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I watched the DVD of one of the most badly abbreviated TV miniseries it has ever been my misfortune to watch. The DVD is a total rip off trying to cash in on a few "names". Unfortunately, the story is impossible to follow due to the editing - characters enter and disappear without trace.
The story is supposed to be about a family's rise to wealth and power. The film shows the two Blackwood brothers (Harris Yulin and Stacey Keach) in a wagon heading to Ohio accompanied by the wife (Sara Miles) and baby. They build and share a cabin, rescue a fleeing slave, fall out, the wife departs with the brother-in-law, then inexplicably returns to her husband accompanied by a small son, which he incorrectly assumes is not his child. After the "over my dead body" speech from the husband, they are posing for the happy family photo without us knowing why he took her back.
The faithful former slave, now beloved family retainer, is married off to a young woman who appears out of nowhere. The slave's former owner reappears on what seem to be cordial terms and catches the eye of the daughter, sulkily played for 60 seconds by Amy Irvine, then they too are gone to the cutting room floor. The boys grow up, everyone quarrels, the youngest son (Geraint Graham) is convinced that he is the illegitimate son of the brother-in-law and schemes about something or other. Father dies, Another son (Harrison Ford) has a shouting match with his mother after the funeral, and the film suddenly ends right there. At least I think that is what is was about. Although some of the story must have overlapped with the Civil War, it is never mentioned.
Aside from the butchering, the film is a waste of highly accomplished actors, and releasing such an inferior films harms their reputation. I don't know how long the TV version was, but the DVD could easily have been twice that long. Reducing a miniseries to 1 hour 40 mins. barely introduces us to the characters, let alone following a plot. Add that to the faded print, poor quality sound and lack of close captioning, I wouldn't be surprised if the DVD had been copied from a video tape. Save your money.
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