In 1988 the BBC produced the first of four films based on C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia books.
Since their original airing the films have become family favorites but with Walt Disney Studios creating their own epic adaptations, will these low budget classics be outdone? I don't believe they will. Although this series lacks the big budget and special effects of Disney's filmed versions, these films retain the whimsy and innocence of the books. Yes, the costumes, set design and props may seem like those found in a school production. And yes, most of us could create more realistic special effects on our home computers. However, unlike Disney's films, this series remained faithful to Lewis' text and only made departures for budgetary reasons. Overall this series still enchants children as well as adults. But I would recommend showing these movies to your children before the Disney versions.
My reasons for suggesting this are:
(1.) These films are closer to the spirit of Lewis' stories and therefore a better representation of the moral values that Lewis was trying to instill.
(2.) Rather than relying on action sequences this series focuses on storytelling.
(3.) By showing these films first it will build anticipation for the upcoming Disney films but also introduce viewers to the Narnia stories and their mythical cosmology.
The four films included in this three-disc set are:
The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe - 1988
Four siblings, Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund, are sent to the countryside home of Prof. Kirke while London is being raided during WWII. During their exploration of Prof. Kirke's house, Lucy enters a wardrobe and is transported to a magical world that is held under an evil enchantment. A witch has cast a spell on Narnia that makes it always winter but never Christmas. Soon all four children make their way through the wardrobe and into Narnia, where they befriend mythological creatures and talking beasts. The children learn of a prophecy that states that they are to battle the witch's army and restore Narnia to its former glory and they learn of Aslan, the messianic lion-king of Narnia.
Prince Caspian - 1989
A year has passed for Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy since their adventures in Narnia came to an end. But Prince Caspian, whose evil uncle has usurped the throne, summons the children back into that magical world. The four children unite with Caspian and his rebel army and prepare to do battle with Caspian's uncle, King Miraz.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - 1989
Edmund, Lucy and their cousin, Eustace are sent to Narnia so that they can help Caspian search for seven missing Narnian lords, who were banished by King Miraz. On their voyages they are taken as slaves, face the dangers of enchantments, must do battle with a giant sea serpent, survive a deadly storm, and perhaps even sail beyond the very ends of the Earth, into Aslan's country.
The Silver Chair - 1990
Eustace and his schoolmate, Jill travel to Narnia where Aslan assigns them the task of finding lost Prince Rilian, King Caspian's son and rightful heir to the throne. Puddleglum, a Marshwiggle with a tendency to be pessimistic, joins them on their mission. Together they encounter all sorts of dangers including a dragon, barbaric giants, a tyrannical sorceress and a clan of hideous subterranean creatures who serve the sorceress.
The greatest flaw of this series, other than the production value, is the acting. Sophie Wilcox, who plays Lucy, is endlessly whining and Barbara Kellerman is so manic and over-the-top that I felt she would benefit from medication. However, both of these performers are redeemed by the many talented actors who surround them. The actors who portray the talking animals are particularly good and Ronald Pickup, who voices Aslan makes the oversized stuffed animal of a puppet believable.
The special features include a poster, a booklet with interesting facts about C.S. Lewis and the Narnia books, a recipe for Turkish Delight, an excerpt from the program The Bookworm, trivia games and photo galleries.
What did you think of this review?
The BBC, in association with the Wonderworks program, produced films based on four of the seven books, but did not complete the series to due to a limited budget.
The Chronicles of Narnia is a BBC-produced television serial that was aired from 1988 to 1990, and based on four books of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series. The series was originally aired with the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe consisting of 6 episodes (1988), Prince Caspian with 2 episodes (1989), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with 4 episodes (1989) and The Silver Chair with 6 episodes (1990). This television serial was produced by Paul Stone and teleplayed by Alan Seymour. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was directed by Marilyn Fox, while Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader were directed by Alex Kirby.
The four miniseries were later edited into three feature-length films (combining "Prince Caspian" and "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader") and released on DVD. The series won the BAFTA Award for "Best Video Lighting" in 1988.