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'The Mallens' was originally transmitted as two films and has since
been reissued on DVD as four separate instalments - The Mallen Streak,
The Mallen Girls; The Mallen Secret, The Mallen Curse. Based on
Catherine Cookson's trilogy of novels, it was not liked by its author
and prevented other adaptations being made of her work for many years.
But is it any good? The first part of the story is dominated, as it should be, by Squire Thomas Mallen, a man who a woman never said no to, rich, powerful, and morally corrupt. Played by John Hallam (who was surprisingly under 40 at the time, but has the acting authority to appear older), a complex character emerges who engages both the audience's revulsion and sympathy. His actions cause the rest of the saga to unfold, first affecting his nieces Barbara and Constance, and then the next generation of children.
Many emotionally charged scenes could prove laughable if not skilfully handled. I think the acting was overwrought in places (David Rintoul in the early scenes strutted a bit too much as the arrogant country gentleman), but with Caroline Blakiston, Anne Reid, June Ritchie, Juliet Stevenson, and others on the screen you can't go wrong. The second part centres on the second generation (Juliet Stevenson and Gerry Sundquist), a bit like a pseudo Wuthering Heights - it's weaker, but by this time you care enough to see the saga through to the end.
A difficult adaptation of a difficult potboiler saga. Catherine Cookson should have been proud. It may not appeal to everyone, but there's no denying its power.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I tracked down this mini-series solely because I wanted to see other
work by John Duttine, who was so outstanding in "To Serve Them All My
Days." Based on the little I knew about "The Mallens," I wasn't
expecting much, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it held the
melodrama in check and featured very fine acting. It has that
"Masterpiece Theater" tempo of being slow enough to give you a sense of
what life in rural 1860s probably was like, without being so slow that
it bores. The characters, while very different in their assumptions and
motivations than we expect in current fiction, struck me as believable
and understandable. One warning though: the material is dark.
** SPOILER **
People die in ways or under circumstances that are very foreign to 21st century life. But that's part of what I found rather fascinating about it -- the sense of fatalism is palpable. Worth a look if you appreciate well-made period melodrama.
well, even more melodrama than is in a Catherine Cookson adaptation. I
got this DVD box set awhile ago and tried to watch it and found it so
over the top I put it aside.
I've been on a Cookson kick (rewatching all my DVDs and videos) so I pulled the Mallen set out and started watching it and still cringed through the first two episodes -- the acting, especially by David Rintoul (under much better direction and control in the 80s BBC Pride and Prejudice), is ridiculous. His acting is really quite like an old SNL skit -- picture Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi and Bill Murray putting on exaggerated posh Brit acting and you'll have his performance.
The veteran Irish actor playing the Matriarch actually gets better as the series progresses -- there is a very difficult rape scene right at start of the film (actually what turned me off when I first tried to watch this)and it's really hard to wrap your head around this dominant character (meaning he's constantly in the storyline).
At any rate, the locations are pretty, but be prepared that this is shot much like the 80s BBC dramas, where indoors is on video and outdoors is on film and it's a bit disconcerting as they shift back and forth. The indoor sets are very rudimentary and look almost like a theatrical set, but the outdoors are nicely lush.
If you can get past the dated aspects (the horrible overacting, the style in which it's shot, etc.), it's always nice to have the full Cookson library at your period-melodrama command.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This series based on one of Catherine Cookson's many novels, has all the
elements of a classic period drama; the village squire's sordid trysts in
barn, complex love triangles, and heaving bosoms.
Set in 19th century Northumberland, it follows the lively escapades of Thomas Mallen, played by John Hallam, who lives life to excess on his sprawling estate despite the fact that he is seriously in debt to his banker. His son who expects to inherit a fortune, is shocked to discover the truth, but then becomes part of an unfortunate turn of events. TV stalwart John Duttine plays Donald Radlet, Thomas Mallens illegitimate off-spring from what basically boils down to rape. And, Return Of The Jedi's Caroline Blakiston, excellently portrays the Governess Anna, the heaving bosoms I mentioned before, who foolishly becomes involved romantically with Thomas Mallen. This is just a sample from the first two episodes. Imagine what comes next.
Has that description whetted your appetite? It should do...This is a damn good romp...Watch it!!!
It's not often I have to reach for the 'off' button but that was the
case with THE MALLENS, an early Catherine Cookson adaptation which has
dated so badly it's completely unwatchable.
The main problem with this show is the lack of quality. The set-bound approach to the drama looks cheap and cheesy, little better than a particularly poor episode of Baker-era DR WHO. All BBC drama from this era has the same problem because of the use of now-dated cameras. It IS forgivable - but only if the script and characters make up for it. Unfortunately, both are dull here.
The acting is straight off the stage and completely unconvincing. The characters are weak without a likable lead in sight. It takes ages for anything in the way of plot development to occur, and when it does it's often laughable. The picturesque northern locales are great, but it's not enough to keep watching. The various 1990s-era Cookson adaptations are a million times better than this.
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