First Circle (Alexander Solzhenitsyn/TV Mini-Series)
Sound: C+ Extras: C Episodes: B-
In 1991, the internationally produced TV (Canada and
France) mini-series about The Soviet Union and oppressed writer Alexander
Solzhenitsyn made it to the small screen.
A big production with F. Murray Abraham as Stalin and Christopher
Plummer as a top Soviet military official, did the makers of First Circle
know the “evil empire” was about to collapse?
Either way, the story centers on prisoners of conscious
who happen to be top doctors, scientists and great minds in the country. It is 1949 and someone unknown is trying to
contact the U.S. about a nuclear device within the U.S.S.R., but the call is
intercepted. Fortunately, the officials
do not know whom it could be, but they are going to find out. The wild card is a scientist working on a
voice identification device. This is
not an outright thriller, but a smart book adaptation.
Though The Supreme Soviet is long gone, its ugly legacy
remains and this program (running over 3 hours that nearly always work) reminds
us that only so much has changed there, while The U.S. currently finds itself
drifting too closely to federal prison camps, secret police, arrests without
justification, ignoring of civil rights and torture. What could have been a dated relic late in The Cold War turns out
to be a worthy adaptation of a book by a man who very belatedly got the credit
he deserved. This is very much worth
The 1.33 X 1 full frame image is softer than one would
like, with micro digititis and detail limits.
In fairness, this is supposed to look dark and dank being about The
Soviet Union and all, but it could have been a little better. The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is surprisingly
stereo, if not anything distinctive.
The extras are all text on the cast, crew and very briefly on
Solzhenitsyn and The First Circle.
- Nicholas Sheffo