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Upstairs Downstairs - The Complete First Season

Television movie directed by Bill Bain;Brian Parker;Christopher Hodson;Derek Bennett;Herbert Wise;Joan Kemp-Welch;Raymond Menmuir

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top drama series

  • Feb 26, 2006
Savour the wonderful premiere series of UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS in this great DVD box set.

The saga of the Bellamy family and their lively, loyal servants at 165 Eaton Place went on to span 5 series and countless awards. In the legendary first series we are introduced to politician Richard Bellamy (David Langton), his beautiful wife Lady Marjorie (Rachel Gurney) and their children James (Simon Williams) and Elizabeth (Nicola Pagett). Downstairs, their staff, Hudson the butler (Gordon Jackson), Mrs Bridges the cook (Angela Baddeley), Rose the maid (Jean Marsh) and Emily the scullery maid (Evin Crowley) attempt to uphold their own values whilst coming to grips with an ever-changing world.

Originally-devised by actresses Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins, the series explored the day-to-day life of servant and master in the Edwardian period, a time of great political and social upheaval. The series later took the Bellamy family into the First World War (Series 4, regarded by most as the greatest), the 1920s flapper period and the impending Stock Market crash (Series 5).

As the series opens, it is the year 1903, and great changes are afoot for the Bellamy family.

"On Trial" - Into the structured Bellamy household whirls the unconventional free-spirit Clemence Delise (Pauline Collins) who is applying for the new position of parlourmaid. After Lady Marjorie re-names the girl Sarah, she is quickly inducted into the residence, but it soon becomes clear that Sarah's true calling isn't in domestic service.

"The Mistress and the Maids" - Lady Marjorie sits for an important society painter, but it's Sarah who enflames his creative talents.

"Board Wages" - When the Bellamy's leave London for the weekend, Sarah and the servants are left to their own devices. But when James unexpectedly returns home early, Sarah is thrown into a dilemma which could see her walk away from Eaton Place.

"The Path of Duty" - Elizabeth returns home from a German finishing school, but her stubborn, willful streak is still very much intact. When she must make her formal society debut, Elizabeth exposes her parents to a huge scandal by running away.

"A Suitable Marriage" - The visiting Baron von Rimmer seems the perfect prospective husband for Elizabeth...or is he?

"A Cry for Help" - Richard becomes entangled in scandal when the new maid appeals for his assistance in a delicate private matter.

"Magic Casements" - Lady Marjorie enjoys a tender but brief affair with one of James' military friends.

"I Dies from Love" - Emily becomes infatuated with a footman, leading to dire consequences when her affections are not returned.

"Why Was Her Door Locked?" - An emotionally-distraught Mrs Bridges plunges the Bellamy family into disgrace when she kidnaps a baby.

"A Voice from the Past" - Whilst helping in a soup kitchen, James and Elizabeth stumble onto a homeless Sarah, and decide to take her back to Eaton Place. The situation becomes complicated when Elizabeth learns of James' affair with Sarah during her previous employment at the house.

"The Swedish Tiger" - Sarah becomes a pawn in a plan to rob the Bellamy's of priceless antiques.

"The Key of the Door" - Elizabeth comes of age, but her headstrong attitude once again causes friction with her parents, when she befriends Evelin Larkin and her group of socialists.

"For Love of Love" - Elizabeth finally marries poet Lawrence Kirbridge at the request of her parents, and James rekindles his affair with Sarah, who is now a music-hall singer.

Due to a technician's strike in 1971, the first six episodes were taped in black-and-white, and an alternate colour version of the first episode was filmed later on, for broadcasters who didn't wish to screen the black and white episodes. In the colour broadcasts, Sarah leaves at the end of the first episode "On Trial", but the complete B&W/colour inclusive series has her leave at the end of "Board Wages". UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS is still often aired without the crucial black and white episodes, but the DVD edition includes the complete story arc with no omissions and both versions of the "On Trial" episode.

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About the reviewer
Byron Kolln ()
Byron has been actively involved in theatre since the age of 12. He has had a great variety of roles (both on-stage and off). In addition he has hosted the long-running "Show Business" programme … more
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Anglophiles rejoice: the Bellamys are back in their upscale London home, and the servants are again ensconced below stairs. The characters are endearing and the writing bittersweet as the story follows the lives of this aristocratic family and its helpers from 1904 into the 1930s. Nine new-to-video episodes of this seminal British series have been included in a seven-video boxed set. (It aired in the States under the auspices of Masterpiece Theatre.) Of the 13 episodes, 5 are rare black-and-white shows never broadcast in the U.S. All are clean and clear and as enjoyable as when they first aired in the early 1970s.--Rochelle O'Gorman
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Genre: Television
DVD Release Date: September 25, 2001
Runtime: 663 minutes
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"top drama series"
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