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"North and South" Episode #1.2 (1985)

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Episode Two: On Their Guard Together

9/10
Author: Marcin Kukuczka from Cieszyn, Poland
6 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Orry's thoughts and dilemmas about Madeline extend to West Point classroom work. Can a young fellow ever concentrate when the woman he desires is already tied by marital status in the arms of a brutish, older planter? As an illusionary cure and Orry's first woman to make love to comes one sexy Alice Peet (Terri Gardner) who makes the time more enjoyable for many of his fellows during their 'escapades.' Bent destroys every slightest feeling of dignity at school treading on the weakest ones in the most beastly manner (an additional character of Fisk not included in the novel). When bullied out from West Point at last, his eccentric vanity and warning 'be on your guard' seem too serious just to be ignored... Happy graduates have moments of joy and sadness ahead of them... What helps them is to stay on their guard together! As soldiers, as friends, as Americans! Nevertheless, may the sadistic cadet's madness haunt them for the rest of their lives?

Episode Two of NORTH AND SOUTH Book I marks the following scenes worth considerable interest:

- the sequence with the horrid battle at Churubusco in Mexico where Orry gets hurt due to silly orders of...(don't let me spoil too much). Great depiction of horror of a battle without unnecessary violence that could disturb the core ideas (in the film Orry's leg is hurt while in the novel he loses his arm after the battle). The scenes of worried George who visits Orry in hospital are some of the most beautiful depictions of friendship;

- the hilarious moments with Alice Peet (Terri Gardner), particularly the scheme against Bent;

- the garden party at Mont Royal which a Yankee from Pennsylvania (George) attends for the first time - southern charm is beautifully incorporated within costumes and atmospheric shots of nature;

- the ball at which George, during his sort of 'hop' as a soldier, meets the love of his life, the beautiful Irish girl, Constance (Wendy Kilbourne). Their dance and their scenes that follow are filled with freshness and innocence depicted in a subtle manner - outstanding chemistry between the two appears from this very first moment and it is preserved throughout (Wendy and James got married after playing in the series);

- the atmospheric moments of Orry and Madeline meeting secretly at a ruined chapel;

- George's fight with Bent (that is surely what the madman deserves) - right revenge!

The episode highlights more the tensions that may arise between the best friends because of their different lifestyles. Their many scenes are based upon the real essence of friendship and played splendidly by Swayze and Read. To prevent lots of unnecessary divisions, they avoid talking about differences but also support each other as true friends. In one of the most memorable moments, Orry makes George realize that such is the way they have lived in South Carolina for a hundred years. Yankees cannot change it the same like he, as a southerner, does not come to Lehigh Station and tell the Hazards what is right and what is wrong. The southerners must solve their problems themselves...will they?

In view comes an unbelievably cruel, obscene sadist Salem Jones (Tony Frank) who treats his slaves in the most wretched manner - note one disturbing scene of torturing young Priam (David Harris) who, consequently, flees from the plantation. The horror of the scene is unbelievable and the poor man's screaming that rouses pleasures within the insane sadists. These characters, however, do stress a pathology that was certainly not the case of all planters and all the south.

Among the supporting cast, there is Robert Mitchum as lovable Constance's father Patrick Flynn who left his homeland (Ireland) but plans to come back. Though given a considerably limited time on the screen, his performance deserves special attention. What an understanding, 'positively indulgent' father he is!

Behind all, there is love, forbidden love, secret love that does not make anyone forget but, at the same time, does bloom behind the old ruins where, seemingly, everything is destroyed and lost forever...

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