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A&E Home Video presents
Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1998)

"I must inform you sire, you are no longer beneath my contempt. And now, I will have satisfaction."
- Lord Fellamar (Peter Capaldi)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: March 11, 2002

Stars: Max Beesley, Samantha Morton, James D'Arcy, Benjamin Whitrow, Frances de la Tour, Brian Blessed, John Sessions
Other Stars: Paul Barber, Kathy Burke, Peter Capaldi, Camille Coduri, Ron Cook, Lindsay Duncan, Michelle Fairley, Christopher Fulford, Brian Hibbard, Sara Kestelman, Sylvester McCoy, Richard O'Callaghan, Con O'Neill, Tessa Peake-Jones, Richard Ridings, Rachel Scorgie
Director: Metin Hüseyin

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, language, adult themes)
Run Time: 05h:08m:57s
Release Date: March 26, 2002
UPC: 733961704259
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A+BB+ C-

DVD Review

"I'll give thee medling with my daughter." - Squire Western

A bastard born, he was left on the doorstep of the local magistrate, Squire Allworthy (Benjamin Whitrow) who, without wife or child of his own, adopted him. Tom took his surname from his mother, Jenny Jones (Camille Coduri), a trollop and the maid of a schoolteacher, one Mr. Benjamin Partridge (Ron Cook), rumored to be the father; both of whom were subsequently run out of town for the scandal. Squire Allworthy's sister, Bridget (Tessa Peake-Jones), getting on thirty years and headed for a life of spinsterhood, was suited by a Captain Blifil (Con O'Neill) who, along with his accomplices, Mr. Square (Christopher Fulford) and the Reverend Thwackum (Richard Ridings), are more concerned with the family inheritance than Miss Allworthy's affections. She bore a son (James D'Arcy) by Blifil who took his place as rightful heir, but an unfortunate and untimely demise removed his father from the picture. Thus, two boys grew up in the Allworthy household side by each, one of noble birth; the other, a foundling. And so begins the tale of Tom Jones.

As the boys grew older, Sophia (Samantha Morton), the daughter of their boisterous neighbor, Squire Western (Brian Blessed), came to the attention of young Jones, whose favor was returned in kind. A proper young lady, Sophia's view of love and romance ran counter to her father and aunt's more practical, time-honored ideas of property and wealth, especially concerning master Jones, whose lack of title makes him an unsuitable candidate for marriage. Tom manages to get himself in all manner of trouble as a lad, including siring the child of the yard servant's daughter. His position in the world conspires to deprive him of a happy adulthood, as those who would move against him and discredit his name to Squire Allworthy have a welcome ear to call upon. When Squire Western announces his daughter's engagement to young Blifil, Tom's problems have only begun. Cast out of his lodging, he heads off to war, only to be killed, or so it would seem. When Sophia also flees her impending nuptials, the world turns upside down as our cast of characters descend upon London, where there is no end to the torment the fates have in store, particularly for Tom Jones.

"Let me beseech you to cease a pursuit in which you can never have any hope of success." - Sophia Western

With a five-hour runtime, this BBC miniseries features a more intricate presentation, and is more faithful to its origins than the highly popular 1963 feature film starring Albert Finney. Based on the 1749 novel by Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling , Tom Jones is a ribald period comedy/drama, directed throughout by its narrator's interjections (John Sessions as author Fielding). The sheer brilliance of Fielding's story is marvelously presented here, saturating the irony that surrounds its hero in an onslaught of unimaginable misfortune, and are soundly portrayed by an exceptional collection of players. The characterizations are of epic proportion, and the many cast members are fleshed out as the series progresses. A dense and detailed atmosphere is created as their many traits, intentions and oddities are exposed. Max Beesley fits the role of Jones to perfection, Brian Blessed excels as the explosive Squire Western and Frances de la Tour embodies the medling Aunt Western. Benjamin Whitrow lends an even temperament to the manipulated Squire Allworthy, and Lindsay Duncan, who plays Lady Ballaston in the second half, grants her role the vindictive edge it deserves. Mention also must be made of Kathy Burke as Miss Weston's servant, Honour.

The story twists and turns relentlessly, compounding the treachery and seeming hopelessness of its subject to no end. Every power imaginable is brought to bear against our young lovers, as the forces of greed and jealousy fuel a frenzy of complicity designed to rid their world of Mr. Jones, no matter the consequences to his person. This production does great justice to the work, embodying its spirit in a wonderfully comedic fashion, and while a bit slow at the start, the pitch rises to feverish levels before the final curtain falls. This is an adventure few could rival.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Image quality falls a bit short of my expectations for such an elaborate production. The overall look is a bit soft, and tends towards the murky side. In places, colors don't have the vibrancy I would hope for, though I will admit this may have been intentional. While the earthy tone suits the nature of the subject, contrast does tend to get a bit shy in shadow detail, lending a feeling of being darker than it should be, and a few light areas seem overblown. There are a few common compresson issues throughout, especially in foliage or intricate patterns; otherwise things are fairly good from a technical perspective. Not completely disappointing, but there is room for improvement.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Stereo audio is well-presented, with a full tonal range, and appropriate directionality. Dialogue is easily discernable aside from a few rough accents, and no technical deficiencies are notable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Henry Fielding Biography/Bibliography
Extras Review: A short biography on Henry Fielding is the lone extra, available on both discs.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Henry Fielding's literary masterpiece is gloriously brought to life in this BBC-produced miniseries. The performances and construction are impeccable and the tale, rivetting. There are far too few stories with the depth, complexity and sense of irony as this one, and its adaptation here is flawless. I can't recommend this highly enough.


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