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Helen Mirren at the BBC
6-Mar-2008 -

BBC Video presents a stunning treasury of nine historic performances by Academy Award winning Actress Helen Mirren
Long before The Queen, long before Prime Suspect's DCI Tennyson, Helen Mirren was honing her craft with a cast of literary characters on par with the great actresses of all time--all in teleplays for the British Broadcasting System. This boxed set is both a treasure trove of English language classics, well known and obscure, and a brilliant window into the building of the talent and career of Mirren, starting as a young, Gwyneth Paltrowesque ingénue. The five discs feature costume dramas from just about any period of English history imaginable. Teleplays include versions of The Changeling, The Apple Cart, Caesar and Claretta , The Philanthropist, The Little Minister, Miss Rhinehart, Soft Targets, and other, shorter presentations.
Among the gems are The Changeling, shot with lush production values and a leisurely, very British pace. Mirren is Joanna, a young lass already torn by love and commitment, and Mirren is riveting even as a cherubic youngster. ("I adore Jacobean tragedy," Mirren says of this play in the commentary--and who doesn't?) In Bernard Shaw's The Apple Cart Mirren doesn't appear until nearly an hour into the play, but is compelling as a wily mistress type: "You are as slippery as an eel," she tells her ne'er-do-well companion, "but you shall not slip through my fingers."
The set is as compelling for the appearances of other actors who costar with Mirren, including a young, tormented Ian Holm in Stephen Poliakoff's Soft Targets. Not to be missed are the interviews with Mirren, including Helen Mirren Remembers, which gives a great overview of the set, and how she grew into the splendid actress she later became. "You're going to be very exposed" in front of a camera, she says--and that's the true delight here for all Mirren fans.
The Changeling (1974)
The Changeling featured Helen Mirren in one of her first breakout performances, as tragic heroine Beatrice-Joanna. Betrothed to Lord Alonzo De Piraquo, Beatrice-Joanna finds herself in love with nobleman Alsemero instead. Her decision to have Alonzo murdered puts into motion a heartbreaking chain of events with tragic consequences.
The Apple Cart (1975)

Helen Mirren and Prunella Scales appear in The Apple Cart, a Shaw play set forty years in the future, where the king must match wits with an unruly mistress and a cabinet seeking to transform the nation into a constitutional monarchy.
Caesar and Claretta (1975)
Robert Hardy and Helen Mirren star as Benito Mussolini and Claretta Petacci who spend their last night locked together in a small peasant cottage by Italian partisans.
The Philanthropist (1975)
Philip and his circle of friends talk philology, playwriting and everything in between. During the course of their party, couples form and love blooms as they socialize, insulated from the seismic events unfolding in the world around them. In The Philanthropist Helen Mirren appears in a showstopping performance as Philip’s fiancée Celia.
The Little Minister (1975)
Helen Mirren plays Babbie, a mysterious young gypsy girl who incites a Luddite riot in rural 1840s Scotland. Drawn into this event is Babbie’s love interest Gavin Dishart, the new “little minister” of Thrums's Auld Licht church. But before the two can declare their love for each other, Babbie has a secret that belies her gypsy past.
The Country Wife (1977)
Horner, a first-class rake, devises a brilliant scheme to lure in the fine married ladies of London society under their husbands’ noses. But Horner soon meets his match when he becomes involved with Margery Pinchwife (Mirren), an innocent newlywed from the country.
Blue Remembered Hills (1979)
It’s 1943 England, and the end of World War II is still two years away. On a sunny afternoon, seven children play in the Forest of Dean. However, their innocent and carefree day suddenly turns deadly when a harmless prank goes horribly wrong. This Dennis Potter play is traditionally cast with adult actors as the children, and Helen Mirren does not disappoint as pigtailed Angela.
The set is available from BBC America and from

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