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Clarissa Harlowe is a young 18th-century Englishwoman. Her family have aspirations to move into the aristocracy and want her to marry the repellent Mr Soames as part of their plan. Clarissa manages to escape from them with the help of the handsome Lovelace, whose intentions towards her prove to be less than entirely honourable. Written by
Peter Brynmor Roberts
With a budget of over £3 million, filming on Clarissa began 29 Apr 1991 and continued for 16 weeks until 19 July 1991. Locations included several large country houses (one in the north of England, another near Stratford, and a third in Hampstead). Some exteriors were shot outside The Inns of Court in London but much of the filming was done at London's Ealing Studios, where a three-storey Georgian house was specially constructed for the series. See more »
I was lucky to see this both as the 190 minute version from Britain and the version taped off of PBS's Masterpiece Theater which is quite a bit shorter, being condensed into three episodes instead of four. Both were grainy copies, but the production values still came through. I have heard that the BBC has no plans to make this available on video or DVD. That is a shame. It really deserves more exposure.
Clarissa has great sets, great costumes and truly wonderful acting. There have been some complaints about the adaptation, but I felt the screen writers did a fine job taking one of the longest novels in the English language, written as a collection of letters, and condensing the story to a four episode mini-series. They even managed to maintain a good deal of the original structure by having the characters exchange many, many letters.
This production is full of characters I just loved to loathe, from Clarissa's greedy, amoral family to the companions Lovelace makes when he is out slumming. As for the two main characters, I never thought I'd be cheering on the rapist, but Clarissa's self righteous martyr act was more than even I could bear. At least Lovelace for all his deceit and manipulations had some awareness of his own faults.
A friend and I had a lively discussion afterwards trying to picture what a marriage between Clarissa and Lovelace might have looked like. Acts as simple as how to serve the eggs for breakfast and what color to paint the drawing room would surely have become massive wars of wills. We concluded that perhaps this story had a happy ending after all.
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