It's interesting revisiting old chestnuts. I remember when I first read Colleen McCullough's "The Thornbirds." A gay friend of mine at the time reviewed it: "Pure trash...and I loved it!"
When the TV special came on, we all watched it. Paul developed such a huge crush on Rachel Ward, who plays Meggie Cleary, only daughter on a sheep station in the outback of Australia. Was there ever a more passionate love than that between her and Richard Chamberlain, as the ambitious priest, Ralph de Bricissart, and his eternal struggle between passion for this woman he has loved since she was a child (which is creepy enough) and his stated love of God, which is really an ambition to rise in the ranks of the church heirarchy.
I haven't seen the movie in years, but saw that it was on today and started watching it. As a "pure trash...and I loved it" movie, it holds, up, but the passage of time and the knowledge of other things make glaring in spots.
For one thing, why are all the vehicles left hand drive? This is Australia, where the drivers drive from the right side of the car. Was that decision made because right hand drive would be too jarring for American audiences, or was it made because the film was made here in the states and to get that many right hand drives would be too expensive.
(It's also jarring that nobody in Australia, except Bryan Brown, who is Australian speaks in anything but an American accent. I also don't pretend to be an expert on the landscape of Australia, though I've been there and I've watched many documentaries about the country, but nothing in this film looks like Australia to me. Where is the red dirt? Where is the scruffy vegetation?)
Given all that has been revealed in the Catholic church about sexual scandals, the scenes with Meggie as a young girl are right out of Pedophilia for Dummies, and the relationship between Ralph and Archbishop Vittorio Contine-Verchese (Christopher Plummer) drips with sexual innuendo.
It doesn't hurt that Chamberlain's sexual orientation is now well known, though it does not hamper his ability to be a man with a "love, unattainable, forbidden, forever.."
It was also fun to see a movie with my old buddy Piper Laurie, as the physically disabled woman for whom Ward works. Laurie isn't exactly my old buddy, but I had a chance to chat with her on opening night of Zero Hour, which she directed, with Jim Brochu (who later won the Critic's Circle award for that one-man show). As a shy person who introduces myself to NOBODY, it was a huge deal for me to approach her in the lobby of the show, but I did because I'd read about her relationship with the show for so long and knew I would regret it if I didn't. We probably would have spoken longer if she weren't wearing a hearing aid and, with the noise in the lobby, apologized for not being able to hear me.
Seeing Laurie as a young woman in this movie was fun.
But the biggest surprise, seeing this movie again, was hearing the Gregorian chant and realizing, with a start, that our college friend Jim White (who led the choir when I sang in it) was singing. I had completely forgotten that he told us he did that role. He's uncredited in the film, at least he's not on IMDB.