The Pallisers: Set 1

The Pallisers: Set 1 (1974)
Acorn Media Publishing Inc.
Cast: Philip Latham, Susan Hampshire
Extras: Viewer’s Guide, Interview, Anthony Trollope Information

This 4-DVD box set features the first 8 episodes of the 26-episode BBC mini-series, ’The Pallisers, ’ which originally aired in 1974. Based on the six ’political’ novels of the great Victorian author, Anthony Trollope, the full series explores the rise of the Palliser dynasty and contains enough political intrigue, romance, scandal, and drama to give any present-day soap opera a run for its money.

These introductory episodes introduce the main characters of Plantagenet Palliser (Philip Latham) and Lady Glencora (Susan Hampshire) whose politically-expedient marriage lays the groundwork for three generations of Palliser power. The saga benefits greatly from the better-than-average acting and immaculate costumes and sets that fully transport the viewer to the drawing rooms and sculptured gardens of Victorian England. This attention to detail raises ’The Pallisers’ well above the level of the typical period-piece television mini-series and brings Anthony Trollope’s somewhat difficult prose to life.

The video is presented in its original full-screen format but, sadly, the ensuing 25 years since it was made have not been kind to ’The Pallisers.’ Shot on both film and video, the quality of the picture fluctuates greatly. Some scenes are very vibrant and full of color while others are muted and scarred by video noise and other imperfections inherent in the poor source materials. It is not unwatchable by any means and is about on par with an average VHS tape in terms of overall quality.

The audio is a very decent DD 2.0 mix that presents the dialogue in a clear and hiss-free manner — which is very important for such a prose-laden presentation. The orchestral score is quite nice as well althoughthe range is very limited as one would expect for an older television production. All in all, the audio comes across quite well and far outshines the video in terms of quality.

What few extras that are provided all reside on the first disc in the set. First up is a short interview with Susan Hampshire in which she reflects on her role in ’The Pallisers.’ Next, there is a section on Anthony Trollope that contains a short biography, a reproduction of an original manuscript, a list of all the novels in the series, and information about the Trollope Society. Rounding out the extras is a very detailed 36-page viewer’s guide that was originally produced for the 1974 broadcast. This guide provides some much-needed background history and really enhances the viewing experience.

’The Pallisers’ is an engaging mini-series that will appeal to fans of period-pieces, costume dramas, or just good old-fashioned fine storytelling. While the video leaves much to be desired I can’t imagine that the original TV elements allowed Acorn much leeway in producing this DVD set. I really enjoy mini-series but I almost never watch them during their original broadcast preferring instead to view them at my own pace. My biggest complaint with ’The Pallisers’ is that, now that I’m hooked on this surprisingly immersive story, I have to wait for the next two sets to see how it all plays out.