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

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Urquhart betrays his low opinion of the king

TO PLAY THE KING (4 part BBC mini-series/1993). Director: Paul Seed.

Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) of House of Cards is back and now he's prime minister! Urquhart is hoping that the new king (Michael Kitchen) will just stay out of his way and support his policies, but the king has a mind of his own and is much more liberal than Urquhart. Before long there's a not-so-cold war going on between the two. In the meantime, Urquhart has a new young lady under his thrall, Sarah (Kitty Aldridge), who falls for Urquhart -- the seduction of power? -- even though she already has a husband. On the king's staff, David (Nicholas Farrell) is coming out of the closet after finding true love with Ken (Jack Fortune) after his marriage falls apart. And is something going on between the king and Chloe (Rowena King) who helps fire up his compassion for the downtrodden, all of whom Urquhart only sees as bums? Then there's the former member of the Royal Family who is dictating her scandalous memoirs to a sleazy publisher. Urquhart is even more ruthless in this exploration of what would happen if a politician with old-fashioned sensibilities applied the murderous tactics of Merrie Olde England to modern-day London. [One senses Urquhart would have people beheaded if he could.] Richardson is as marvelous as ever, and Colin Jeavons makes an impression as his loyal (?) assistant, Tim Stamper, who has secrets of his own. We see more of Urquhart's Lady Macbeth-type wife, Elizabeth (Diane Fletcher), although she still remains a bit shadowy. The other cast members are all on the money. Although you sometimes get the sense that a lot had to be left on the cutting room floor, this is still very absorbing. Followed by The Final Cut.

Verdict: Even more intriguing than House of Cards. ***1/2.

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