East of Eden (1981– )
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One dark ugly side and another good one, and the battle between them... Jane Seymore acting as the wicked mother who only lives for taken advantage of others including her sons, who does not know who she is. Bruce Boxlaitner (from the family Maccahan) also do a very good acting performance in playing the evil brother who only tries to get his fathers approval. I await the moment when this movie is put out on DVD - then I will get it as quick as ever possible.
I saw this film on television some years ago, and I can't forget it....
A sure 10 pointer ++
Simply put, the mini-series was hands down the better version. Beautifully filmed, intelligently written (keeping true to the novel) and impeccably cast, the mini-series is inspired stuff.
Every important aspect of the novel was captured. Timothy Bottoms and Bruce Boxleitner fleshed out their respective characters faithfully to those conceived by Steinbeck. But it is Jane Seymour's convincing portrayal, almost beyond description, of the evil Kate, that is the kind of thing movie legends are made. She made a believer out of me in a matter of a few frames.
Other standout performances include Warren Oates as the patriarch both boys rival to please and Lloyd Bridges as the ultra good father of the Hamilton clan.
Of the best mini-series prevalent around this time - Rich Man, Poor Man, Sho-Gun and East of Eden would rank in my top three, and not necessarily in that order.
This is the TV miniseries adaptation of East of Eden, which first aired February 8, 9 and 11, 1981, complete and unedited. This dramatization begins in the years following the Civil War. Braggadocio union officer Cyrus Trask (Warren Oates) is the father of gentle, loyal Adam (Timothy Bottoms) and hell raiser Charles (Bruce Boxleitner). Enter the bewitching, mean-spirited Cathy Ames (Jane Seymour), who leads both brothers on and causes an irreparable rift between them. Eventually, Adam marries Cathy, taking her and their twin sons to a 900-acre farm in California's Salinas Valley. Cathy rebels against this cloistered existence and runs off to work in a house of ill repute. Later we finally meet Cal Trask (played by Timothy Bottoms' son Sam), who can never hope to come up to the standards of his "good" twin brother Aron (Hart Bochner) in the eyes of his father. Cal's "bad" reputation obscures his good intentions, but by film's end he is compelled to reveal to brother Aron that their mother had not died as father Adam has claimed, but in fact has become a hard-bitten bordello "madam". Adapted for television by Richard Shapiro, East of Eden was part of ABC's informal "Novels for Television" series.
I really haven't spoiled anything for you here, because this is just the first half of the mini-series! The point is, in 1955 you could show just one wild troubled kid who didn't fit in with his family, but by 1981, post-Vietnam and post-Watergate, you could show generation after generation in multiple families loaded up with scandal and hypocrisy and nobody would even raise an eyebrow that this was not possible or even probable.
The other point is, Jane Seymour as Kate steals this mini-series almost entirely. Unlike every other character there is no gray here. She always acts in her own self interest and from the beginning seems to really hate men and enjoys tormenting them. Her sexuality is merely a means to that end. She is rather indifferent to women, but that doesn't mean she won't kill one if she gets in her way. However, in the cases of hurting or killing women she is like The Godfather - it is simply business, not pleasure.
So watch this and you'll never be able to see Jane Seymour quite the same again, especially if you watch reruns of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman". Highly recommended.
The second part is too skimpy with Cathy and the two twins. The main element kept out is the Hamilton family reduced to two or three short episodes with Samuel Hamilton, and of course the naming of the children, the reading of Genesis, Chapter 4, Abel and Cain, though shortened among other things skipping verse 7 that Lee discusses later to explain the real meaning of God giving free choice to Cain who may do good or evil as he chooses, but no one has predicted or planned it for him and no one is going to tell him what to do.
The third part alas keeps the innovation of the 1955 film and set Kate's brothel in Monterey, instead of directly in Salinas, within walking distance and immediate public rumor. This will help cutting the blackmailing Kate is planning to do in the city after her retirement, and her end, in fact her poisoning suicide and her will giving everything to Adam, quite a fortune, but Adam will be far away from Salinas by then. This side of the fishy business of Kate and the deal she has with the local sheriff and not the sheriff of the next county is taken out, especially when this one discovers the blackmailing plan after her death.
But at the end Caleb has the farm, the house in Salinas and the two inheritances from his uncle and from his mother, via his brother in that latter case.
Lee is essential without ever being the victim of any hostility when the war is declared, like in the 1955 film (note the anti-German events are also erased), and not being the target of too much deriding name calling, except from the sheriff who calls him chink chink, Lee is a central and essential character in the second and especially third part. He is among other crucial moments the one who gets Adam's blessing to his son Caleb.
The conflict between the two brothers, Caleb and Aron, is both reduced to a rather simple situation of two boys who are more or less competing for the love of their father, in the absence of a mother, and for the love of a girl, and at the same time slightly strengthened on that latter point by another reduction: the role Caleb plays in his brother's success in high school where he passes a class and his going to college on the support from his brother Caleb is erased. The two brothers are shown in the novel as deeply in love with each other and at the same time deeply competitive more than hostile but on a background of frustration both at the level of the father and at the level of the mother. It is this deep frustration and the father's unfair and unjust, unequal and selfish treatment of Caleb that is the main cause of the drama.
The series shows, but with a strong emphasis on the biblical interpretation proposed by Lee, how the curse runs in the family from the grandfather and his two sons from two different mothers and the conflict of Charles against Adam, though Adam is the oldest, then between these two grown up brothers who find themselves unable to work together on their common farm and then who take opposed positions concerning Cathy who takes refuge on their farm. In the first case Adam had no mother and was raised by his stepmother with a son on her own side. In the second case Adam picks that Cathy more or less out of a fancy and against his brother's will to spite him or to compensate for his lack of a mother.
But this union gives two sons then who are twins, symbolically Caleb the first one and Aron the second one, reproducing the biblical pair with Caleb the "bad" one like "Charles" and Cain and Aron the naïve and pure one like Adam and Abel, Aran and Adam the favorites of their fathers, just like Abel was preferred by God.
This pattern is strongly reinforced in the series but was absolutely absent from the film since the film only considered the final drama in Salinas. The series has reduced some balancing episodes and elements to concentrate on this parallel.
The result is that the biblical explanation is all the stronger since it reverses the curse and gives to anyone, and particularly to the one who feels unjustly rejected the responsibility to choose good and not evil. But what about Adam who could have chosen to be good and not evil with Caleb? And what about Charles and what about Aron? Only Caleb is pointed out and that is unfair, especially since God's curse against Cain has a compensation: he will be the source of all kinds of future development of humanity. But here the series is just as unfair with the Bible as the novel: Adam and Eve had a third son to replace Abel, Seth and at least half of humanity has come from this Seth and not all of humanity from Cain.
To conclude we can say this is a strange novel and TV series (the film is too far from the novel to be comparable) that reveals the deep biblical inspiration in the USA and at the same time the deep and cruel inspiration Steinbeck gets from this Bible.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
This miniseries follows the book fairly faithfully, the way it was written. I do seem to remember Sam Hamilton's wife being more fleshed out in the book, though. I also liked the scenery, sets, and other production items of this series.
There were times, though, were the acting made me cringe. For one, when Cathy was being beat up, it was obvious that the fists missed her by a mile. I did think that Soon-Tek Oh did a fantastic job as Lee and Jane Seymour did a great job as Cathy/Kate.
One thing that I felt should be improved is in make-up. They could have done a little more to show the characters aging. For example, they could have at least made Adam's and Kate's hair appear more gray as they aged. Afterall, they were in their sixties at the end of the story. And, they could have done more to Kate's hands to make her arthritis seem more convincing.
It is, as other reviewers say, storytelling at its best. But my main critique of the whole thing is that, as soap opera-ish as it is in its extreme examples of characters and all their mistakes they make and how manipulative Jane is, it also tries to be so biblical, symbolic, and/or self-important at the same time.
I read somewhere that Timothy Bottoms is probably the most talented of the three Bottoms actors/brothers. But his character (the lead and the one we should feel the most sympathy for) completed turned me off. His character is such a goody-goody, he's bland and one-dimensional. And, he always had a pained expression on his face, when trouble hit. And, you could always predict what he would do or how he would react in any given situation, like near the end about that money. He tends to take the high road, but in a way, that's off-putting and it doesn't feel noble at the time, but only like he's being a jerk. When not pained, he gives off an air of superiority. It's almost as if he's so consumed with self, that he didn't know how to relate or really talk to people in a real way. That's another thing: there was never any communication, at all. There was one good scene between him and Sam in the third part at the kitchen table. But other that, there was nothing real here.
I did feel for him to a degree when Jane was so blatantly awful to him, but his persistent blindness to her evil side and his obstinate love for her makes his character so unrealistic. I know there are people like him, but most men today would have left her a long time ago. It's like he's a sucker for punishment. The only other time I felt for his situation was when he and brother Bruce Boxleitner were trying to win their dad's approval and when Bruce beat him up.
Maybe all these mannerisms were the actor's interpretation of the character and it wasn't just bad acting and/or overacting, but, on the whole, his character just wasn't that relate-able.
Sam Bottoms, as his supposed son, is much more interesting and well developed. The big and talented supporting cast helps to move things along: Warren Oates (who was especially good as their father,) Howard Duff, Anne Baxter, Lloyd Bridges, Richard Masur, and Karen Allen. But, Jane's character is so evil and down right bad that it tends to make it hard to watch. Sam Bottoms and Karen Allen bring some much needed fresh air in the third part. But, this definitely makes me want to see the James Dean version.
I know I'll be in the minority, bashing Timothy and/or his character and the overall unpleasantness of it and its trying to be so self-important, but that was my immediate reaction to it, and a week later I still have it. I had seen it twice before: when it came out in 1981 and I was much younger (so that doesn't really count), and eight years ago. Maybe, I'll be in the mood for it in another eight years.
Summary...This movie originally is about 2 brothers both involved with Jane Seymour, one of them gets the girl and they have 2 sons, thus the 2nd half focus's on these 2 children. I believe you'll sit waiting for some logical resolution to occur, which never happens!!! You'll be content in the ending not because any great justice was done, but due to the fact that the characters are able to forgive each other and somehow find peace, that is, the characters that are left standing at the end of this suspenseful tale.
Lloyd Bridges wasn't believable at all. He really overacted and made his character seem meaningless whereas in the book it was terribly sad when Sam Hamilton died. In this film, I was relieved that he was gone.
Although I have not seen the 1955 version, I hear it only covers the last few chapters of the book. I'm hoping the new version being directed by Ron Howard will be more complete and therefore more engrossing. This classic book deserves much better.
Bottom line is in the real world we have trade, we have intermediaries and yes middlemen that make a buck. In the final analysis the farmers made out better in the short term, the investors made out, and the end user accepted the terms. That's the cold hard facts of life not some BS of "oh the poor farmers". The latter is communism which fits. We live in a world of goods and quid pro quo exchanges. If we don't do that then none of your work with worth anything. That is the trouble here having worth including the middle men who do add value. Why do you think the lettuce failed. Had he had intermediaries instead which he should have paid for they could have checked it along the way.
Steinbeck is a fine writer and in his magnum opus he did a discredit to the western world. I give it a seven, the mechanics of the writing is superb, the plot lines are idealistic.
This 1955 production by Warner Bros.was only concerned with the last part of the sprawling 3 generation novel.
We now come to 1981, CBS decided to film the novel as a mini-series, so thusly we now have on 3 DVD discs 382 minutes of very good TV. The folks who saw this in 1981 had to suffer thru endless commercials.
It is now such a pleasure to see these fine mini-series without boring dull commercials ruining the fine dramatic moments we just witnessed.
As with most (if not all) mini-series there is an all star cast of current (for 1981) TV performers & stars of prior years.
This cast is headed by Jane Alexander as the conniving, bitchy,evil & rotten Kate. She won a well deserved Golden Globe for her efforts. . Two of the Bottoms family of brothers play father & son. Both Timothy (Adam) & Samuel (Cal) are excellent, Here is maybe a bit of sacrilege but I feel Sam Bottoms Cal was just as good if not better than James Dean's was in the Elia Kazan film. Sam seemed a bit more natural.
Next I must mention Soon Teck-Oh as Lee,a character not in the 1955 film. He was just magnificent & it is a role to admire .Karen Allen is Abra, she was & still is very pretty,.Hart Bochner is fine as Aron, Bruce Boindexter is Charles (Adam's brother) & is only in the first part of the series,. Warren Oates,Howard Duff,Lloyd Bridges, Wendall Burton,Richard Mazur & Anne Baxter are all excellent in other characters.
One more cast member of note. Timothy Carey is in both the original movie as Joe & as the Preacher in the this mini-series.
All the production elements are excellent This is a very worthwhile program considering there will be a new mini-series coming soon,
I forgot to mention the director & tele-script writer Harvey Hart & Richard Shapiro. High praise for both.
Ratings: ***1/2 (out of 4) 95 points(out of 100) IMDb 9(out of 10