War & Peace (TV Mini-Series 1972–1974) Poster


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A marvelous recreation of the novel that is very faithful to it
Michael Casagrande18 November 1999
Anthony Hopkins stars in the role that brought him to my attention, that of Pierre Bezukhov. He gives a rendition of Pierre that is very convincing, and takes the character through an education that is far from sentimental, though it is very moving.

The depth of the novel is brought out by the length of the mini-series, which I saw on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre in the early 1970's. It is well shot, with wide open vistas that do some justice to the Russian countryside. The portrayal of Russian country life and its glittering high society of the cities is most convincing.

The performances beyond that of Hopkins are also quite strong. Very affecting was Alan Dobie as Prince Bolkonsky. The whole effort deserves 10 out of 10.
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Greatness was achieved.
Tom Murray24 April 2001
This more-than-twelve-hour-long BBC TV version of the epic Tolstoy novel, War and Peace, starring Anthony Hopkins as Pierre, is a brilliant production, is the finest TV movie that I have ever seen and is based on the greatest novel ever written. The length allows sufficient time to fully develop the many characters over a long period of their lives. This is one area where TV can surpass the cinema.

The 1972 BBC TV miniseries, War and Peace, was a far superior rendering of the great Tolstoy novel. A 2007 TV series of War and Peace, created by Italy, France, Germany, Russia and Poland was also excellent but, to me, the BBC version was the greatest.
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Excellent film
Eagle12803 April 2005
I am delighted to say that this miniseries is an excellent adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's famous book and it is remarkably faithful to the story line. What I do not understand is why this film version has not been set onto DVD yet. If it were I would buy it tomorrow. Nearly every major British Actor and Actress from the 70s appears in this version and I notice different items in the episodes every time I view my VHS version. I highly recommend this for anyone who wishes to read the book beforehand or afterward. I also enjoy seeing Anthony Hopkins as a very young man portraying a character full of energy, failings and then how the character through Anthony Hopkins matures by the end of the series.
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An adaptation true to its roots!
dr_valentine_mp26 June 2005
I remember seeing this first when I was just 12. It definitely left an impact on me especially Alan Dobie's Prince. Also Natasha Rostova played by Morag Hood is a very interesting and free-spirited character. Ms. Hood has really brought natasha to life, so much so that sometimes you can't wait to watch what she's going to do next. The scenic backgrounds of Russia are beautiful and as always Anthony Hopkins dazzles in his rendition of Pierre. Anyone interesting in seeing a movie version of War & Peace must watch this and not the more recent versions (very dry and boring - would think it was shot in Texas). The scenes tend to linger in your memory..
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I heartily second the opinions regarding the superbness of this epic series
jeffws16 February 2009
I don't have much to say in addition to the adulations given by, especially, those who watched this amazing series at a young age. I was 23 when it first broadcast on public television, a co production of the BBC and Time-Life. I disagree with the verbose UK reviewer above, who felt the episodes boring until about halfway. I was intrigued with episodes 1 and 2, and utterly engrossed by 3, waiting impatiently for the following week to bring the next episode. My only problematic observation from the 1st episode was that it seemed a little stagy, as if I were watching a stage play. Small criticism. Watching it again 37-odd years later ( have finished the 2nd DVD as I write this) I was again engrossed, with the advantage of not having to wait a week for the next episode! The only proper and accurate adaptation to the great novel.

Considering this a television production, I was again impressed (and surprised) by the ambition and quality of the battle scenes. It was refreshing not see an exaggerated CGI army battling another CGI army. My favorite actors were Alan Dobie and a young Anthony Hopkins. Every time I see Hopkins in a movie, I immediately remember his outstanding performance as Pierre. The one scene I always remember is Alan Dobie ad Prince Andre, lying in the battlefield after being wounded while leading a futile charge at Austerlitz, lying on the ground, staring up at the sky and remarking about it, that all is vanity, illusion.

Finally, how can one forget Fiona Gaunt as Helene? Wow, those low-cut empire-style gowns. I kept fearing (if that is the word) that she wouldn't be able to "contain" herself. (Sorry for the moment of male levity).

My all-time favorite British TV production, even slightly ahead of the wonderful Upstairs, Downstairs.

P.S. Thanks to the viewer who pointed out that it was not shown on Masterpiece Theater. I always remembered that it was, and was regretting that Alistair Cooke's introductions and final comments were missing from the DVD. Now I know that they were not! But how I wish they were!
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Everything the 1956 film should have been, and the best version of the Tolstoy classic
TheLittleSongbird24 July 2015
Adaptations of War and Peace aren't a great many, and almost all of them have their problems. That said, as masterful as Tolstoy's novel is, due to the mammoth length, the complexity of the characters and the story as well as Tolstoy's themes and his writing style, it is also one of the most difficult books to adapt. One adaptation does a particularly fantastic job with it however, and that adaptation is this 1972 BBC mini-series.

The mini-series looks wonderful, with spectacularly opulent costumes and sets, lavish and evocative period detail (actually looking like Russia, Russian country life and high society is also very accurately depicted) and it's photographed beautifully as well. The music score is well composed and fits beautifully, with an appropriately understated version of the Imperial Russian Anthem serving as the main theme. The script is thoughtful, cleverly structured(tight in alternative to rambling, and a real attempt is made to let the story make sense, and successfully too) and literate, not only adhering true to Tolstoy's writing and themes but it captures the depth and spirit of the writing and themes as well. The occasional voice-overs help one to completely understand the story and why the characters behave the way they do, not feeling intrusive at all. The nearly fifteen hour length is ideal for adapting such a huge story, adaptation-wise this version is as faithful to the book as you can get and does it while also maintaining in translation what makes the book so powerful, keeping the key scenes, characters and themes and with the full impact they ought.

War and Peace (1972) doesn't spend too long on the human drama scenes, and unlike the 1956 film doesn't endlessly stretch them to tedium, key and family relationships portrayed with moving intensity. The battle scenes don't wrench the gut quite as much as the Russian version, but are still powerful and poignant with far superior and authentic sound quality than in the film, and would have been even more so with the inclusion of background scoring. The winter retreat is particularly well done here. The series is skilfully directed, and the characters carry the narrative compellingly, their interactions and situations feeling very real and they avoid falling into caricature (including Napoleon and Kutuzov). Anthony Hopkins is superb in one of his best early performances, the only Pierre of any of the adaptations to be completely ideal, and Alan Dobie is aristocratic and expressive as Andrei and Morag Hood enchants as Natasha despite being somewhat too old.

Rupert Davies steals his scenes, Joanna David is touchingly sympathetic and Angela Down makes one wonder why she didn't do more acting. Harry Locke underplays wisely in the optimistic role of Platon, David Swift brings humanity to Napoleon rather than as a hammy caricature and Frank Middlemass is a vividly forthright General Kutuzov. Overall, a brilliant mini-series and the best version of the Tolstoy classic. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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wonderful adaptation
joanmarieherbers3 June 2007
I remember seeing this when I was in high school and being mesmerized. Having watched it at home now twice, I still think this an amazing adaptation. Watching Anthony Hopkins stretch his legs in his first big role is a wonder and presages all the kudos he was to receive in ensuing decades. I also think Morag Hood was quite convincing as a 13-year-old girl through to a nearly-30 Natasha; in contrast to another viewer who was bothered by a 30-year-old woman playing the girl Natasha, I found her acting the part of a 13 year old to be convincing.

David Swift brings real complexity to Napoleon, and the family scenes of the Rostovs are a wonderful contrast to the dysfunctional Bolkonsky family. The acting is very good throughout (although Joanna David as Sonya does a bit too much weeping for my taste) and the peek into the Russia of the times is faithful to the book.

This production shows its age, especially the graininess of exterior shots compared to the interior studio film, but overall I think it a truly outstanding adaptation. I sure wish Alan Dobie was still working in film! Most of the secondary characters (Dolohov, Helene, and Katische) are quite good.
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A beautiful epic where I first discovered Anthony Hopkins
camille-722 November 1999
I was more into the romance of the show rather than the battle scenes but I watched the entire production when in my early 20's. I thought Morag Hood was a good choice for Natasha, resembling in appearance and actions, a young Audrey Hepburn who had originally played Natasha in the 1950's production. This was the first time I ever saw the young Anthony Hopkins and was very impressed by his kind and sincere portrayal of Pierre and was also impressed by Alan Dobie as Andre! Well, lets face it, I thought they were both extremely handsome!!! As I said I wasn't into the historical aspect of it but enjoyed the storylines of the important families, the Bezuhov's, Rostova's and Bolkonsky's.
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Excellent version, much better than the 2007 one
cluciano6318 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Still, the casting of Natasha is doubtful for me, as the actress in this version looked far too old to be playing a teenager for much of the series. She acted very silly and young, as per the role, but did not suit completely. But not enough to take away from the overall production.

The hairstyles of the men are jarring at times, rather bad wigs, lol.

Anthony Hopkins is amazing, It is startling to see certain gestures and motions that he retains forty years later.

Overall the acting, settings and costumes are realistic and well-done. I love the role of Count Rostov in this version, he was a charming actor.

As always, it is difficult to hear of the suffering of the Russian soldiers. The contrast between the immaculate uniforms and lack of food and supplies was ludicrous, if represented at all accurately.
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Faithful to Tolstoy, More Complete Than Most Versions, Hopkins a Fine Pierre
museumofdave28 February 2013
There are at least three major filmed versions of the epic, sprawling Tolstoy masterpiece, and each offers particular pleasures. The King Vidor version made for Hollywood is short; otherwise, it offers a miscast Henry Fonda and a wistful Audrey Hepburn, who while lovely indeed, is out of her depth in a deeply tragic story. The Russian version which clocks in at somewhere about eight hours has lavish spectacle going for it, huge amounts of staged battle sequences which boggle the mind--and done without the use of CGI;its drawback is an often confusing script and, for contemporary English and American audiences, an over-the-top, occasionally hysterical acting style. This version is fifteen hours long and I found it followed the book carefully, and is loaded with fine performances, particularly Anthony Hopkins as the confused Pierre, bumbling through life in search of some spiritual catharsis; there are numerous other roles that become memorable from actors not familiar to most of us, and only Napoleon comes up short in a lackluster, thudding performance. Because this version was for BBC and not the movies, it looks a little spare now and then, but once the rhythm was set, I found it compelling and hugely satisfactory.
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Better than the Book!
J_Trex9 April 2010
That may sound like faint praise for what many cite as the most boring novel ever written. I suffered through the novel and had a difficult time keeping up with the characters, multiple plots, and backstories. Not so with the movie. I found I was able to keep up with the story and to take an interest in the characters, something I was unable to do when reading the novel.

Keep in mind this is a 20 part mini-series, 750 minutes in length. Don't plan on watching this over a weekend, unless you have some dexedrine. I was considering borrowing the 1956 version with Henry Fonda as Count Bezukhov and Audrey Hepburn as Natash Rostova but when I saw that it only had a tepid 6.7 IMDb score, I decided against it. I figured it was due to the short length of the film that voters didn't like it. How can you film "War and Peace" in 208 minutes? When I saw the 1972 version starring Anthony Hopkins as Bezukhov scored an impressive 9.4 on IMDb, I immediately placed a rental order on Blockbuster Online, & preceded to watch all 5 discs. It was an excellent experience.

Now for another crack at the novel. Maybe I'll begin to understand what all the critics were raving about.
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An outstanding series which I would like to see again
Sulla-27 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this first of all in the early 70's and was inspired to read the book twice !!. It is an excellent series making the full use of several outstanding actors and actresses especially Anthony Hopkins. I never really liked the character of Prince Andre until he was dying. I always thought that his rejection of Natasha was a bit premature in view of the nature of her transgression. The scale of the battle scenes was never going to be large in comparison with some versions of the book which have been filmed. The Battle of Borodino in particular, was a very major conflict.In these days, the use of technology would have been able to assist. War and peace is a massive story and I am unable to even start to summarise it other than to say that the hero does get the girl.
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War & Peace BBC series
prentice-12 April 2002
Someone posted a while back that this mini-series aired on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre" in the 1970's. This is an error. The series did indeed air on PBS via NYC's station WNET. "Masterpiece Theatre" is presented by Boston's WGBH and "War and Peace" was NOT aired under the MT banner.
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This Napoleon Doesn't Look Like Marlon Brando.
Robert J. Maxwell5 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I'm still watching this miniseries on disks but as the end approaches I'm beginning to think I ought to add some observations before I forget. I once tried to read it but, like the Russian Army at Austerlitz, I pulled back in fear and exhaustion. This is, after all, a longie. And as someone said about driving through Texas, it just goes on and on and on.

I can barely remember the 1956 version with Audrey Hepburn as Natasha, but I do recall thinking at the time that Mel Ferrer, as Andre, was something of a goof. He's a fine actor in the right role, but the role should have a bit of snootiness built into it. Natasha can be thoughtless and flighty, and I like Audrey Hepburn pure. Above all, Henry Fonda was too old for Pierre.

Sergei Bondarchuk's mammoth production was an improvement. My God, the expense of shooting it would have provided everyone in the USSR with a brand new Cadillac and postponed its collapse. It was, I suppose, closer to history than the earlier version. People at fancy balls spoke French. But even at seven hours it couldn't cover all the bases, since I don' recall any reference to Pierre's experimenting with Masonry. Bondarchuk's Natasha could pass for a bewitching thirteen in the early scenes.

This TV version is long too and the production values are impressive. Austerlitz and Borodino don't have the same extravagance but I think, on the whole, the performances are better than any other version. Some of the less important roles are caricatures but the principals do fine. As Pierre, Anthony Hopkins is superb, much better than Sergei Bondarchuk and a vast improvement over Henry Fonda. Hopkins brings an edgy, half crazy quality to the role. He stumbles and bumbles but his suffering has a kinetic quality. And Alan Dobie as Prince Andre is properly proud, brooding, and thoughtful. As Natasha, alas, Morag Hood is not thirteen and not captivating.

The direction is efficient, not more than that, and the absence of incidental music gives the entire production a hollow sound and a stagy feel. A handful of people meet and are introduced in a sitting room. The hostess says, "Why don't we all sit down and talk." There is a long moment, silent except for the rustling of skirts, as everyone moves to his or her chair and sits. Then there is usually another awkward moment while they sit and stare at one another before someone says something like, "Tell me, how are you, and your dear brother?" It breaks the tempo and it seems as if a hole has just opened up on the screen and, for a moment, swallowed the actors.

There are occasional voice overs by Pierre, Andre, and Frank Middlemass as General Kutuzov. Unlike so many voice overs ("I was conked on the noggin and fell into a deep black hole"), these actually help us understand the conundrums faced by the characters. I was particularly impressed when Middlemass wants to yield Moscow to Napoleon and everyone objects that Moscow is the beating heart of Russia. "Moscow is a collection of buildings and streets," muses Middlemass, "and the heart of Russia is with its people." In other words, symbolic territories aren't worth the cost of an army, a mistake Hitler made at Stalingrad. Let's all be pragmatists for a while.

Well, space is short and "War and Peace" is long. I'd skip the Hollywood version and go with either of these, or both, although, like Texas, they do go on and on and on.
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True to the Book
elpulgadas22 March 2010
I read the book, saw the Hollywood and Russian versions and was very impressed with this version. Though it was made in the 70's it is on DVD and I was able to rent it from Netflix. Anthony Hopkins was believable as Pierre, Dobie's portrayal of Prince Andrei was also excellent. Morag Hood, the Audry Hepburn look alike's portrayal of Natasha was so much better than the Hollywood version. Anthony Jacobs deserves lauds as Nicholas Bolkonsky. The first episode may seem a little dry or slow but be patient as this is an epic, not a simple plotted movie. Hang in there and watch it. If reading War and Peace (1400 pages) is too much of a task (I used cliff notes as I read the book-- it helped me enjoy it more) view this version first then attempt to read the book.
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top 10 best miniseries
renegadeviking-271-52856817 February 2016
Having seen all three versions, (Hepburn, Russian and this) and having read the book and biographies of Tolstoi, I am most impressed with this version. The actors may not be exact replicas in appearance but in spirit they capture the characters quite well. The dialog is well chosen and faithful in the most important areas. My only criticism would be (and this is true of all versions) that Tolstoi's explanation of Helene's and Anatole's cruelty being due to their complete lack of sensitivity of what they're doing, is not so obvious as in the book. Anatole is seen riding around Moscow and waves gaily to Pierre the day after his failed attempt to elope with Natasha which indicates how little he thinks of what he has done. Perhaps it is not extremely important but I thought it made a lot understandable. In all other respects, this is a wonderful film, one I would and have watched again and again. You feel as if you know all the characters and you find yourself caring deeply about them. Even having seen it repeatedly I find myself equally moved with each viewing (ok, not as much as the first time when it was new but I was 12) I wish I could give it more than 5 stars. This is a film I had waited 25 years to see again and having lent it to a friend look forward to its return so I can watch again. In my esteem it ranks as one of the top 10 beautiful films!
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ttoelenko19 August 2010
I agree with 2 reviewers that the production lacks nuanced characterization.Iam particularly disappointed with the choice of Morag Hood as Natasha. As one reviewer said,"hello, a 30-year-old playing a 13-year-old ? ". She looks ridiculous in those scenes and her laugh is that of a mad-woman, not an enraptured adolescent. They should have just picked a 13-year-old actress to play Natasha at that stage ! Moreover, she just doesn't have, nor project Natasha's radiance, charm, vitality, or even loveliness. It's annoying to see Natasha with wrinkles ! Alan Dobie is also disappointing as Andrey. He looks the part, but his crisp delivery of lines makes the character look flippant and superficial. I didn't like the scene with the symbolic oak --- it's too rushed, and it's hard to believe that the character underwent such a substantial change in his outlook ! However, the scene where Natasha is singing and Andrey is musing " that he could weep " is very sensitively done. If only that potential for expressive performance could have been developed in other scenes !The actor just seems to read the lines and doesn't really get into the inner life of the character.

Bondarchuk's movie is far superior and much more moving !
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Staggeringly uneven - the BBC bit off more than they could chew.
tonstant viewer1 December 2010
British television has a mystique among some American viewers. This version of "War and Peace" is a useful corrective. Parts of it are quite good, but much of it is barely competent, and some is even less than that.

Many scenes combine lackadaisical pace with yelling and over-acting, a lethal combination. Some of the acting would be OK on the stage, but the camera is merciless in revealing miscalculations. "Faster and softer" across the board would have helped a lot.

It is not always the actors' fault. Sometimes the players look like some firm guidance from the director might help a scene, but that help often doesn't come. I suspect the director had his hands full just getting stuff in the can on schedule and under budget.

"Excuse me, can we do that again? I think I can do it better." "Sorry, we haven't the time. That take was good enough." Over and over again.

The one actor who covers himself with glory is Anthony Hopkins as Pierre. Hopkins could be awful elsewhere ("Legends of the Fall"), but here he rarely puts a foot wrong. He is what you will remember from all this.

Alan Dobie fails to convey Prince Andrei's aristocratic bearing, and looks lumpish and unattractive at the Great Ball where he is supposed to dazzle Natasha. But after fitful attention earlier, Dobie focuses wonderfully in his deathbed scenes, and winds up quite moving.

Angela Down makes an unexpectedly effective Maria, making the most of a part that often recedes into the woodwork.

Morag Hood is unbearable as the young Natasha. As the character ages, she quiets down considerably, and by the end she is merely annoying. But the giant shadow of Audrey Hepburn has stunted her growth, and Hood's inadequacy is a central concern.

Faith Brook is generally good as Mama, though she goes seriously off the rails when the Rostov house is emptied out ahead of Napoleon's occupation. Rupert Davies as Papa seems to think he's playing Dickens, not Tolstoy. When the Rostov family gathers noisily, I wind up looking for Tiny Tim.

David Swift's Napoleon is neither charismatic nor evil, just baleful. Frank Middlemass buries Kutuzov's humanity in a welter of eccentricities, in a performance that never quite adds up. Harry Locke is a blessedly underplayed Platon Karateyev - perhaps the best in that part that I've seen, but that doesn't make up for the other 12 hours.

The filmed Serbian exteriors are dreary without being impressive, and the muddy color doesn't help. The battle scenes boast a cast of hundreds rather than thousands, but they are sabotaged by clumsy staging and the lack of background music. Somebody's decision to restrict music to balls and salons was a major mistake - the dramatic scenes are rarely good enough to survive without orchestral support.

The sense of strain never leaves this enterprise. Actors force some encounters and trudge through others. All too often, we look at something that is one take short of merely OK.

You're far better off with the Vidor or Bondarchuk versions. This second-rate attempt is for completists only.
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The BBC movie of the epic novel War and Peace. Enough said.
rrawling-29 October 2006
I would just like to say that this is probably the most ridiculous movie I have ever seen. First of all, it 70s BBC (aka really bad acting). On top of that all the actors speak with exaggerated and obnoxious British accents (not that British accents are bad)... Hello, this is supposed to be Russia, could you tone it down a bit. Second, there is no music. What kind of movie doesn't have music? A really bad one. Plus, there are really gross, eating each other's face make out scenes, so without music, you can hear all the nasty sucking and spitty-ness. All sweet and romantic, huh. Third, the whole this is so melodramatic, it's funny. I mean, the scenes are so awkward I burst out laughing, even though it's no supposed to be funny. Fourth, the casting sucks. Natasha, who is supposed to be thirteen at the time, is played by, like, a thrity year old woman with her boobs taped down (to make her look younger). Hello? Couldn't you just get a younger actress? I mean, seriously. It can't be that hard. Watch the Soviet version of War and Peace; it is much better. Everything is wonderful about it. Plus, the actors are hot and they are cast well (Natasha probably is thirteen). I would only watch this movie again because it is so ridiculous it's funny.
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