The most famous dirty book in English literature gets appropriately faithful treatment in this four-part 1992 BBC adaptation.
By now, everyone must be familiar with the outlines of the plot. After only one month of marriage, Sir Clifford Chatterly (James Wilby) is terribly wounded in World War I. He's paralyzed from the waist down. Back home at gloomy Ragby Hall, he urges his wife Constance (Joely Richardson) not to deny her sexual desires and to take a lover. She says no, but before the end of the first episode, she's swapping smoldering glances with gamekeeper Mellors (Sean Bean).
The remainder is made up of long stretches of static, dialog-driven scenes that are punctuated by brief moments of passion.
The full-frame image is no better than broadcast quality. Colors tend to be harsh. Complex fabric patterns and designs flash. Black clothes merge seamlessly with dark backgrounds. There's a noticeable layer shift on disc one of the two-disc set.
Dolby stereo delivers clear dialog. Subtitles would be helpful but I found the accents easy to understand.
The most important extra is a new (Feb. 19, 2003) interview with director Ken Russell. He talks about his early career in documentaries and his other adaptations of Lawrence, "Women In Love" and "The Rainbow." He's a little defensive and, at times, he looks like Benny Hill when the late comedian was playing one of his more refined artistic types. The interview is 23 minutes long. We've also got the usual D.H. Lawrence thumbnail biography (text), behind-the-scenes photo gallery, and cast and crew filmographies.
Nobody watches these classy British productions for sparkling images. We expect memorable characters, excellent acting, solid writing and evocative locations. "Lady Chatterly" delivers on all counts. The sets and locations are particularly good, giving the mini-series a sense of place that's hard to find in similar American works. The conclusion may be too upbeat, but it's not out of key with the rest.