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The Lady's Not For Burning (1974) DVD

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The Lady's Not For Burning (1974)


Joseph Hardy


Christopher Fry (play)


Richard Chamberlain, Eileen Atkins, Jacques Aubuchon
"The Lady's Not for Burning" is a world-weary play about the darkness of the human soul, and about the grace that sometimes shines through that darkness and blesses the ones it shines upon. The setting is a generic town in the generic middle ages. Jennet, a lovely woman of some property, is identified and hounded as a witch, the excuse being that the old rag-and-bones man has been found dead. The mayor of the town promises to hang her tomorrow, but just that night, he's busy with an important party. A mercenary, Thomas Mendip, who has seen too much of the world, demands to be hanged because it was he who killed the rag-and-bones man. The mayor refuses Thomas's request, and insists that Jennet must be hung on the following day. The discussion of who is to be hanged, and why, is so funny you can hurt your sides laughing, and so grim that you want to cry. The play is, throughout, a darkly humorous portrait of the human condition. The priest who coddles his violin as if it were his only child, is utterly adrift from the world. He is unable to perform any of his proper functions as a priest, or even, really, as a human. He provides an odd counterpoint to the life and death issues that Thomas and Jennet face. This may be Richard Chamberlain's best performance. It is intense and understated. His Thomas is grim in exactly the right ways, with his generosity and sweetness expressed in his despair, a neat trick, even for a good actor. I've seen Chamberlain in other productions, but none of those performances seem as nuanced and sharply defined as this one.

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Product Reviews

  1. Unavailable elsewhere 5 Star Review

    Posted by on Apr 3rd 2021

    I have been looking for this on DVD for years. My search ended here. Thank you.

  2. YAY! 5 Star Review

    Posted by on Oct 13th 2018

    Searched a lot of places for this version. It's well copied and was delivered promptly. Awesome. This play is one of my favorites.

  3. wonderful play 5 Star Review

    Posted by on Oct 3rd 2018

    This story of a 15th century war weary soldier and how he finds hope is as pertinent now as it was when it was written after WWII. The acting is wonderful, especially Richard Chamberlain.

  4. An unjustly obscure play 4 Star Review

    Posted by on Oct 1st 2018

    The play itself is a dazzling delight of Shakespearean language. Like Much Ado About Nothing, the focus is on the older and far more interesting couple rather than the young ingenues. This particular video suffers from originally being a TV special -- washed out, not well lighted, and filmed on a sound stage. But the acting is quite fine, if not my dream cast. Richard Chamberlain somehow lacks the slight hint of menace the role of Thomas Mendip really needs. I have not yet compared it to the later version by Kenneth Branagh. Some cuts from the acting script which I own.

  5. Watchable! 4 Star Review

    Posted by on Sep 8th 2018

    Definitely from the 70s, but copy on DVD works fine. No label on DVD case, but that lets me make my own ... :-)

  6. waited a long time for this 5 Star Review

    Posted by on Aug 8th 2018

    saw this play once 45 years ago and never forgot it. so glad to finally find it again. it's just as wonderful as I remembered. thank you zeus.

  7. wonderful play 4 Star Review

    Posted by on Jun 29th 2017

    This play is the greatest. The acting is wonderful. The sound is OK . Definitely worth it and glad I found it. Love having it and sharing it.

  8. Great version of a wonderful play 5 Star Review

    Posted by on Sep 24th 2015

    I saw this production when it was first broadcast in 1974 on PBS. Over the years I have searched for it on video, but without success. Now Zeus has a copy that was made from a broadcast on Bravo. The quality of the DVD is fine. As for the performances, they are all top-quality, but it is Richard Chamberlain's acting that is the main attraction. He is an outstanding classical actor.

  9. 1974 Richard Chamberlain's "The Lady's Not For Burning" 3 Star Review

    Posted by on Apr 28th 2015

    Have been looking for this for years, since I saw it on TV. Bought the 1987 version with Kenneth Branagh, but I consider the Richard Chamberlain version to be superior. Not only is Chamberlain's acting much better, but there is a lot more dialogue: much of it seems to have been cut from the 1987 production. Fry's words are magic, and none should be lost. Chamberlain's and Eileen Atkinson's interaction is superb, and the whole play has a sparkle and energy that the later one lacks, although it is very good in its way.

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