The Bourne Identity shortly after reading the trilogy of books when I was in middle school. (Back then, you could still find miniseries on local stations, even years after their initial broadcast. What an age!) I remember mostly liking the first part, then being disgusted with the conclusion for how severely it deviated from the novel (review here), which I had loved, and which was fresh in my mind at the time. Little did I know that later a version would come along that deviated far more—far enough to make this one seem more or less faithful. Viewed now, the miniseries does feel pretty faithful, overall. Unfortunately, the ways in which it varies, while small, prove quite significant in terms of the story. Mostly, they come in the second part of the two-part, four-hour miniseries.
The Bourne Supremacy pretty much impossible, since the character plays such a large role in the sequel novel. I think that’s the part that annoyed me the most when I watched this as a kid, and I honestly can’t see why they made these changes, even today. It doesn’t benefit the narrative. And the follow-up novel had already been on shelves for a good year before this miniseries went into production, so I would have thought that the producers would take its events into account, laying the groundwork to adapt it should the first one prove successful. Right? I really can’t explain it. I’m not sure how successful the broadcast was, but there never was a sequel. And that’s too bad. Because as many gripes as I have about ABC’s Bourne Identity miniseries, I would have still loved to see an Eighties TV version of Supremacy. My imagination gives it the splendid opulence of another Hong Kong-set opus turned miniseries, Noble House. But, alas, that was not to be. (Neither was le Carré’s Hong Kong novel, The Honourable Schoolboy, turned into a miniseries in that decade, despite the success of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People.)
The Bourne Ultimatum had yet to be written.)
A Murder of Quality), Peter Vaughan (Hammerhead, Codename: Kyril) and Anthony Quayle (Strange Report, Espionage). (How on Earth isn’t John Rhys-Davies in this cast? Surely his agent must have been asleep!) And, honestly, if I weren’t such a big fan of the book, all that would probably be enough for me. This miniseries (largely thanks to those legit European locales) is also notable for coming the closest of any screen adaption we've seen yet (save for The Holcroft Covenent) to capturing the feel of a Ludlum page-turner in live action.
DVD (which is now inconveniently out of print, and commands pretty steep prices on Amazon) isn’t ideal. For one thing, it comes in one of those old snapper cases, which were always inferior to Amrays and don’t shelve as easily. But that’s merely aesthetic. The main problem with the disc is that it’s been formatted for modern widescreen televisions (which is odd, since the DVD was released way back in the late Nineties, well before those were the norm) when the series was clearly originally framed for the standard 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio of its day. The weird faux widescreen framing on the DVD results in an oddly cropped image, clearly missing information at the top and bottom of the screen. So if you want to see the miniseries in its proper aspect ratio, you'll have to track down the old VHS. Other than that, however, the picture looks pretty good. The only extras are interactive menus, scene access, and subtitles, which don’t really count as extras. I'm surprised this hasn't been reissued following the success of the theatrical film series, but I hope that still happens. Because for Ludlum aficionados, it's certainly worth seeing.
The Ludlum Dossier
Read my book review of Trevayne (1974) here.
Read my book review of The Bourne Ultimatum (1990) here.
Read my book review of The Parsifal Mosaic (1982) here.
Read my DVD review of The Holcroft Covenant (1986) here.
Read my book review of The Janson Directive (2002) here.
Read my book review of The Bourne Supremacy (1986) here.
Read my book review of The Holcroft Covenant (1978) here.
Read my book review of The Sigma Protocol (2001) here.
Read my book review of The Bourne Identity (1980) here.