Hopkins' Young Ward in Herriot Movie
As a child "All Creatures Great and Small", the TV series, was regular viewing with its amusing tales of a young vet James Herriot who moves to Yorkshire during the 30s. I knew that the series was adapted from James Herriot's novels but until recently I wasn't aware that back in 1975 those stories were also the basis of a TV movie. Whilst the cast of "All Creatures Great and Small" the movie differs greatly to those who became family favourites in the TV series it is still like a trip down memory lane watching this story of James Herriot moving to Darrowby and becoming the apprentice to Siegfried Farnon.
It's probably no surprise when I say that "All Creatures Great and Small" the movie doesn't really have a storyline but comes across more like a series of episodes. These episodes cover an undetermined time period starting with James arriving in Darrowby and then taking in the various encounters he has and mishaps he endures. We watch as he delivers a calf, makes friends with the eccentric Mrs. Pumphrey and meets Helen who he falls in love with all the time putting up with the self righteous Siegfried and his easy going brother Tristan.
But not having a storyline isn't really an issue because the events which make up "All Creatures Great and Small" are good fun and if you have watched the TV series watching Simon Ward as James Herriot with his arm stuck up the back side of an animal strangely makes you smile. It also makes you smile at the way his mentor Siegfried borders on the cantankerous yet with a mischievous side whilst his younger brother Tristan is a little bit too easy going. To put it simply each of these episodes bring a smile to your face because even those which have more dramatic elements still deliver moments of subtle comedy.
But it's not just these episodes which make "All Creatures Great and Small" the movie a pleasure and it is the sense of nostalgia it delivers as well. And that nostalgia now works on two levels because whilst there is an authentic feel to the recreation of the 1930s there is the bonus of those childhood memories when back in the 80s the TV series was regular viewing. It just has this family friendly beauty about it; a picture of simpler times when walking in a Yorkshire field brought more happiness than going to some restaurant to eat.
Now as already mentioned the cast in "All Creatures Great and Small" the movie is different to that of the TV series and as such it does feel a little weird especially when the likes of Robert Hardy, Christopher Timothy, Peter Davison and Lynda Bellingham made the characters their own. But having said that Anthony Hopkins is great as Siegfried Farnon, delivering that mix of being self righteous and mischievous with plenty of sly moments of humour whilst Simon Ward leads the movie nicely as James Herriot, allowing us to warm to this man who feels so at home in Yorkshire. It is very much the combination of Hopkins and Ward who make the movie work but they are aided by nice performances from Brian Stirner, Lisa Harrow and Brenda Bruce who is amusing as Miss Harbottle the Veterinary practice's picky bookkeeper.
What this all boils down to is that "All Creatures Great and Small" the movie is a pleasure to watch even now over 30 years since it was made. It has that wonderful sense of nostalgia about it not only in transporting you back to the 1930s but also delivering childhood memories of watching the TV series when life was so much simpler.