For us on this side of the pond we know Poldark from its airing on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre in the mid 1970s. It has been a hard find since, although random poor quality releases did appear both abroad and on eBay from time to time. Now finally Acorn Media has given the fir first sixteen episodes a proper Region 1 release and the quality is exceptional- as good as it looked when it first appeared on the scene. As a note to purists, exceptional does not mean HD quality; there is grain present and a few minor flaws, but given the age of the work, etc. this isn’t likely to look much better.
I’ve never read nor am I familiar with any of the novels of Winston Graham’s on which this is based so honesty to those will have to be left to others. As it is Poldark is almost tinged with the air of a soap opera. We have suspense, romance, shipwrecks, a lovely estate, smuggling rings, class struggles and more.
But the term soap opera doesn’t do Poldark justice. We have a majestically done late 18th Century setting- Cornwall after the Revolutionary War. A historical setting and bent that this viewer definitely enjoys! The casting is superb-with typical English subtlety- and for newcomers the set includes brief filmographies- which is about all that is brief about this set.
We don’t have anything stateside in our television history to really match up well with such a well done story. Folks who are not familiar with either the books or the mini-series are best to look to Gone with the Wind for a means of comparison. Both are a bit length for their format but both share much in common in terms of theme and setting.
Both show the effects of war on economy, ways of life, social class, and family structure. Yes, there are differences. Copper mining and cotton growing are not the same by any stretch, but the themes are quite alike, just the presentation is altered.
The only flaw with Poldark is also what makes it so engrossing. It is so long and so immersive that to watch all sixteen episode would take almost 16 hours. Granted, the time flies by but the investment may throw off some who are more interested in American Idol or other such swill. And that is fine, just more for the rest of us.
And for fans who have been clamoring for the second batch of the Poldark series, it will street in September of 2010.