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The Anton Chekov Collection

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Product Details

  • Actors: Various
  • Directors: Various
  • Format: Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Canadian Home Video Rating : Parental Guidance (PG)
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: Aug. 12 2008
  • Run Time: 1094 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013D8M4O
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #6,074 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Anton Chekhov Collection, The

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Juan flores on March 27 2011
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These are superb performances of Chekov's plays. Several of them are given in two versions. The plays are so deep and beautifully constructed that they easily sustain repeated watching. It is particularly rewarding to see Judi Dench perform two different roles in The Cherry Orchard, several decades apart. We have spent many happy evenings in Chekov's company, thanks to this incomparable set. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Maggie 333 on May 17 2014
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I purchased this collection because I watched the Ibsen BBC collection years back and loved it. This is equally wonderful. It's true that the quality of the film could be better (i.e. in particular the sound) but it's still worth watching, even if you aren't familiar with Chekov.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Richard on Aug. 6 2014
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Bias Alert: Chekhov's stories & plays have been favorites of mine for many years, especially his later mature works. The plays in this collection show Chekov's development into a master playwright for the world. I particularly appreciate the two versions of both "Uncle Vanya" and "The Cherry Orchard".
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Greatest Hits by a Master Jan. 30 2009
By M. A Newman - Published on
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I went through a period when I was studying Russian language in which I was tired of reading Chekhov. I regard this as a period of temperary madness which I am thankfully past. If asked, I would say that I am an unconditional fan.

One need not be familiar with Chekhov's work to appreciate this colleciton of plays staged by the BBC. It really does contain some gems. The most outstanding work on this collection, and it would be worth it if it had this play alone on it, is The Cherry Orchard with Judi Dench. All I can say is WOW! What a marvelous cast, this is the ideal version of this, the most Russian of all plays. Anyone who wishes to understand Russian society should first see this play and this version of the play. I am hoping that someday someone might do this play and set it in the "new Russia." It would require only a slight degree of updating. Rather than reflect on the end of serfdom, one can meditate on the end of the Soviet Union (it amounts to the same thing, really).

There are other plays in the collection. There is an excellent staging of Three Sisters (Janet Suzman is wonderful here), Uncle Vanya and the Seagull. All are very well done. There are few better ways to discover all the plays of Chekhov in such an easy and accessable manner. One can only look forward to further collections of classic dramatists from the BBC.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Chekhov Plays Oct. 19 2010
By Howard M. Kindel - Published on
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Though the term "tragicomedy" was not coined specifically to designate the plays of Anton Chekhov, he is nonetheless considered the father of that particular 20th century genre. Chekhov meant his three masterpieces - "Uncle Vanya," " The Three Sisters," and "The Cherry Orchard" - to be primarily farces; and had he been a lesser artist he would have succeeded. But, being one of the greatest playwrights of all time, he endowed his characters with such a depth and range of emotion that their plight could not help but be seen as the very stuff of tragedy; for even though they were largely responsible for their own plight, they were so inextricably caught up in a certain way of life that they lacked the psychological means of holding back its dissolution. And this sense of inevitable loss and failure, even of doom, is exquisitely captured in the adaptations presented in this boxset of DVD's.

Both "Uncle Vanya" and "The Cherry Orchard" are rendered in two separate versions; and in each the later version seems to better portray the illusions, deceptions and manipulations essential to the characters' lives. There is more of the farcical in the two earlier versions - particularly evident in the John Gielgud adaptation of "The Cherry Orchard": it's even called "A Comedy by Anton Chekhov." Judi Dench appears in both versions of "The Cherry Orchard"; in the earlier version as the daughter of the leading character, and in the later version as the mother herself. And as great as she is as Madame Ranevsky. - even greater than Peggy Ashcroft; she pales as Anya, the daughter, next to Suzanne Burden's Anya in the later version. Even John Gielgud's Leonid takes a back seat to Frederic Treves'. Similarly, Paul Hardwick's Lopahin in the earlier version pales beside Bill Paterson's Lopahin of the later version; as does Anthony Hopkins' Astrov beside Ian Holm's Astrov.

But while Anthony Hopkins falls short of realizing Dr Astrov as fully as Ian Holm, he's absolutely magnificent as Andrei, the gambling-addicted brother of Masha, Olga and Irina in "The Three Sisters." It's Janet Suzman, though, who steals the show with her portrayal of Masha, married since age 18 to a man she found "clever" at the time but has come to dislike, even despise, since meeting and falling madly in love with a military officer who, as it turns out, is not only married already but, because of his regiment's new orders, almost literally just passing through the area. One of Chekhov's greatest themes - almost an obsession - is the peculiar notion entertained by virtually all his characters that, though no one living in the present is truly happy or ever will be, everyone in the future will be; and that it's the highest mission of those alive today to make sure this future happiness of the human race comes to fruition. Chekhov is, of course, poking fun at the absurdity of people doing absolutely nothing to bring happiness into their own lives while imagining that they're somehow paving the way for those who will come after them. Ironically, this "happiness" the main characters despair of never obtaining comes easily and simply to the "lesser" characters, as evidenced by "The Three Sisters'" old Nanny, whose new found residence - a rent-free room with her own bed - has made her the happiest person who ever lived, although, equally ironically, it is only Olga's generosity that enables Nanny's happiness. In fact, it is a sense of "noblesse oblige" among the central characters of all three plays that helps bring about their downfall. In "The Three Sisters," especially the first act, Chekhov comes closest to truly creating a farce; but, again, the genuine pathos of the Sisters' lives soon elevates the play to a much higher level. Besides which, though the characters in "The Three Sisters" endlessly ramble on philosophically about work and happiness and the future, they are far more the victims of circumstances beyond their control than those of either of the other two major plays.

And just as "The Three Sisters" have the least control over their own lives and least responsibility for their plight, the characters of "The Cherry Orchard" have the greatest control and, therefore, the greatest responsibility. They simply cannot bear to look full face at the catastrophe barreling down upon them. The wealthy son of a former serf, Lopahin, offers them over and over a way out of their dilemma; but, over and over, they refuse even to discuss it. And so, they end up losing their home, their land and their cherished Orchard - the great irony being that the only way they could have saved their inheritance would have been to lease everything for summer cottages; so, no matter what, their Orchard was destined for destruction, though not necessarily so their personal fortunes.

Destruction of woodlands is also featured prominently in "Uncle Vanya," though not in the same dire manner as in "The Cherry Orchard." Dr Astrov's great passion in life is documenting the growing deforestation of the area of Russia they live in; he even shows a series of charts he's drawn to Yelena, the young wife of the scholar Serabryakov. Both Astrov and Vanya have fallen in love with Yelena; and while she would return Astrov's affections if she could, she ultimately doesn't. Vanya has come to loathe Serabryakov as the root of all his life's misery, having struggled and nearly exhausted his own inheritance in order to help prop up the self-important scholar. David Warner is superb as Vanya - though Freddie Jones in the earlier version is equally superb. As already mentioned, Ian Holm is superb as Astrov; and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is truly magnificent as Yelena. "Uncle Vanya" is, by far, the most focused of the three major plays; and, as such, comes off as the greatest of the three. In truth, though I probably stand alone on this, I consider "Uncle Vanya" to be second only to Shakespeare's "King Lear" as the greatest play ever written.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
One of the best Vanyas ever in English May 5 2009
By Tim - Published on
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I have not had time to go through this entire set, but have watched the included version of Uncle Vanya with Ken Jones as Vanya and a young Anthony Hopkins as the doctor. Jones is one of the best Vanyas I have seen; his histrionics are presented in a sustained crescendo that ends in a state of absolute meltdown. Vanya is a very difficult role since the actor must constantly ride this wave of emotion without blowing it. Jones is remarkable, so is Anthony Hopkins as Astrov and Jennifer Armitage as Sonja. There seem to be some minor liberties with the text but it all works well.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Hey guys, it's Chekhov! Sept. 16 2013
By Paul The Greater - Published on
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Chekhov is a bit like Shakespeare: no matter how poorly you perform him, you can't damage the beauty of his works, although in the early productions the Brits come close. In the black & white days of BBC, they seemed to have wanted the world to be assured that despite the author being Russian, WE ARE PLAYING COMEDY! They send on a great blob of actors all at once, all talking at once, and making little or no effort to sort out who is who for us. And of course it'd de rigeur to have their oldest character play the stumbling drunk. Nonetheless it's still Chekhov. and thank heaven for small mercies. You will find Rex Harrison even then playing Henry Higgins, and John Gielgud playing with himself, but if you stick to it, there will appear before your very eyes, a young Anthony Hopkins and a young Michael Gambon. Pretty soon your patience will be rewarded with readings of Chekhov's short stories by Ewan McGregor - charming. There are also excerpted bits from the TV show, "Omnibus" (remember the days when TV was intelligent?), and its interview with actor Michael Pennington who performed a one-man show on Chekhov. There's also a gem of a piece with the Director of The Moscow Art theatre rehearsing and discussing scenes with Russian and American actors. But hold on to your hats: it becomes a little like the wedding at Cana when the very best comes at the end. First there is The Cherry Orchard, notable to me for the appearance of a very young Judi Dench playing the youngest daughter. Then you flip that disk over and there is The Cherry Orchard, with a grownup Judi playing the lead, "and round the bend of a sudden" as Browning put it, there is Chekhov in all his glory. This is a six disc set and with all its faults in the early productions, more than worth the wait for the life to come to the party. I find that Amazon doesn't carry junk on its shelves, and The Anton Chekhov Collection is the proof in the pudding. I highly recommend it. Paul The Greater.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
MARVELLOUS! Oct. 13 2008
By Oppicelli Ernesto - Published on
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