I've wanted to write this for a while, but - nobody has seen this version! It's rather hard to find in a video store, for reasons that I'm sure have nothing to do with its quality. Then I found out it's on Youtube. In annoyingly short segments, of course, but bear with me. I thought, as an experiment, I would cover one segment at a time. Tell me what you think!
Each episode begins with this funny-lookin' cartoon that basically tells you the plot of the episode you are about to watch. I think the BBC put these in to spare people the horror that lies ahead. Also, notice that the title reads "Pride and Prejudice, or First Impressions." A nurse in her habit disturbs a man playing chess; a woman with prominent bosoms and a teal dress laughs hysterically in a crowded room; A fat man extends his abdomen to a lady while another man stands en pointe; a skeletal woman in an orange dress climbs over a stile, much to a hatted-man's delight; en pointe guy assaults woman in the orange dress while satyrs prance; and a silhouette of a fat man with amazingly skinny legs has a knife protruding in the abdomen.
Now, see, you don't have to watch the episode. That's what happens.
Oh, god. You're not turning it off. Look, you may not know what lies ahead, but I've seen the entire miniseries. Almost. Some parts are literally too painful to watch. I know what lies ahead, and it's not pretty. It's ugly. I mean this literally. I think the series was produced on ten pounds and whatever spare change the director had in his pocket at the moment. But, you know what? Fine. I'll do it. I'll keep watching.
Okay, starting again - oh, god, the opening scene. I'd expunged this part from my memory. Uncut, unshortened shot of a Regency-era woman in glasses trotting across a lawn. A big lawn. She pauses to talk to a guy with a cart, then runs back across the lawn. Fascinating.
Rockin' music there, right?
The glasses-wearing lady runs into the house, up the stairs, and announces "I know who is moving into Netherfield Park!" to a group of young'uns. Then they all lose interest and race upstairs.
Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Charlotte Lucas (in the hat) tells Elizabeth (in the 80s perm) that "he" is Mr. Bingley. I could pretend that I don't know who they are, but that would be doing you a disservice. Charlotte sighs that Bingley is rich and young and it's such good luck that he's coming. Charlotte Lucas: doesn't think highly of men or matrimony! Except when she does. With a self-satisfied smirk, Bets rattles off the first line of the book. I hate it when they give her that line. And they always do!
With the abruptness of a screenwriter reshuffling her notecards, Charlotte suddenly says that it's best to walk into a marriage totally blind and uninformed, because all marriages are doomed to be a miserable failure. Bets laughs in her friend's face. Then, with googly-eyes, she informs Charlotte that she doesn't actually think what she just said she thinks. Googly-eyes are Elizabeth Garvie's second most frequent expression, the self-satisfied smirk being the first. There's something a little strange about the way she says "You will never act that way yourself! Never!" Do not defy me. Passing over Bets's sudden creepiness, Charlotte pointedly asks if the Bennets were well acquainted before they got married, and Bets distractedly starts to talk about their characters, in the words of the narrator at the end of chapter 1. This is short-attention-span theater!
In another part of the house (again), Mrs. Bennet is attacking Mr. Bennet with news about Mr. Bingley. Mr. Bennet asks - no, wait - he sings - let me show you -
HOW SO MRS BENNET? HOW CAN IT AFFECT THEM?
They're doing that dialog from Chapter 1. Mr. Bingley is moving in - how lovely for our girls! - how so? - I'm thinking of his marrying one of them - what, is that his design? - you know the drill. I'm just listening to that chant-like aspect Mr. Bennet's voice sometimes has.
Mr. Bennet offers to write to Mr. Bingley and tell him to take his pick of the girls. Then he actually adds "Ho ho ho ho. He'll have a hard time picking!" Mrs. Bennet falls for it! First she says that Jane is the prettiest. Mr. Bennet globally abuses his daughters, except for Elizabeth. What is Jane to him, chopped liver? Mr. Bennet asks Mrs. Bennet for his pen, then lets her know that this was all his little joke by going "Mm-hmm!" Mrs. Bennet throws down the pen. "Next time I put this pen through your neck," she sneers.
In another part of the house. "So YOUR father has ALREADY visited Netherfield, I dare say?" Bets says in this really smug way as she hauls Charlotte to a window. In a sort of "You're so ugly your dad has to get you a date!" way. They notice Mr. Bennet's stunt-double riding away, and Bets explains that Mr. Bennet's plan all along was to refuse to visit Mr. Bingley, and then do it. Aha. Clever. "He loves to surprise her, Charlotte. To repay pain with pleasure!" Kinky. "Even if he must first inflict the pain to bring about the pleasure?" Charlotte asks. Kinkier. "Of course!" Elizabeth gushes. Elizabeth Bennet: Sadist!
That night, in (you guessed it) another part of the house. Mr. Bennet plays chess while his many identical daughters sew. The only immediately identifiable daughter is Mary, the aforementioned glasses-wearing woman, who is NOT sewing and wears glasses. Also she is the only one without a poodle-perm. Elizabeth sews slowly, silently sneaking glances at Mr. Bennet, waiting for him to reveal the secret. You know, she's kind of an ass for not telling her mom what's going on, but then we've already covered that with the above sadism discussion.
Mr. Bennet abruptly brings up Bingley, because nobody is talking about him. Mrs. Bennet wails over Mr. Bennet's stubbornness and the difficulty in getting introduced, and exclaims "If only one or two of you had been boys!" Jane looks up like, "Oh, no - they've found out about my penis!" Mrs. Bennet says they are without male company. Jane, releaved that her secret is safe, is like, you're forgetting about Dad. "I referred to male company with balls, Jane, and I don't mean your testes," Mrs. Bennet seethes.
Kitty coughs, which sparks a long and pointless discussion of coughing. Mr Bennet is so inspired he breaks into an aria:
KITTY HAS NO DISCRETION IN HER COUGHS, YOU'RE QUITE RIGHT, MY DEAR. SHE TIMES THEM ILL, IT SEEMS.
He then demands Mary give her opinion. Mary, who has been lost in a book and paying no attention to the conversation. Everyone stares at Mary. "... one coughs ... when one must ... does not one?" she stutters out. The other girls laugh. Bets smirks. Mr. Bennet sarcastically repeats what she says and then shamelessly mocks her. He goes on and on. Mary holds up her book, her only shield from her father's incessant criticism. Well, she has my vote for most sympathetic character.
Bla, bla, blah. Mr. Bennet finally finds the opening he was looking for and reveals that he has already seen Mr. Bingley. "Mr. Bennet! I have wronged you!" Mrs. Bennet cries, forgetting to be surprised. One of his daughters, the one who looks like she's 35, demands info on Mr. Bingley. According to Mr. Bennet, he is young, rich, handsome, going to the ball, and marriageable. Mrs. Bennet falls to effuse compliments of her husband while he sinks lower and lower in his seat. He is never truly happy unless she is feeling his inner pain. Her happiness grates against his. He will find no rest until she is writhing underneath his pin, and no I don't mean that as a sexual metaphor. He is dark, is what I'm saying.
Unaware of her husband's inner workings, Mrs. Bennet addresses the 35-year-old daughter as Lydia and expositions that she's the youngest. Lydia: "I may be the youngest, and the smallest - but I'm not afraid!" In her eagerness to sell this line, she nearly faceplants into the candle in front of her. Mrs. Bennet harasses Mr. Bennet some more, prompting him to sing some business that I will not reproduce her, but suffice it to say that Bingley will soon call on the Bennets. "Kitty, you may now cough as much as you choose!" Mr Bennet sings. Kitty, who looks about 45, smiles ecstatically at the thought of pneumonia and whooping cough.
On to Part 2