Heartbreak House (1977) BBC Play of the Month DVD Review

By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –

An important idea for many people is “family.”  It has been said that “blood is thicker than water,” but what would someone do if his/her family is completely dysfunctional?  Sometimes literature and film examines the nature of delusional characters and the people in their lives, and one of the greatest examples of such a tragedy is appropriately titled Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw.

A Toast!

Starring the late Oscar-winning actor John Gielgud as “Captain Shotover,” this notable play by Shaw explores the differing social classes in British society right before the start of World War I.  With the subtitle, “A Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes,” the play is somewhat similar to the classic play The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov.  There are some very interesting plot points in this play/film adaptation, but there will be no spoilers in this review.

Beer Two

Within this BBC production, the filmmakers did their best to present the play as originally written by Shaw, but this presentation cuts some of the extraneous dialogue while still being faithful to the original source material.  However, this form of adaptation made it hard to watch while reading along with the original text because some of the lines from the printed play were never said by the characters on-screen.


With Heartbreak House as always, Shaw writes within his own Shavian style like his other classics like Arms and the Man and Man and Superman.

Heartbreak House (1977) Bonus Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Captain Shotover does anything eccentric

Drink a Shot: every time the film presents Bohemian ideas

And Do Not Be Sober: throughout the chaos and confusion of one of Shaw’s most beloved dramatic comedies

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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