This sweeping epic dramatized the lives of two Georgia families during the early-to-mid 1800s: the Kendricks, who resided on the Beulah Land plantation, and the Davises, who owned the Oaks plantation. Both families loved, prospered and lost during this period, and were both touched by the events of the Civil War. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Plantation life in the Deep Southbefore, during & after the Civil War
RELEASED IN 1980 and DIRECTED BY Harry Falk & Virgil W. Vogel, "Beulah Land" focuses on the titular Georgia plantation in Antebellum South, starting in 1827 and proceeding well past the Civil War.
MAIN CAST: Lesley Ann Warren stars as the emerging matriarch, Sarah, who basically takes over the plantation after marrying the likable, but feeble Leon (Paul Rudd). Meredith Baxter is on hand as Sarah's drama mama sister while Michael Sarrazin surfaces as Sarah's 'knight in shining armor' from the North. Eddie Albert & Hope Lange play the elders of Beulah Land. Dorian Harewood, Franklyn Seales, Grand L. Bush & Jean Foster have important black roles. Paul Shenar plays a literal slave-driver with Jenny Agutter as his babe of dubious morality. Don Johnson appears in the first act as a rash young buck from a neighboring plantation and Madeline Stowe his maybe (or maybe not) wife. Ilene Graff, Laurie Prange, Jonathan Frakes & Patrick Harrison all have secondary key roles.
COMMENTARY: Novelist Lonnie Coleman obviously used Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind" for inspiration for her first two Beulah Land books (1973 and 1977) from which this three-part miniseries was based. While it lacks the production values of the iconic "Gone with the Wind" (1939), "Beulah Land" is a generally more accurate depiction of the Plantation Era in the Deep South. For one thing, it was actually shot in the Deep South, at a plantation in Natchez, Mississippi, whereas the outside sequences in "Gone with the Wind" were all obviously shot in friggin' California (not counting establishing shots).
The beginning is weak with all the principles as children (provoking me to tune out the first time I tried to watch it), but after the first half hour you'll find yourself embroiled in the melodrama of plantation life. You can tell John Jakes' "North and South" trilogy took a lot from "Beulah Land," but the latter came first. There are a few shocking moments and thrilling sequences, particularly when the Yankees invade, but this is a melodrama of the Plantation Era with the expected virtues, sins and gray areas thereof. Needless to say, "Beulah Land" is a great companion piece to "The Blue and the Gray" (1980) and "North and South" (1985/1986/1994).
The three parts run 281 minutes (19 minutes shy of 5 hours). The screenplay was written by Jacques Meunier from Coleman's books.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON THE DVDS: PART II is featured on Disc 1 immediately following PART I. You have to wait for the ending credits of PART I and then it automatically goes into PART II without selecting anything. The disc makers should have indicated this on the Main Menu, but they didn't, which can confuse some viewers and make them think that the 2-Disc set doesn't include PART II.
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