Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|House of Cards Trilogy |
House of Cards / To Play the King / The Final Cut
Actors: Ian Richardson, Diane Fletcher, Paul Freeman, Isla Blair, Nickolas Grace
Genres: Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Ian Richardson (From Hell, M. Butterfly) leads an all star cast in this malevolent satire of greed, corruption and ambition in the highest realms of government. As Machiavellian monster Francis Urquhart, he schemes and bac... more »
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Brilliant, but in the end flawed
Nichomachus | 08/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Me watching this took on the manner of a voracious animal consuming its prey. The entire trilogy is beautifully done, magnificiently produced, and the acting is simply incomparable.
The HOUSE OF CARDS, the first season, is quite clearly the best. The wit, the plot, the sheer malignancy of it is just pure delight. I worked briefly at the House of Commons, and I thought the presentation of Parliament and Westminster politics was brilliant. I don't think there is anything equal to the cynicism on display here, as France Urquhart (Ian Richardson) cheerfully outmaneuvers and destroys his political opponents (his colleagues within his party). The mockery of the British political system is right on. Richardson has these asides to the audience that work perfectly, and heighten the hilarity. It's what something like WAG THE DOG wishes it could be for American politics, but unfortunately American audiences don't always have the political sophistication to enjoy this level of satire. *****
TO PLAY THE KING has Urquhart as Prime Minister (known appropriately by the initials FU), master of his domain. The arc in this series focuses on the place of the monarchy in the constitutional system, with many asides on homosexuality in politics, manipulation of the press, exploitation of disaters, and the staging of politically convenient terrorist attacks. Not as good as the first season by any measure, however, Urquhart's systematic destruction of the King (a brilliant Michael Kitchen) masterfully communicates some of the political tensions built into Britain's constitution. This season generated a lot of controversy with the British public, many of whom thought it was intentionally and excessively disrespectful to the monarchy (see the DVD extras). All in all, the writing doesn't have the same degree of biting and wit, although Richardson's performance is still on the money. ****
THE FINAL CUT is the unforunate third season, and takes on the character of Shakespeare's RICHARD III, but makes it tedious. Richardson's vicious asides to the audience are almost totally absent, which relieves him of his charm. It's not nearly as funny or interesting, and seems to meander along until its excessive and fairly overwrought ending. The spirit of cynicism is tries to maintain takes on a certain unreality, and this robs it of the delicious aspect of the first season. By the end, this version of Britain is so remote that it just isn't plausible or engaging. We are basically reduced to watching the antics of some banana republic, but with Westminster Palace in the background. **
So respectively five stars, four stars, and two stars; averaging out to just over 3.6, I will round up as the kindly teachers of my childhood instructed me, and thus four stars for the set."
Supurb adaptation of the Michael Dobbs books
Gary M. Greenbaum | Fairfax, VA USA | 11/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wonderful adaptation of the Michael Dobbs "House of Cards" trilogy. Ian Richardson plays Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip of the Conservative Government, who schemes his way to Number Ten through blackmail, backroom deals, and sheer gall. The second volume, "To Play the King" shows Urquhart up against the newly crowned King (Michael Kitchen, who does a wonderful take on Prince Charles, really stealing the show) with Britain not big enough for the two of them. "The Final Cut" shows Urquhart hanging on against the wiles of the younger generation, while Diane Fletcher, as Urquhart's loyal, Lady-Macbeth-like wife, has her greatest acting moments. Well cast, well directed, and with three thrilling political stories. However, this series would be nothing without Richardson, who amazes. Perhaps the best moments are when he breaches the fourth wall by talking to, or simply raising an eyebrow to, the viewer. While we could never approve of the things "F. U." does, it is hard not to love the character, as brought to full-color life by Richardson. The only extra given on the DVDs, other than cast biographies, is a short BBC segment discussing the controversy over "To Play The King", or, to be more specific, over a line which some felt implied that the King used to send out for prostitutes (in context, it clearly does not, it implied he sent out for well-born ladies who would feel it their duty to come). Each DVD contains four 50 minute episodes, so it is a good buy.Recommended."
"Shall I put a bit of stick about?"
Mykal Banta | Boynton Beach, FL USA | 03/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Brits may no longer rule the world, but they sure produce some of the best television the medium has seen. In any discussions of the best projects or series in television history, this trilogy will have a place. The series opens with Conservative Party Whip, Francis Urquhart, fondly holding a portrait of Margaret Thatcher, remarking that all things, no matter how good, must come to an end. This perfectly sets the time and tone of what is to follow. Urquhart must maneuver and control the political scene in the power vacuum left by the exit of the Iron Lady. This production strives for Shakespearean proportions, and hits the bull's eye. The main character, Urquhart, played by Ian Richardson, is a crafty blend of Macbeth and King Richard. Like Macbeth, Urquhart has a power hungry wife gently messaging his shoulders and whispering pretty treacheries in his ear; and like Richard, Urquhart takes the viewer into his confidence, revealing his black plans with wicked joy. This technique of Urquhart speaking directly to you, the viewer, is a tremendous stroke. Like with King Richard, you will find yourself somehow cheering for this cold, angular blade of a man, as he slices through well-meaning fools and bumbling bullies alike (or, as Urquhart says, "put a bit of stick about").A great production throughout, with wonderful writing and acting. Highly recommended. --Mykal Banta"
Pre-Sopranos evil...maybe done nastier!
Paul F. Johnson | Illinois, USA | 07/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I won't rehash the plot, but the real appeal here is Ian Richardson's breaking of the fourth wall. He forces us all to admit that evil can be so fun, and that sometimes the wrong thing to do is completely the right thing.
I had read that Richardson wouldn't agree to end the series if F.U. didn't eventually meet his demise. I concur that The Final Cut (the third episode in the set) is by far the weakest, and a politically correct cop-out, but the devilish pleasures of the first two installments more than make up for its mawkishness. The same fascination with evil allows us to feel superior when Francis finally meets his end in the last volume.
I have to recommend that you buy the whole set to see the complete story, but I'll bet that your repeat viewings will be of the first volume only. It is so awfully, spanking good that you may be shocked at how good you feel about leaving your conscience behind.
Wish I could make this review relevant to current political times in the U.S., but this series exists solely as a British animal. Its appeal is grounded in the parliamentary system. It's all very Britishly perverse, especially the sexcapades of middle-aged politicians and royals. Pour yourself a Guiness and enjoy the ugliness. You might not think it's appropriate...I couldn't possibly comment.