First off, let me just say that it is nice to read such glowing reviews for this earlier production. I am glad so many enjoy it! I too found gems that I enjoyed, yet I must be honest in saying that I struggle with more, for I did not find it 'more accurate to the book', as so many proclaim.
The '04 adaptation will always hold a special place in my heart, for it was through this production that I found N&S and Elizabeth Gaskell. Still.. that being said, you can't adore Gaskell's work without acknowledging issues that are present. The '04 production team took liberties and made changes they felt were necessary to making the story more appealing to modern audiences. Determining whether they were correct in making these changes largely depends on each viewer.
I do believe that this same consideration needs to be given to this production ('75) as well. Yet saying that this earlier interpretation follows more closely to the book is overstated. Yes this production includes more direct lines and some settings of the scenes appear more accurate, yet it also took liberties and had some troubling omissions, as well. Omissions of events that prove essential to the shaping and forward development of our heroine and even our hero.
As to the characterizations, I found them lacking as well. Rosalind Shanks comes off much to old for Margaret, who at the opening of the story is an idealistic 18 year old. I did like that Rosalind portrays the more demure side of Margaret's character but she fails to show the intelligent spirited side. Margaret is a beautifully weaved character with both independent and self sacrificial traits. A friend describes this portrayal of Margaret in this fashion, "I kept waiting for Margaret to awaken from her sleeping beauty haze."
Patrick Stewart is a talented classical actor with a strong theatrical flare. He brought this theatrical style to his portrayal of Thornton. It is this style that I struggle with the most. Much of the time, Stewart portrays Thornton's passion in bellowing and barking tones. Neither of which is consistent to the strong but gentle way Thornton spoke in the book. The '04 production is often criticized for it's blatant mischaracterization of Thornton's temper, and rightfully so. Yet in this production, Thornton's characterization is equally flawed. Though it's delivered in more subtle ways, Thornton is still portrayed with a short and sharp temper. This temper is thrust at Mr. Hale, Margaret, Higgins and even his own mother. And I wont even get into the mischaracterization of Hannah. All in all, I felt that all the actors struggle to portray the heart of their characters. Did Margaret actually fall in love with Thornton? It's hard to tell. Did Thornton love Margaret with every fiber of his being? Was he heartbroken when she left Milton for London? If so, there is little indication.
There has also been praise for the inclusion of several scenes, missing from the later adaptation. Yet even with these inclusions there were hefty changes that make little sense. This includes the ending scene. Though the setting is properly situated in a London drawing room, the heart and soul of the exquisite ending Gaskell conveyed was either completely changed or poorly delivered. It lacked the powerful under currant of passion between these two characters. The emotion is either not there at all or completely unbelievable!
Still in conclusion, as I stated above I can also honestly say that there are a few enjoyable moments in this production. It is why, even with all of my personal issues with it, I still encourage fellow fans to view this production. As to the purchase of the DVD, I advise that if you have the opportunity, watch the production first. Then you will know for sure if you wish to add it to your library.