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The Last King - The Power and the Passion of Charles II
The Last King - The Power and the Passion of Charles II
Actors: Rufus Sewell, Rupert Graves, Charlie Creed-Miles, Christian Coulson, Shirley Henderson
Genres: Drama, Television
NR     2004     3hr 8min

Studio: A&e Home Video Release Date: 04/27/2004 Run time: 188 minutes Rating: Nr

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Rufus Sewell, Rupert Graves, Charlie Creed-Miles, Christian Coulson, Shirley Henderson
Creator: Emilio Nunez
Genres: Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Miniseries
Studio: A&E Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Miniseries
DVD Release Date: 04/27/2004
Original Release Date: 03/21/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 03/21/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 3hr 8min
Screens: Color,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 14
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Do Not Buy this DVD
J. Bowring | 10/06/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)

"It's a terrific miniseries, I would highly recommend watching it.

But DO NOT buy this DVD - as another reviewer notes, A&E has cut an hour from the series for no apparent reason. Maybe they just think North Americans are to stupid to watch more than three hours of a series. Or maybe they wanted to save on costs.

Amazon.co.uk sells the BBC version, a full 240 minutes, in Region 2 and VHS. Or buy directly from the BBC itself. Just don't support this company in continuing to butcher series and then use their monopoly to shove it down our throats."
The Merry Monarch
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 03/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"With a life full of lust and intrigue, Charles II (1630-1685) makes a good subject for this A&E/BBC production, which is lavish and wonderful to look at.
The film begins at his father's beheading in 1649, and after a period in exile, Charles becomes king in 1660; he soon after marries a Portuguese princess (Catherine of Berganza, played by Shirley Henderson) for her dowry, and though she never gives him a heir, it's a strange relationship that lasts.
Charles was more interested in wine and women than ruling, therefore was known as "The Merry Monarch," but had some catastrophic events during his reign, like the Great Plague of 1665, that was soon followed by the Fire of London, that left much of the city little more than ash and rubble. The Dutch warships would threaten the coast, and the citizenry, usually referred to as "the mob," and Parliament, making their anti-Catholic sentiments a problem when it came to his brother and heir, James.

Mostly this film centers on his mistresses, which are many. The most meddlesome is the lascivious Barbara Villiers, played with gusto by Helen McCrory, who also beds Charles' best friend as well as his son. As his best friend, the Duke of Buckingham, Rupert Graves puts in yet another outstanding performance, and Diana Rigg is terrific as his unloving mother, Queen Henrietta.
Rufus Sewell is superb as the king, and kudos must go to the makeup department for the very subtle aging throughout the film which adds to the believability of the characters.
Director Joe Wright and writer Adrian Hodges, with the beautiful cinematography of Ryszard Lenczewski and lovely score by Rob Lane, have brought us an entertaining view of this fascinating era of one of England's ruling families, with its sumptuous costumes on people who somehow always look a little dirty, fabulous palace interiors, numerous but tastefully filmed bedroom scenes, and some history too."
The darker side of the Restoration of King Charles II
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 03/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was watching the featurette provided on this DVD of "The Last King: The Power and the Passion of Charles II" when suddenly there was a shot of a topless Nell Gwynn (Emma Pierson), one of the more notable of the notorious mistresses of King Charles II of England, posing for a painting. I was taken aback because I knew I had not seen that particular shot in the mini-series I had just finished watching. Of course, it did not take long for me to understand that this is the A&E "edited" version of the original programme from across the pond. So, apparently if this is about "The Power and the Passion of Charles II," it would be "passion" with a small "p" given the edits.

Actually, it should probably be "power" with a small "p" as well, since once he was restored to the English throne Charles II constantly complained about his inability to do anything without the strong advice and consent of Parliament. The king was constrained by having to constantly reassure the lords of the land that he was neither his father, King Charles I, who was executed for having usurped the power of Parliament by proroguing the legislative body, nor his brother James, later King James II, who continued to be a devout Catholic in a land where the Church of England was the mandated faith.

The great irony of British history running through this story is that the same problem with plagued Henry VIII afflicts Charles II as well, namely producing a male heir. The Stuarts were on the British throne because when the boy King Edward VI died in 1553 all of the branches the Tudor family tree ended in female, Edward's older sisters Mary and Elizabeth, to his cousins Mary Stuart and Lady Jane Grey. Charles II produced several illegitimate children, most notably James, Duke of Monmouth, but his wife, Catherine of Braganza, was childless. This made his brother, James, the heir to the throne, and having a Catholic monarch sitting once again upon the English throne was an anathema to both Parliament and the people.

Consequently, "The Last King" is about a monarch powerless to rule. The title is interesting since it is for this U.S. production (you know how we colonials are: we could not watch "Charles II" until we had seen "Charles"), but it does have some validity in that the case can be made that Charles II was the last British monarch who forced Parliament to listen to them; certainly he was the last king to send that body home and the Protestant members of Parliament were not going to obey James II. Charles was known as the "Merry Monarch," but unless most of what they excised from this version was the monarch making merry, Rufus Sewall does not provide the sort of royal party animal that Sam Neill played as Charles II in "Restoration." The emphasis here is on the king's discontent.

As written by Adrian Hodges (who is working on HBO's upcoming "Rome" series) and directed by Joe Wright (currently working on a production of "Pride and Prejudice" to star Keira Knightly), this show is about an impotent monarch. In fact, after conceding to the wishes of his mother (Diana Rigg) and executing those who tried and beheaded his father, you will be hard pressed to find a moment where the king accomplishes anything of significance. Parliament controls his purse strings and when they want to execute the loyal Strafford for his Catholicism, he is powerless to prevent it any more than he could do anything about the plague but flee London or the great fire but examine the ruins. His sex life is no less troubled. Charles is unable to father a legitimate child by his queen (Shirley Henderson), is cuckolded by his chief mistress Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine (Helen McCrory), and fails to seduce Lady Frances Stewart (Alice Patten). Even actress Nell Gwynn (Emma Pierson), is quite saucy for a former street prostitute dallying with the king.

Ultimately, this story is about the relationships between Charles and three characters. On the one hand there is his ambitious mistress, Villiers, who wants to put their illegitimate son on the throne. On the other hand there is the man who is supposed to be his friend and confidant, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (Rupert Graves), but who seems intent on playing the role of Judas on several levels. In the end, it is in his relationship with his wife by result of an arranged marriage that Charles seems most honest. Unlike Henry VIII, this king will not use divorce as a means to producing a legitimate heir despite the advantages of political expediency. On his death bed Charles II converted to Catholicism, a rather stupefying act given the religious questions raised by his reign, but if there is a profound meaning it is not considered by this mini-series, for which it is but a footnote.

There is some attempt to approach the psychology of the man given that his father was publicly beheaded, but except for the beginning and the end of the story the specter of Charles I is implicit at best in the actions of his son. Places and dates pop up at regular intervals to help you figure out what is going on, but apparently the producers were more accustomed to an audience well aware of their nation's history because many American viewers are going to be at a loss on some of the historical details. But the sets and costumes are everything we have come to expect from such British efforts and the result is one of the better royal bio-pics I have seen in some time. Sewall's performance is the best from him that I have seen, although I admit to be having had trouble in the past betting beyond the bad guys he has played in films like "A Knight's Tale." Those disquieting thoughts have all fled now given his presence here."
What was A&E thinking?
Seanmoon | New Jersey | 06/24/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Other reviews have treated this DVD fairly, both in its good and bad points. The worst of all, as has been noted, is that for some foolish reason, A&E cut an hour out of the production. To add insult to injury the very first scene of the making of featurette shows a scene that does not appear in the American version. Finally, why is there no captioning or subtitling in this DVD? Does A&E not care for the hearing impaired or those who don't understand the language of the period and might benefit from the subtitles? My wife is Japanese and can easily follow Brit dramas when she has subtitles to read. Another of my friends is hearing impaired, and neither could enjoy this dvd. I note the british video cassette has captions--wasn't able to find the information for the DVD."