Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Ian Richardson

HOUSE OF CARDS (4 episode BBC mini-series/1990). Director:Paul Seed.

"You might well think that. I couldn't possibly comment." --- Francis Urquhart

The series of the same title with Kevin Spacey that Netflix is streaming for its customers is based on this 23-year-old BBC mini-series that was quite acclaimed in its day. Francis Urquhart [pronounced "Irkit"] is the "chief whip" of the conservative party and feels, as many do, that the new prime minister [after Thatcher] isn't up to the job. He begins a series of maneuverings and manipulations behind the scenes that become increasingly criminal and odious, including blackmail and even murder. Those in his circuit include Roger O'Neill (Miles Anderson), a coke-addicted publicity man; O'Neill's girlfriend, Penny (Alphonsia Emmanuel), a lovely, intelligent black woman who is treated like a whore; and Mattie Storen (Susannah Harker), a reporter who comes to idolize Urquhart. [It must be said that their affair is never convincing, perhaps because Richardson is not exactly a handsome lover boy.] Richardson, frequently addressing the viewer as he gives his acidic opinions of assorted colleagues, is excellent, but the whole show is nearly stolen by Anderson in his brilliant, moving turn as the tragic and pathetic O'Neill. The other actors are all on target. The repeated shots of a rat creeping around London are a little overdone -- one would have made the point. Urquhart/Richardson was up to more deviltry in the sequels To Play the King and The Final Cut.

Verdict: Intriguing and absorbing mini-series. ***.

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