After the Chisholm family were cheated out of their land in Virginia, they packed up everything and headed west to the Oregon Territory to set up a new life in the 1840s. It took two years for the Chisholms, led by patriarch Hadley and matriarch Minerva, to reach Oregon, along the way dealing with Indians, strife, family disagreements and rough travel. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I give a ten for the first disc alone, which contains the complete miniseries of 1979. These four episodes are superb, fully the equal of "Lonesome Dove," and I can give no higher praise than that! As for the other two discs, I would advise that you skip them entirely, so as not to spoil the glorious emotional power that has been generated by the first one. Beginning in 1980, lesser actors play some of the well-established characters, and the production quality goes down, WAY down, to a routine TV series. The gorgeous Stacey Nelkin, as Bonnie Sue Chisholm in 1979, is replaced by Delta Burke in 1980, and the other principal roles, even those handled by the original actors, seem to be going through the motions, sleepwalking. But I digress.
The first disc is a classic that should be placed in the pantheon of television and cinematic achievements. It is simply fantastic, from Chapter I through Chapter IV, and should have won multiple awards. Robert Preston's performance, as patriarch Hadley Chisholm, is worthy of the Best Actor of the Year Emmy - - and I say that by Oscar standards! Rosemary Harris (Minerva Chisholm) is every bit as good, and I would place Ben Murphy (Will Chisholm) in that same category. In a smaller but intensely dramatic role, Sandra Griego is marvelous as Keewedinok. Besides everything else, only the 1979 miniseries contains the perfectly fashioned music score of themes from three of Aaron Copland's ballets ("Appalachian Spring," "Billy the Kid," and "Rodeo"), sensitively crafted by Elmer Bernstein.
To summarize, do indeed buy "The Chisholms" on DVD, finally available after 36 years of neglect, and watch the first disc (Chapters I to IV from 1979) over and over at a reasonable cost. And then forget the other two discs, which will only serve to ruin the euphoric feeling of cinematic brilliance.
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