North and South: Saga of the American Civil War
|September 18, 2011||Posted by Ariadne under Western Serials||
When I had found out about the new DVD release of North and South mini-series, I was immediately swept by my childhood memories. Back then, North and South was perhaps my favorite serial of all time. Straight from the first second of the brilliant orchestral opening theme, I was immersed in every episode. What unraveled before me was a complex and magnificent story, set in turbulent times and populated with an impressive cast of characters.
Even though North and South falls into the Western genre, it is best known as a historical saga. The central plot revolves around the northerner George Hazard (James Read) and the southerner Orry Main (Patrick Swayze), who become friends while being cadets at West Point. The story further follows them and their families in years to come, as they endure the hardships of the American Civil War. Many subplots are furthermore set against the rich historical background, adding to the story its share of romance and intrigue.
North and South’s numerous cast includes the legends such as Johnny Cash, Gene Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, to name the few. It is also sometimes forgotten that the role of Orry Main has in fact brought Patrick Swayze to fame even before he filmed Dirty Dancing.
The saga is actually an adaptation of novels written by John Jakes. While the entire serial is often known simply as North and South, this title more precisely only refers to book one (1985 series). Love and War is an adaptation of book two (1986 series), and Heaven and Hell book three (1994 series).
Here I must say that in this text so far, I’ve been in fact praising only the first two adaptations, filmed in the 80’s. As for Heaven and Hell… there is no Heaven in this! Unlike the well received 80’s adaptations, Heaven and Hell was disliked by critics and fans alike.
Heaven and Hell came with the delay, as the third book wasn’t initially planned for adaptation. This brought about some issues with the continuity of the plot, and on top of everything, the atmosphere in this weak production was so different, that it felt like a completely different show. I don’t remember much of Heaven and Hell, probably because I wanted to forget I ever watched it. Yes, the first two adaptations took some liberties from the books, but were nonetheless a wonderful, rounded story. They are perfectly sufficient to watch without this third installment, which is best left forgotten.
This year’s DVD release brings together the entire North and South collection. Even with the flaws of Heaven and Hell, the release still makes for terrific news, since the first two adaptations are brilliant, memorable and a must watch for anyone interested in this genre!