Today I purchased the 37-disc collection of the complete canon of Shakespeare plays produced for BBC television in the late '70s through the mid-'80s. I've seen excerpts from this series in class during my recent course on The Bard's histories and tragedies, and some of them are quite good. Many feature some of the biggest names in British acting (including John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Stewart, Alan Rickman, John Cleese, Jonathan Pryce, Richard Griffiths, Ben Kingsley, Nicol Williamson, and David Warner, to name just a few).
Unfortunately, the full set is hard to get in America. There are several sets of five-DVD packages that sell for about $140 (though you can find them for under $100 on Amazon if you look hard enough) but the majority of the plays--including some of the best productions of the bunch--are not on the market at all. On the other hand, you can get the complete set from Amazon if you have the means to watch Region 2 coded DVDs. The U.S. Amazon site sells the complete package for a little more than $160, but I went through the Amazon U.K. site and got the same set from the same merchant for under $140, including international shipping (go figure). The U.K. site also now converts the currency automatically such that the prices show up and my payment is processed in U.S. dollars, which is awfully convenient.
In order to watch these discs, I also purchased a region-free Philips DVD player for under $60, which is supposed to upgrade the image quality to 1080p, which should look good on my HD Samsung 52" screen. So even including the technology purchase, this was a far cheaper way to get all 37 Shakespeare plays on disc than it would have cost me to get just the 15 of them available in the U.S. market on Region 1 DVDs!
I do own a handful of other British DVDs, which only work on Region 2 players. My solution was to switch the setting on an old iBook laptop to Region 2--Macs let you change the regional code setting up to five times before it's locked for good--but that meant I could only watch those discs (mostly British TV series) on a computer screen. So now I will be able to watch DVDs from anywhere in the world on my home theater system. Ah, progress!