Blu-ray Review: Brideshead Revisited: 30th Anniversary Collection

People often wonder what’s the point of going to college? It’s not really for the education since most of what you learn will either be forgotten or outdated within a decade. I’ve yet to program in Pascal or covalent bond in the real world. College ultimately is the best chance to accumulate friends that will keep appearing in your life at unexpected moments. Brideshead Revisited is such a tale of how two roommates from Oxford couldn’t shake each other. England’s ITV adapted Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder in the classiest mini-series ever made. Brideshead Revisited: 30th Anniversary Collection heightens the memories with Blu-ray glory.

Captain Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) is an artist stuck as an Army captain towards the end of World War II. He’s not a big fan of military life. He barely tolerates his commanders. In the dark of night, his men are transported to a secret Brigade Headquarters. In the morning light, he survey’s the property to realize that he’s been there before. The huge estate is Brideshead, the former home of Marchmain family. He remembers back to his time in Oxford with his roommate Lord Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews). You can tell that Sebastian is extremely rich and powerful since he wanders the campus holding Aloysius, a teddy bear. None of Sebastian’s posh pals seem to mock the fuzzy critty. They also seem willing to accept Charles even though he’s not rich kid. He’s a painter and Sebastian likes him. That’s good enough to let Charles in their elite circle. Can he really hang with the rich kids? Barely. Ultimately, Charles gets taken home by Sebastian to meet his family. The young middle class kid is blown away by the humongous Brideshead and the family’s opulent lifestyle. He falls for the charms of Sebastian’s sister (Diana Quick).

The trouble with the Marchmain clan is that they’re hardcore Catholics. They don’t believe in marrying Protestants nor divorce. Lord Marchmain (Laurence Olivier) lives in Venice with his mistress. He doesn’t believe in the Vatican like his wife. The pressure of the family and their beliefs get to be too much for Sebastian. He becomes a hardcore boozer as part of his rebellion. He quickly goes from cute eccentric to black sheep of the family. Charles becomes more focused as a landscape painter, but he can’t escape the family. The Marchmain’s use Charles as a way to connect with Sebastian. Charles’ struggle to make his old college roomie snap out of it takes a toll on his life.

Brideshead Revisited is a masterpiece in both performances and production. Jeremy Irons emerges as one of the greats of his generation. He holds his own against the great Olivier. He guides us not only into the rarefied world of the Marchmains, but exposes his tormented emotions about the family. He lets us know the extremes we can experience from a college roommate. The 11 episodes are as timeless as when they first ran on TV. This is a great adaptation of a novel. The pacing delves into the characters without the action being squeezed into a two hour movie. Brideshead Revisited is an adaption worthy of being savored.

The video is 1.33:1 is anamorphic pillarboxed. From what I’ve gathered, Brideshead Revisited was shot on 16mm so it’s not the sharpest of 1080p images. There is more detail on the screen. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. It’s not the most atmospheric of mixes. The levels are fine. The episodes are subtitled.

Revisting Brideshead (48:01) reflects on the production and the impact of the series. Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews discuss the iconic work. Can Andrews go anywhere without people asking about his teddy bear?

Brideshead Remembered (40:08) is Michael Lindsey-Hogg explaining why he left the mini-series after a year of work. Charles Sturridge finished it.

Outtakes (9:48) reveals the mannered shoot had wild elements.

Aloysius (3:14) is a news reporter’s interview with man behind the teddy bear. Turns out he was made in America. This is gripping TV.

Photo Galleries are provided for all of the episodes.

Production Notes appear to be part of the press kit sent out to journalists back in the ‘80s.

Brideshead Revisted: 30th Anniversary Collection is the only way to watch the mini-series. The Blu-ray makes this a 13 hour movie and not merely a TV show. Jeremy Irons delivers a great performance as an artist capturing an upper class family disintegrating.

Acorn Media presents Brideshead Revisted, the 30th Anniversary Collection. Directed by Charles Sturridge and Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Starring: Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Diana Quick and Lawrence Olivier. Boxset Contents: 11 Episodes on 3 discs. Released on Blu-ray: November 1, 2011. Available at