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Lost Empires

Colin Firth , John Castle , Alan Grint    DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 64.99
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Eager to see more of the world, Richard Herncastle (Oscar® winner Colin Firth, The King’s Speech) joins a traveling stage act run by his uncle Nick (John Castle, The Lion in Winter). His new colleagues are an assorted bunch of singers, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, and comedians, including one (Oscar® winner Laurence Olivier, Rebecca) whose best days are well behind him. Captivated by the group’s female performers, Richard embarks upon a series of love affairs as the act tours the length and breadth of Britain.

Nominated for six BAFTA awards and a supporting actor Emmy® for Olivier, this haunting saga based on J.B. Priestley’s novel garnered acclaim on Masterpiece Theatre. Set on the eve of World War I, Lost Empires unfolds against the backdrop of the coming conflict in Europe—and the growing sense that the world is about to change forever.

Disc 1 Episode 1 New arrival Richard makes an immediate impact on the other members of the act, especially the women. Hired as a stage assistant, he soon begins performing roles. But just as Richard embraces the limelight, one of his colleagues decides he can’t take it anymore.

Episode 2 Uncle Nick’s conjuring skills are put to the test when an on-the-run suffragette leader asks for his help—to make her disappear before the police can arrest her. Much to Richard’s distress, an attractive young singer named Nancy Ellis plans to vanish as well.

Episode 3 Richard turns his attentions to another woman in the act—or rather, she turns her attentions to him. An older woman with a mysterious past, Julie Blane displays more than a few warning signs. Richard has to decide whether or not to heed them.

Disc 2 Episode 4 Julie’s past finally catches up with her in the shape of Tommy Beamish, a comedian and an ex-heavyweight boxer. The incident prompts Uncle Nick to come to the aid of his nephew and Julie to react unexpectedly.

Episode 5 Richard gets mixed up with a volatile young singer and her entourage. At first, the woman simply requests that Richard sketch her portrait. But soon, he unwittingly enters a new, darker side of theatre life.

Disc 3 Episode 6 The troupe gets a shock when one of their acrobats is found strangled. The local police feel unable to handle the case, and Scotland Yard sends an inspector to investigate. Meanwhile, Richard makes a desperate attempt to reconnect with Nancy Ellis.

Episode 7 The police close in on a murder suspect, but Uncle Nick has one last trick up his sleeve before he strikes out for America. As war breaks out, Richard enlists in the army and heads off to the Western Front, where he runs into a surprising figure from his past.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Granada Television's 1986 "Lost Empires" is a series that proves that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Starring a sullen young Colin Firth, this eight-hour, three DVD set has held a place in my heart for the last 16 years. It was with much anticipation then that I opened this package and watched it anew with my family. Would it stand the test of time? Was it as great as I recalled?
Based on the novel by JB Priestley, LE chronicles the adventures of young Richard Herncastle (Firth), an aspiring landscape painter, who in 1913 accepts an offer from his hard-nosed Uncle Nick (John Castle II) to join his magic act and tour the great 'empire halls' on England.
Uncle Nick promises "I'll show you the world lad!" In the process young Richard gets more than he bargained for in the way of life adventures. . Firth's Herncastle finds himself thrown together with magicians, dwarfs, sad-sack comedians, flirty torch-song singers, suffragettes and aging Sir Lawrence Olivier. And he also quickly becomes the lightning rod that somehow touches all their lives.
The first half of LE, featuring Sir Lawrence Olivier as pathetic comedian Harry Barrard, Carmen du Sautoy as sultry Julie Blaine, John Castle's riveting Uncle Nick and Beattie Edney as love interest Nancy Ellis is where Lost Empires shines! We feel the whole world opening up for Richard as he is torn between Nancy and Julie. Every night this travelling company performs authentic song and dance numbers as we see World War I looming in the background.
Of special note is John Castle. Playing master illusionist "Ganga Dun" Castle's Nick Ollanton creates a character so vivid and steely that he virtually steals the DVD.
The second half of LE slows down a bit after young Richard has learned a few life lessons the hard way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure magic March 9 2003
By Terry
This adaptation is one of the finest moments in television drama. I have also waited many years to see this series once again and it is everything that I remember. The story is set in the restricted pre WW1 North of England middle class society and is strangely exotic. It is full of curiosity, interest and richness. Colin Firth does a wonderful job as the central character, Richard Hearncastle. However John Castle as the strong and enigmatic Nick Ollanton is outstanding, I really can't imagine anyone else in that role.
This is a production of the highest calibre but something of a hidden gem. It deserves much more appreciation and recognition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Masterpiece Theater's best Aug. 15 2003
I originally saw Lost Empires on public broadcasting and it became one of my favorites, right up there with I Claudius and The Duchess of Duke Street. The cast is exceptional especially John Castle as Uncle Nick (why oh why do we so little of this wonderful, sexy actor?). The entire production is glorious, taking the viewer right back to the days of pre WWI.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost Empires. Nov. 16 2011
This is a beautiful movie, done in episodes for a TV series.
I have to admit that it took me a couple of episodes to really get into the story and learn to know the characters. Colin Firth who plays the sweet innocent guy stole my heart and soon I was eager to find out how his life would turn out. I did not think that starting the movie with the clip of the end of his life was a bright idea, because thoughout the whole story, I knew that he would not make it and this somewhat spoiled the entire plot.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a "must-have" for Firth fans Jan. 23 2003
By Cath
This one ranks up there with "Pride and Prejudice" for the true Firth fan! You must have it in your collection. Colin Firth is young in this one..but there are definite signs of the smoldering Darcy we all know and love. Best of all, he is in almost every scene...hours and hours of hot, hetero FIRTH! (By the way, when is somebody going to realize this guy sells movies to woman of all ages? Get him some good roles!!)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lost Treasure is more like it. March 17 2003
By P. Hall
What a pleasure to watch these dvds. The story flows and moves gracefully through each chapter. Firth is magnificent. Awards should have been given for this production. All the actors put so much into their performances. And to have Colin Firth narrating the entire story was music to my ears. We need more Colin Firth.
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