The Brent Walker Videos: Issue History

In the U.K., the Brent Walker series was published on home video at least four separate times:

  1. 1982 (approx.). In the original issue, each box carried the banner “George Walker Presents” on the outer box but was also marked on the back of the box, “Brent Walker Video Ltd. 9 Chesterfield Street, Mayfair, London, W1X 7HF”. The cassettes themselves were marked 'George Walker Presents' but also in very small type, “All rights of Brent Walker Video Ltd, the owner of the recorded work, reserved.” Each tape sold for about £35.00. Cox and Box and Trial By Jury were separate tapes. No identifying catalog numbers appeared on any of these tapes.

  2. 1986. Woolworth in U.K. sold a budget-priced set of these videos under the name “Savoy Video Series.” They were priced at £9.99 each. In this series, the boxes were marked on the price sticker, “exclusive to Woolworths.” The colored designs on the boxes were now replaced with colored stills as photographs in a frame with the words "Gilbert and Sullivan" at the top and the name of the opera at the bottom. The reverse of the boxes also contained a colored still. Any of four different companies was indicated as the copyright holder:

    • Parsons, Whittemore Lyddon Ltd (Iolanthe, Pinafore, Pirates, Gondoliers)
    • The Moving Picture Company (Patience, Ida, Yeomen)
    • W.L.Leasing Ltd (Sorcerer, Ruddigre, Cox/Trial)
    • Techno Sunley Ltd. (Mikado)

    All included: “©packaging design 1986 A.M.T. Ltd.” The enclosed leaflet and all the outer boxes were also marked, “An A.M.T. Video Gems Product . . . . The Very Best of Gilbert and Sullivan is also available on Compact Disc and Chrome Cassette." The cassette labels stated "George Walker Presents,” but the name “Brent Walker Ltd” did not appear anywhere. Catalog numbers were in the range S1000 to S1010.

  3. 1991. This series was called “The Gilbert and Sullivan Collection.” They were sold in cream-colored boxes. The label stated, “1982 – W L Leasing Ltd, Packaging Design 1991 Braveworld Ltd A.M.T.” There was also a Video Gems logo on the back of the box. Catalog numbers were in the range STV2040 to STV2050. These sold new in the range of £6–7.

  4. 1994. This series is the one currently available in U.K. stores, with each title selling for between £10–12. It is identical to the previous one, except that the publisher is now Polygram, and the catalog numbers have changed — they are numerical, in the sequence 633xxx3.

I have far less information to go on regarding the U.S. releases. In late 1996, the series was acquired by Opera World. In the past, I have seen them at Opera World's web site, via their toll-free number (1-800-99-OPERA), online, and in stores. They are purportedly digitally remastered, but exactly what this means is unclear. The examples I've listened to have an annoying background buzz.

Some sources have been selling the Walker videos in sets. For example, John Francis reported seeing a catalogue that listed two sets. Set I includes Pinafore, Pirates, Iolanthe, Patience, Gondoliers, and Mikado, for a total of 11 hours, 30 minutes. Set II includes Ruddigore, Yeomen, Sorcerer, Trial, Cox and Box, and Ida, for a total of 9 hours, 46 minutes. I don't have further information on the publisher, price, or availability of these sets.

For at least a while, a note on the U.K. home video packages suggested that highlights from the sound tracks of the Walker productions were available on CD and cassette. This advertized in The Gilbert and Sullivan News and apparently sold in the U.K. at Woolworths, along with the Savoy Video Series listed above.

The quickly-changing copyright ownership of these videos is also a source of confusion. The Brent Walker company evidently ran into grave financial difficulties shortly after these productions were made, and one might speculate that Walker started selling them off piecemeal as he started to run out of money. However, they must have been bought up quickly by a common owner, since they have always been issued as a set.

Many thanks to Peter Parker and Chris Webster for providing all of the background color on the U.K. releases.