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Ghost Canyon

'Poldark: The Complete Collection' [15-Disc DVD]
(Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ellise Chappell, Tim Dutton, Beatie Edney, Jack Farthing, Kerri McLean, et al / 15-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: Enjoy all five seasons of the outstanding historical family saga starring Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson that has taken audiences by storm around the world!

Set against the spectacular landscapes of the Cornish coast, 'Poldark' is full of unforgettable characters, captivating storytelling, and fiery romance.

DVD Verdict: The drama opens in 1783, when Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns home from the American Revolutionary War to find his beloved Cornwall in the grip of recession.

His father has died, his mine is in ruins, and his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth (Heida Reed), is now engaged to his cousin. Salvation comes in the form of Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson), who Ross employs as a serving maid.

Across five gripping seasons, Ross faces battles both at home and abroad. Amid catastrophic losses, significant triumphs, and shattered relationships, can he protect everything he holds dear? And at what cost?

Will he be able to return his crumbling estate to its former glory? Will an unexpected romance change his life forever?

Follow Ross Poldark’s journey and watch the whole saga unfold in the 44 episodes that comprise the complete series.

In truth, what can one say about Debbie Horsfield's rendering of Winston Graham's evergreen series of classics that has not been said before?

Being old enough to remember the 1975 version when Robin Ellis strode through the West Country with his scanty undershirt revealing a hairy chest and equally distinguished sideburns, I was impressed with Aidan Turner's recreation of the same role.

Turner has a wonderful gift for smoldering; his features do not change much, but his eyes flash and his lips purse in a way that brooks no resistance from anyone.

George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) is an eminently "hissable" villain, his pasty face and arrogant mien contrasting with Robin Poldark's humanity.

The facial and bodily contrasts between the two resembles that of any great melodrama. We know George will get his comeuppance in the end, but we marvel at the extent to which he is prepared to manipulate others in order to achieve his aims.

Filmed on the rolling Cornish coast, 'Poldark' knows how to make the best use of its locations, filming its protagonists against the setting sun or having them walk alone among deserted beaches or wading into the sea.

There are also plenty of opportunities for Ross to be shown either shirtless or sweat-soaked down the mine, moving in close proximity to his fellow-workers in lurid orange light.

We can understand from their expressions how committed they are to their futures, despite George's best efforts to impede them.

In truth the structure of each episode is a tad repetitive, with Ross and his wife (Eleanor Tomlinson) having to overcome a series of struggles both mental as well as professional: negotiating obstacles like Scylla and Charybdis so that they can arrive at a happy end.

But the production, directed by a variety of artists, is constructed with such élan, with plenty of swash, buckle and romance that we are scarcely aware of its schematics.

The BBC used to distinguish itself with these kind of dramas of a Sunday night - for there was 'Howards Way' set in the contemporary era that enjoyed a long run.

So how pleasant it was to see the new 'Poldark' perpetuating that tradition and keeping it alive through five seasons.

The writing is thoughtful and often very rich, and story-wise much it is very well paced and the drama is constantly compelling, with many harrowing and poignant dramatic parts that are too many to list.

The characters are richly developed and compellingly real, the heroes are not too virtuous and actually have flaws and the villains are not stock or one-note.

Regarding the acting, that is fantastic pretty much all round with minor reservations only relating to Davis. Aiden Turner smolders in his sex appeal and provides a haunted and brooding characterization in the title role that is commanding and heartfelt.

He shares sizzling chemistry with Eleanor Tomlinson's very touching and spirited Demelza. Whoever hired them needs a pay raise as their chemistry is obvious and abounding.

Now, and with that all said, the story based on Winston Graham's famous books is well told and allows you to really care about the characters for the opening four seasons.

However, come this fifth season and suddenly the whole run seems to have been a complete and utter fabrication by the writers! There was a 10 year time jump in the books between book seven - The Angry Tide, which ends with Elizabeth's death, and book eight - The Stranger From The Sea.

So, the writers decided to tie up loose ends by making up a final season here, and ending things early within this fifth season.

They also wanted to avoid the difficulties involved in that time jump, for example explaining how Ross become a spy in Portugal. I really wish they had not bothered, because the result is dire, sorry.

For some reason Ross and Demelza's children have not grown older, neither have the other characters - except for Geoffrey Charles who seems to have missed the memo about no time jump, because he has aged years and is now a young man, not a schoolboy!

Also, whilst I'm on this rant, the plot reuses tired old devices from earlier seasons - another mine disaster, another famine, another prison break - but does, at least, introduce new characters.

Ned Despard was a real historical character, so was his wife, but they don't seem to have ever visited Cornwall! Horatio Nelson testified at the real Despard's trial, but doesn't get a gig here!

They also introduce a silly young female "revolutionary" who brings a wealth of nastiness to what plot there is! They also created a stupid romance for Geoffrey Charles, which was pointless and not worthy of the writers time and effort (let alone the poor character!)

So yeah, this fifth season focuses on the sort of dark nastiness you might find in a bad American soap, without the inevitable rescues in the nick of time.

Heaven knows what Winston Graham would have made of all this because, in my humble opinion, this fifth and now final season completely ruins all that went before it.

In saying all that, and playing journalist Devil's Advocate here, in general, 'Poldark' is brilliant because of the great locations it is filmed at; like the shire county of Cornwall.

Overall though, it is well written and the characters are well portrayed by the actors, and the cinematography is amazing and the music is a treat also.

In closing, the whole 'Poldark' adventure is quite wonderous and expansive, but this fifth and final season - albeit is action-packed - is not anything close to the books or the script laid out for it a long time ago; but still gives us viewers an exciting (albeit not correct book wise) ending to the beloved series.

Please know that this program includes material that may not be appropriate for younger viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

Including over 150 minutes of bonus videos scattered across the magnificent 15 DVDs, we can go behind the scenes with cast and crew in special featurettes from all five seasons of 'Poldark'!

There we meet the skilled people who design the vivid scenery and create the lavish costumes, and hear from the actors who bring to life the compelling heroes, heroines, and villains of Cornwall.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Go behind the scenes with cast and crew in special featurettes from all five seasons of Poldark! Meet the skilled people who design the vivid scenery and create the lavish costumes, and hear from the actors who bring to life the compelling heroes, heroines, and villains of Cornwall.

www.PBS.org





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