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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Emily Brontė's Wuthering Heights' [DVD]
(Richard Burton, Rosemary Harris, Denholm Elliot, Patty Duke, et al / DVD / NR / (1958) 2020 / Liberation Hall)

Overview: Mistreated foundling Heathcliff and Catherine fall in love, but she marries a wealthy man, Edgar Linton so Heathcliff becomes obsessed with getting revenge.

Nor can he satiate his thirst for revenge, manifested through his own loveless marriage to Edgar's sister Isabella.

In this television adaptation of 'Emily Brontė's Wuthering Heights,' realism and gothic symbolism combine to form a romance novel that's full of social relevance.

DVD Verdict: Otherwise known as 'The DuPont Show of the Month: Emily Brontė's Wuthering Heights,' it was originally broadcast on May 9th, 1958.

This rare live television reflects the technology available at the time, and as such includes issues inherent of that era.

The print is wonky at times, due in part to the original recording method, and in part because it was designed for showing at the then-standard 480-line television standard, but presented now in this DVD format of its original Full Screen 4x3, results in showing the gimcrack set design in a form of a fuzzy print; but I've seen a lot worse.

I found the show interesting but not particularly good. The book is an early tearjerker, a precursor of the 'suffering in mink' style of soap opera.

Of course, the genre was not as antique and ridiculous as it was when Miss Brontė had written it. The conclusion that the frustrated sexual urges of Heathcliff and Cathy are never consummated lead inevitably to misery and madness are the point of the novel, and the TV version makes this point strongly.

Perhaps too strongly, as Burton glowers and rants, chews the scenery, and spits out the splinters throughout in a style that would have deafened the audience in the back of the balcony in a large live theater, and must have reduced the speakers on a 1958 TV to inarticulate screeches.

The show was part of a popular mid-century genre: live telecasts of literary classics starring top-shelf dramatic actors. Other DuPont presentations included 'Treasure Island,' featuring Boris Karloff, 'Aladdin,' starring Sal Mineo, George C. Scott in 'A Tale of Two Cities,' and Christopher Plummer in 'The Prince and the Pauper.'

The story has since been told that in 1999 actress Rosemary Harris met TV historian Jane Klain and asked if she could find a copy of the film. Harris was a last minute replacement and had only 4 days to learn her lines.

During the live broadcast she had forgotten the lines before her death scene and had quickly re-read the script and then shoved the script under her pillow. Harris wanted to know if this had been captured in the broadcast.

Klain spent 20 years trying to track down a version of the script and finally uncovered it in 2019 after searching for 20 years. She sent a copy to Harris who learned that her re-reading had not been broadcast.

TCM actually showed the long-lost kinescope recording of this live TV performance under its episode title, 'Wuthering Heights,' on December 6th, 2019 - more than 60 years after its only previous broadcast.

Within this new DVD release, we also get the original commercials, which are lovingly interspersed between scenes to allow for set changes and such. A right royal treasure this was for me to view now, in the comfort of my own home and I hope it is for you and yours also. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) in Black and White (4x3).