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Ghost Canyon

'Maggie Smith at the BBC'
(Maggie Smith, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / (1993) 2008 / BBC Video)

Overview: This three-disc set celebrates four of Dame Maggie Smith's leading roles for the BBC. The collection begins with two 1972 Plays of the Month, The Merchant of Venice and The Millionairess. Alan Bennett's quietly devastating Bed Among the Lentils is next followed by Sir Richard Eyre's intimate 1993 adaptation of Tennessee Williams's Suddenly, Last Summer.

DVD Verdict: Maggie Smith is one of Britan's national treasures. Every time I am in London, the first thing I do is see if she is performing. I have seen some very incredible performances by this brilliant actress. This DVD sets contains four of her television performances from 1972 to 1993. I have only seen three of the specials but am anxious to see the other one:

'Merchant of Venice' (1972) is a Shakespeare comedy. (I never understand this because it has some of the most intense moments of a Shakespeare play.) This is about love and devotion. Maggie Smith plays Portia, whose suitors must get by three boxes to find love and must save her true love's mentor from certain death. (I have not seen this production.)

'The Millionairess' (1972) is from the social commentarian George Bernard Shaw and this is also available in the George Bernard on BBC box set. Unfortunately here the filming was done many years ago and the acting is "over-the-top" to the point of haming-it-up. The story-line is good, but presented in a somewhat hysterical, and at times almost frenzied style. As a stage play it was great, but as a film, I do not recommend unless you are interested in the history of theatre and acting.

'Bed Among the Lentils' (1988) was shown in America on Masterpiece Theatre and the first of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads. Each of these specials is a one person monologue. In 'Bed Among the Lentils,' Maggie plays Susan, a pastor's wife whose life is unfullfilling. This is about an hour long and Maggie just mesmerizes you from the get go. And this is very hard as the character is very bored with her life and Maggie makes you feel for her. She won Royal Television Society Best Actress Award and was nominated for a BAFTA.

'Suddenly Last Summer' is a direct filming of the Tennessee Williams play. It was shown at in America on PBS's Great Performances. This is quite different from the movie as it has only one set and no flashbacks and therefore Sebestian Venerable is only referred to in this. Maggie plays Mrs. Venerable who wants her niece institutionalize to hide her family secret. Natasha Richardson, in an early role, plays Catherine Holly. Catherine witnessed the gory death of her cousin Sebastian and has not recovered from this and the events leading up to this. Rob Lowe, yes that Rob Lowe plays the psychiatrist, Dr. Cukrowicz, who is here to evaluate in institutionalize Catherine. But what happens is a volatile exploration of the events and the truth behind them. This is an amazing production and is comparable to the Katherine Hepburn movie. Maggie recieved her first Emmy Award for this production.

In closing know that this is an incredible set showcasing one of the greatest actresses of the 20th century - and still at it! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs but does not come with any Special Features.