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Of the three film adaptations of the works of E.M. Forster mounted by the Merchant/Ivory production team, Maurice (1987) failed to garner the degree of popular acceptance afforded to A Room With A View (1986) and Howards End (1992). The controversial nature of the story's subject matter, the homosexual awakening of a young Edwardian, was no doubt a factor; the novel itself, which Forster penned in the 1910s, never saw print until after his death in 1970. It's unfortunate, as the film is a compellingly told story of a man coming to grips with his sexual identity in an unforgiving era. Home Vision Entertainment's recent DVD release of Maurice offers up much that will please the film's adherents. While the company has been doing a superlative job in their recent string of Merchant/Ivory offerings under the Criterion Collection label, enough extras have been culled to warrant their presentation on a second disk.

Arriving on Cambridge's campus in 1909, the middle-class Maurice Hall (James Wilby) develops an undeniable attraction to his urbane, witty classmate Clive Durham (Hugh Grant). While Clive fully reciprocates his affections, he keeps the relationship unconsummated and in line with a Socratic ideal. After clashing with the school's dean (Barry Foster), Maurice opts to pursue a career at a brokerage, while maintaining his bond with Clive. After graduation, however, Clive feels bound to follow the political ambitions that his well-off family have for him, and the pursuit of those goals leave no room for any form of scandalous behavior.

The devastated Maurice struggles to deal with his sense of self-loathing, seeking aid from the family doctor (Denholm Elliott) and a hypnotherapist (Ben Kingsley) to change his orientation. Clive still seeks to curry his continued friendship, inviting him back to the family estate to meet his new bride. During his sojourns to the Durham home, Maurice soon receives a surprising level of familiarity from the estate's young servant-class gamekeeper Scudder (Rupert Graves). Over the remainder of the narrative, Maurice must come to terms with Scudder's motivations, as well as his own sense of self.

The Criterion package presents a crisply-mastered print of Maurice in its original 1.78:1 theatrical aspect ratio, effectively capturing Pierre Lhomme's appropriately somber cinematography; the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack does justice to the stirring score that Richard Robbins provided. As with the other Merchant/Ivory titles brought to market by Criterion in recent months, new interview footage with the production team is provided. The thirteen-minute segment with Merchant, Ivory, and Robbins includes amusing reflections on how the unprecedented location shots at King's College and Trinity College had been obtained.

Further insights are provided by The Story of Maurice, a half-hour documentary piece spotlighting new interviews with Grant, Wilby, Graves and scenarist Kit Hesketh-Harvey. The performers offer glib reflections on how they came to the project in the relative dawn of their respective careers, the inhibitions that had to be tabled while stepping into their roles, their working relationship with Ivory, and the fan response that followed (including a veritable cult amongst Japanese schoolgirls). The DVD also offers up 12 deleted scenes, ten with commentary from Ivory. These materials, some of which had to be salvaged from a VHS work print, show wear that's unfortunate but understandable. The content of the sequences ranges from those highlighting the disgrace of a Cambridge classmate arrested and convicted for soliciting male company, to those dealing with Maurice's fascination with a teenage family house guest. Ivory expounds on why each particular sequence was excised, and while the footage is intriguing, there's nothing that can be pointed out as having done Maurice a disservice by its exclusion.

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