This four-disc set includes all 12 episodes from the first two seasons in their original sequence of stories, plus Rumpole's Return, the 1982 two-hour special that started off the third season. Typical of British drama, production values are low, while the caliber of scriptwriting and acting is unsurpassed. A rare example of a television serial that is as appealing and engaging on its 10th viewing as it is on its first. --Erik Macki
RUMPOLE AND THE YOUNGER GENERATION Director Herbert Wise Young Jim Timson has been accused of robbery with violence - and his only alibi lies with a son of the Malloy family with whom the Timson's have a long-standing feud. RUMPOLE AND THE ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY Director Herbert Wise Rumpole finds himself on a commune called Nirvana in the West Country. He's there to defend a young girl accused of buying drugs from a policeman posing as a dealer. RUMPOLE AND THE HONORABLE MEMBER Director Graham Evans A local politician stands accused of rape - a charge he denies - admitting only to consensual sex with a fellow party worker. RUMPOLE AND THE MARRIED LADY Director Graham Evans "She who must be obeyed" believes that Rumpole has taken a mistress when he defends Mrs Thripp in a divorce action against her husband.
DISC 2 - SEASON 1 continued RUMPOLE AND THE LEARNED FRIENDS Director Graham Evans Rumpole has been called upon to assist in the defense of a safe blower who may have been 'set up' by Inspector "Dirty" Dickerson. RUMPOLE AND THE HEAVY BRIGADE Director Herbert Wise Regardless of his tatty hat, which has been the subject of idle gossip in chambers, Rumpole has been called to the Old Bailey to defend a murderer.
DISC 2 - SEASON 2 RUMPOLE AND THE MAN OF GOD Director Brian Farnham Rumpole is engaged in defending a vicar from a shoplifting charge, but the vicar will take neither the stand nor the oath in his own defense. RUMPOLE AND THE CASE OF IDENTITY Director Derek Bennett Christmas is coming - along with a complicated case of mistaken identity. And what is going on behind closed doors between the Head of Chambers and his new secretary Angela? DISC 3 - SEASON 2 continued RUMPOLE AND THE SHOW FOLK Director Peter Hammond It's an actor's life for Rumpole as he finds himself center stage in the case of an actress accused of murdering her philandering actor husband. RUMPOLE AND THE FASCIST BEAST Director Robert Knights Captain Rex Parkin, an avowed fascist, has been accused of inciting a crowd to racial violence and, to the surprise of many, Rumpole is eager to take the case in his defense RUMPOLE AND THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE Director Brian Farnham When a young English teacher finds himself accused of improper relations with one of his pupils, Rumpole rises to his defense, though intimate letters point a finger of guilt RUMPOLE AND THE AGE FOR RETIREMENT Director Donald McWhinnie Can retirement be just around the corner for Rumpole? And how did a14th century painting of Christ end up in Percy Timson's garage?
DISC 4 - RUMPOLE'S RETURN Horace Rumpole has been persuaded to retire with "she who must be obeyed" to Florida. But when Rumpole hears tell of a murder case in London - the stabbing death on a subway platform of the Honorable Lord Rory Canter by an innocuous accountant - something stirs in the sleeping legal giant. So it's off in the dead of night to London and the old Chambers, where his unexpected arrival causes quite a stir.
The BBC series (13 episodes offered here) closely based on the beloved stories by John Mortimer, revolves around the personal and professional life of the brusque, cynical, yet affectionate barrister. He's one of those rare individuals who has so found his proper element that it's impossible to imagine that he could have become anything else. There's a symbiosis between Rumpole being so comfortable in his own skin and McKern's absorption into the role that's fascinating.
McKern's Rumpole is surrounded by an array of eccentric, lovable (and not so lovable) characters who are all the more real because they are never hackneyed or one dimentional. Rumpole's villians and heroes, his compeers and his co-workers are all admixtures of flattering and unflattering characteristics. That's what makes the portrayals so attractive and memorable. The same is true of Rumpole. The 'Old Bailey Hack' wins spectacularly at times, and truly is a genuis of sorts, a fact only grudgingly recognized by those around him since he oft' times loses his cases, and is not without human foibles. Indeed, his greatest victories seem to have been in years long past. Rumpole is constantly reminding his detractors that he won the famous "Penge Bungalow" murder case "alone and without a leader".
Although the series is ostensibly in the crime/mystery genre, it deftly and humorously touches on many subjects; unrequited love, class prejudice, the regrets of old age, the nature of friendship and of marital happiness, just to mention a few. The mystery element stands on its own to be sure, but you remember the characters and the relationships long after you've forgotten the plot lines. Mentioning just a few, there's the distinguished Head of Chambers Guthrie Fetherston, at times pompous, even unctuous, whom Rumpole regards with disguised affection; George Frobisher, Rumpole's dear old friend who's such a poor barrister that "he can't even ask for court costs without writing it down in advance". Then there's "She who must be obeyed", Rumpole's overbearing and long suffering wife, not, as it turns out, his first choice as a mate. Rumpole loves them as much for their short-commings as for their better qualities.
If you enjoy television without large doses of violence or crudity, and maybe read a poem every now and then (Rumpole is often described as 'poetry spouting') this series is definately for you. It's wise, but never heavy-laden or preachy; quite humorous but not mean-spirited. I highly recommend it!
Here's a litmus test: see if you find this story amusing. A judge had before him an elderly con who's been convicted so many times they are on a first name basis. He sentences him to 20 years and the man looks up and says "But, your honor, I'm a very old man and don't have too many years left. I don't know that I can do 20 years." "Well," says the judge, "you just do as much as you can."
That's one of the stories that Rumpole loves to tell, and it's typical of the kinds of scenerios this barrister finds himself facing. One of the best things about having these episodes on DVD is you can quickly skip back and reply scenes -- every single reviewing will reward you with new treats.
Leo played a part written especially for him, and it's almost impossible to tell where he leaves off and Rumpole begins. The Rumpole series has never been collected in this organized a fashion before (previous releases came in a bewildering array of assorted sets that mixed years willy-nilly) and this is a perfect place to get aquainted with the most erudite and witty barrister the other side of the Big Pond. Nothing can replace Mr. McKern, but this set at least preserves his best performances for all time.