northanger Abbey,” was not only faithful to the text,

Not really. How much more “delightful” would Henry Tilney have been if he had been allowed the witty and intelligent dialogue that Jane Austen gave him, instead of a watered-down rewrite?

Many Gentle Readers are no doubt rolling their eyes at the Editrix once again beating that particular dead horse, but this shows why it’s important.

Northanger Abbey, another Masterpiece Theatre piece, was the first of Austen’s novels to be published.

WRONG!

From a modest family, Catherine’s interactions with the group, coupled with her increasing jump into a fantasy land, make it an interesting concept but a flawed story.

As we were saying…

It shows all the hallmark of a writer struggling to find her voice, and the film reflects it.

Uh, no. The narrator in Northanger Abbey is confident and knows exactly what she is doing. Don’t blame Jane Austen for bad rewrites of her work.

Despite all evidence, we’re still looking forward to Miss Austen Regrets this weekend, not having heard any real evil of it (and the producers having presumably learnt from the experience of Becoming Jane to not attempt to dress up a Made Up Story in truth’s clothing and shine on the Janeites with it)…though the reviews are not exactly promising.

Laurel Ann Nattress has written a review for PBS’ Remotely Connected blog:

I admire how the story succeeds in interweaving moments that parallel scenes or lines from Jane Austen’s novels, or is it scenes or lines from her life that make it into her novels? Art imitating life and it is believable. We see Jane represented honestly and with integrity as a strong woman who made a decision to write instead of marrying without love. Her choices would be against the norms of society, disappointing her family and adding pressure and financial stress in her life. How could anyone not regret the outcome of such adversity?

Ms. Place doesn’t hate it, but is dissatisfied.

I won’t review the entire film for you. Just suffice it to say that if I had been the director of this tale, I would have emphasized that single women do find fulfillment in pursuing their talents, in nurturing family relationships, and in being true to their vision. I wish the plot had dwelled more on the creative, talented side of Jane, instead of her constant worry for money.

And Maureen Ryan at the Chicago Tribune thinks it’s a mess.

Far from shedding light on what made Austen a peerless examiner of the human condition, “Miss Austen Regrets” is an irritating, poorly paced misfire.

Ouch! But this part made us happy:

scenes of Jane ruthlessly, even cruelly, satirizing well-meaning clerics and clerks behind their backs.

HA HA! Can’t wait! What was that about Miss Jane Austen would find sarcasm the lowest form of wit again? 😛

A public service announcement of the Janeite Broadcasting Network

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We want to clear up a few rumors and misapprehensions we’ve seen bandied about the Intartubes the past couple of weeks.

1. Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park were two hours long when they were broadcast in the UK and only 90 minutes on the Masterpiece broadcast and Region 1 DVDs!

Those three films were all broadcast at 92-93 minutes (this is according to the Region 2 DVD cases). They were never two hours long. Ever. Even in script version. (We shall comment on that presently.)

1b. They would be so much better if we could see the whole thing!

From someone who has seen the “uncut” versions: Afraid not. Really. 🙂

2. Andrew Davies did a hack job on Mansfield Park and Persuasion!

Andrew Davies had nothing to do with writing the scripts for those two films. He also had nothing to do with Miss Austen Regrets, which has yet to be broadcast. The PBS press releases were confusing; we had previously corresponded with one journalist who claimed in an article that he wrote the scripts for “the four new films,” so we made bold to write her a friendly note correcting her error. She wrote back insisting, “That’s what the press release said.” It didn’t, but she thought it did. So there’s a lot of confusion on this point.

Don’t blame Masterpiece for the first three films only being 90-some minutes long. That’s what they bought. Blame ITV. Though why anyone thought 90 minutes was sufficient time for any of these is beyond us, and why limit the running time of a TV movie anyway? Why not make it a two-parter? Two 60-minute episodes? We can speculate, a little bit. We have a copy of the original script of NA, which is 89 pages long. The generally assumption is one page of script equals one minute of running time. The script that we have is nearly the one that was shot; minus one scene in which Catherine walks in on Henry while he is bathing and plus the visit to Woodston, such as it was. The apple-picking scene was not in the script, but there is a similar “montage of General-free fun at NA” sort of thing in there. But generally it is the same.

Cub Reporter Heather L. has a good history of the long journey from page to screen of this particular production in her NA review at Remotely Connected. The script came into our possession while it was owned by Miramax and seemed dead in the water. (Our understanding is that it was being seeded around the Internet to raise interest amongst Janeites. We’ve been complaining about it ever since. 😉 ) There were a few false starts, but nothing really positive until after the success of P&P05 and the resulting resurgence in interest, at least among the entertainment Powers That Be, in Jane Austen.

So we’re not sure why the script was written to be 90 minutes. It could be that Andrew Davies felt that the best length for the film. It could be that was the length he was originally given by London Weekend Television. In that case, one could hardly “blame” Mr. Davies for the length of the film. However, if he was unhappy with that length, why wouldn’t he then rewrite it to be, say, two 60-minute episodes? So we presume it’s exactly the length he thought it should be.

Further speculating (we stress that this is SPECULATION, but it makes an awful lot of sense): ITV bought one script at 90 minutes. It therefore would make sense that it would contract for the other two films in its planned series to be approximately the same length.

We also have comments on record from Mr. Davies that the BBC originally wanted his new version of Sense and Sensibility (which is getting good reviews, but many thought was a little too short for a TV series) to be four 60 minute episodes, but he thought three was better. Why? When Pride and Prejudice, a novel of similar length, required 6 50-minute episodes, or five hours? And even his Emma was 107 minutes, which is a little better (but still too short–the theatrical film is 120 minutes).

So, while we can’t place direct blame on Mr. Davies for Persuasion and Mansfield Park, it is clear that there is a pattern with him of contracting Jane Austen’s novels to short films–perhaps shorter than they should be–and we can speculate that the length of his script for NA dictated the length of MP and Persuasion, all of which, it is generally agreed, would be improved with at least an extra half-hour. One of the selling points of the ITV “Jane Austen Season” was that “each generation deserves its own Jane Austen adaptations.” Too bad this generation gets the short-attention-span versions.

Spanish (Region 2) DVDs of new MP, NA, P adaptations

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Alert Janeite Carmen let us know that the latest adaptations of Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion either are or shortly will be available in Spain (Region 2). These DVDs contain English and Spanish audio tracks and subtitles. MP is available now, NA and P will be available on February 4.

A 3-pack of the new films also will be available on February 4 that will save some money over buying them separately.

MP: DVDGOEl Corte Inglés
NA: DVDGOEl Corte Inglés
P: DVDGOEl Corte Inglés
Package – DVDGOEl Corte Inglés

El Corte Inglés also has the special edition of P&P05 that comes with a 64-page book; not sure what that could be! A Making-Of type thing, perhaps?

Take the magic home

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We’ve collected the news on the DVD front for the most recent adaptations.

Northanger AbbeyA big piece of news is that the Region 1 DVD for Northanger Abbey does not restore the cuts made to the original British broadcast version. Approximately nine scenes have been cut–nearly ten minutes. It should be pointed out that North American audiences for the most part are not equipped to watch Region 2 DVDs. The percentage of AustenBlog readers might be larger, but looking at the larger Janeite diaspora, many people will buy the DVD and never know that they’re missing something. Although we were not that impressed with the films, it seems a shame to us.

PersuasionThe cuts made for broadcast have been restored on the Persuasion DVD. As Cinthia has pointed out, Persuasion is distributed by BBC America. Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park are distributed by WGBH Home Video. We don’t know why the cuts were made or who is at fault for perpetrating them. WGBH might not have had a choice in the matter. It’s a nonsensical decision however one looks at it. The MP DVDs, we believe, ship this week, and we’ll see if anything has been cut; it’s more than likely.

Sense and SensibilityOn the bright side, S&S and Miss Austen Regrets are BBC productions (huzzah!) and, like Persuasion, will be distributed by BBC America; therefore we are confident that whatever might be broadcast, the DVDs will contain the full version. There is some confusion about what exactly is contained on the DVDs. WGBH is selling a three-disc “collector’s edition” that, according to the site, has S&S and Persuasion and Miss Austen Regrets as a “special bonus.” The two-disc set has S&S and Miss Austen Regrets, as well as audio commentaries (rumor has it the Region 2 version has commentaries by Charity Wakefield, Dominic Cooper, Hattie Morahan, and Dan Stevens), interviews with producer Anne Pivcevic and writer Andrew Davies, a photo gallery, and deleted scenes (these are presumably *in addition* to a full original cut–there is no reason at present to think that the film on the DVD is cut in any way, but of course we will keep our readers informed). Presumably the 3-disc set includes these extras as well but we do not know that definitively; it makes sense that the extra disc would be Persuasion, though. Amazon also is carrying the two-disc set (we hasten to add that S&S does NOT, repeat does NOT, star Colin Firth. For crying out loud) and the three-disc collector’s edition. That’s what we’re talking about, Gentle Readers! That’s how you treat Janeites! Give us some value for our money. They wanted an Internet-savvy audience; that means a global audience, an educated audience, and it’s a little harder to pull the wool over our eyes.

Alert Janeite Julie P. sent us reviews of the Persuasion and Northanger Abbey DVDs by one Paul Mavis at DVD Talk. He likes both of them, and scolds the dried-up tar-hearted spinster purists. How special.

Region 1 NA 2007 DVDs do not restore scenes from Region 2

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We heard from Alert Janeite Cinthia, who preordered the new Persuasion and Northanger Abbey Region 1 DVDs and received them on Saturday. She reports that on the NA DVD, scenes have cut from the original ITV broadcast. Running time is listed on the DVD as 86 minutes. We’re trying to get more information.

ETA: Cinthia reports that Persuasion is the full version as broadcast in the UK. It lists a running time of 93 minutes, which we believe is the same as the original ITV broadcast (the PBS broadcast was 7 minutes or so shorter). She also said the film is distributed by BBC America, and NA by WGBH Video, as is MP, so we suspect the DVD of that film might be similarly cut as well. You will recall that NA and MP were distributed in Region 2 by a different company from the Persuasion distributor. All three films were produced by different companies, so Clerkenwell must have struck their own deals.

It would probably help if we had a rundown of exactly what scenes were cut for the PBS broadcast. It is possible that they restored some but not all of the scenes cut for broadcast. Post in comments if you noticed a missing scene that isn’t listed.

Cut from NA for the PBS broadcast (we’ll add to this as we get more info)

–Catherine and Mrs. Allen at the Rooms; they go into the tea room, have “how uncomfortable it is to have no acquaintance” conversation; Isabella and John Thorpe stare at Catherine and giggle together
–In the carriage after the ball, Mr. Allen tells Catherine that he investigated Henry’s background, and he is a clergyman (Catherine pulls a sullen face at the news)
–Catherine’s bathtub fantasy scene
–Catherine and Isabella running after young men who ogled them in the Pump Room
–Catherine, Eleanor, and Henry on a second country walk. Catherine and Eleanor discuss marriage for love vs. marriage for money, Isabella and Frederick, and Catherine confesses to Eleanor that she has “terrible dreams sometimes.”
–Catherine saying goodbye to the Allens; Mr. Allen observes, “Those great people don’t like to be kept waiting”
–Catherine and Eleanor run through Northanger to make dinner on time
–Apple tossing scene
–Catherine burning copy of Udolpho

Cinthia reports all of these scenes are missing on the DVD.