Starring: Nigel Havers, Bernard Hepton, Rosemary Leach, Fiona Fullerton, David McKail. Based on the novel ?Mr. Stimpson & Mr. Gorse? by Patrick Hamilton. On the surface Ralph Gorse is a charmer in every sense of the word... more »: handsome, suave and stylish, sparkling company and the possessor of a sexual magnetism that attracts most women h e encounters. But the charm is a veneer. Gorse is a con man and sexual adventurer, whose conquests are merely a way of obtaining his heart?s desires: money and power. VOLUME ONE Episode One ? The Tempter Ralph Gorse, down to his last pennies, meets Joan Plumleigh-Bruce in a roadhouse. She is attracted to Gorse, despite the difference in their ages. But Plumleigh-Bruce has another suitor, the stolid Donald Stimpson, who is attracted by her regular income, her pleasant house and the promise ? yet unfulfilled ? of sex. Gorse lures the jealous Stimpson into a sordid night at a pleasure house in a scheme of subtle blackmail. Episode Two ? The Investor Gorse allies himself with Clarice Mannor?s fast socialite crowd and continues to fortify his relationship with the romantically-swayed Plumleigh-Bruce with whom he opens a joint bank account for depositing the promised fruits of their future investments. Stimpson casts a jealous and suspicious eye over their financial and romantic liaisons. VOLUME TWO Episode Three ? The Deceiver Gorse flees to Brighton where he finds employment as a car salesman and begins romancing the innocent and lovely daughter, Pamela, of his boss, Harold Bennett. Stimpson?s dogged inquiries have uncovered Gorse?s whereabouts; and with the swindled Plumleigh-Bruce in tow, he proceeds to Brighton to confront Gorse with the evidence. Episode Four ? Gorse in the Middle Gorse marries the pregnant Pamela and settles uncomfortably into married life. Bennett, father of the bride, still suspicious of Gorse?s motives, buys the newlyweds a house. The deed is solely in the bride?s name, but Gorse has a scheme to turn the tables ? and collect the insurance. VOLUME THREE Episode Five ? The Imposter Gorse is drafted for military service, but army life is not his cup of tea. He decides not to return from a brief furlough and checks into a fashionable Brighton seaside hotel where he exchanges identities with a drunken R.A.F. officer. Shortly afterward, a corpse is found on the beach bearing Gorse?s identity papers. Episode Six ? Gorse at the End Plumleigh-Bruce and Stimpson are summoned to Brighton to verify the identity of the body bearing Gorse?s papers. Plumleigh-Bruce can?t face the gruesome prospect and flees to their hotel where she bumps into Alison Warren, Gorse?s latest conquest. Plumleigh-Bruce?s story confirms Warren?s mounting suspicions. She confronts Gorse with the truth and threatens to expose him. Cornered, he takes desperate measures to escape his pursuers.« less
A charming black comedy with a charming cad. Fine performanc
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 02/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Not too tight, old boy," says Ralph Gorse at the end of The Charmer. We've spent nearly 312 minutes leading up to this point. They are 312 well spent minutes.
Gorse (Nigel Havers) is a charming English con man in the early Thirties. He lives by his amoral wits, seducing, enticing and working the side deals. He wants everything he isn't and everything he hasn't. Eventually he works his way up to murder. The Charmer, a wonderful Masterpiece Theater presentation now twenty years old, maintains every bit of its queasy allure, thanks in large part to Havers, to Rosemary Leach and to Bernard Hepton. Leach plays Joan Plumleigh-Bruce, a somewhat frumpy upper-middle class, snobbish Englishwoman, a widow who attracts Gorse's attention because of her property and her income. Hepton plays Donald Stimpson, a man who wears round, thick eyeglasses, has a rather silly mustache and is a property broker. He is a long-time friend and wooer of Joan, and he also fancies a marriage to her, to her income and to her property. The idea of a regular bit of the old bed springs is attractive to Stimpson, too. When Gorse meets Donald and, through him, Joan, the main pieces in this sly, malicious and self-serving game come into play.
In the course of this six-part series we will watch Gorse woo and manipulate, empty bank accounts, impregnate, cause a fire with fatal results, seduce, and murder. Following his trail like a middle-aged, self-serving angel of retribution is Donald. And Donald pulls along in his wake Joan, a woman who knows she was had and scorned, who still loves her Rafe but has Donald whispering to her that Rafe must be held accountable. Donald, of course, would like nothing better than to see Gorse brought down, partly because he detests Gorse and partly because he is sure that will be the path back to Joan's heart, bed and finances.
Is there anyone likable in this drama? Not really, and that's so satisfying. It is the ability of Gorse, Joan and Donald to ignore their real motives and fail to hide their real moral characters from us that gives us so much pleasure. By the end of the drama, Gorse, Joan and Donald each in their own way find a comeuppance that allows us to think our own upright moral characters might even be real.
Nigel Havers has a particularly tough job giving us the picture of Ralph Gorse. Havers must show us what a heel the man is, yet he also must make us see Gorse's charm. We know when Gorse is thinking up some disreputable betrayal for his own benefit. We can see how he is justifying a death. Havers also is able to show us how seductive, how pleasant, how companionable Gorse can be when he wants to. Rosemary Leach gives us a wonderful portrayal of a singularly unlikable, self-deluding woman who wants to be loved, who flutters at Gorse's attentions, who rather likes Donald's insistent courting and who thinks nothing of giving her young Irish maid condescending disdain. And last, we have Bernard Hepton, in my view one of the best of Britain's skilled character actors. With those thick glasses and that mustache, Hepton turns Donald Stimpson into a figure of slightly pompous amusement for us; that is, until we begin to realize just how resentful Stimpson is becoming, and how relentless he is in the pursuit of bringing down Gorse. Hepton turns Stimpson into a little man dangerous to underestimate, who simply won't let go.
The Charmer is murderous black comedy that is a great deal of fun, and features three outstanding performances. The DVD transfer is not as crisp as we've come to expect, but is still very easy to watch."
N. Muir | New York, NY USA | 01/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this years ago on Public Television and thought it was excellent. So good, in fact, that several years later, I'm looking to purchase a copy for my library. Very British, very well acted and well laid out, from beginning to end. I thoroughly recommend if you're a fan of British television programming.
Well I have to say that years after writing anything on this, I am still a huge fan of this show. I make a point of watching it every year. It's just the best! If you like curling up with a good book, or in this case, a good dvd on a nice rainy day, this is the one. English drama at it's best, well acted and directed with wonderful performances from all the actors. Rosemary Leach stands out, in particular, as the middle-aged spinster named Joan Plumleigh-Bruce, who falls for the charming Ralph Gorse, played by Nigel Havers, still wanting to believe in her beloved "Rafe" even up to the end. But nothing compares to the hatred Ralph brings on himself from Ms. Plumleigh-Bruce's paramour, Donald Stimpson, played by Bernard Hepton, and for whom Ralph becomes an obsession. The ride is a good one, and you're really pulled into the unbelievable world of one man bent on doing what he wants, permitting no one and nothing to stand in his way, and another determined to bring him down. And yet, despite everything, the story even manages to charm the viewer and you can't help but feel sorry for Ralph, however pathetic he is.
I think the British put out some of their best stuff in the 1970's and 80's, and even though others might disagree, as the production values are not those of the flashiness of Hollywood, you can see how much went into recreating the the 1950's era in which the series is set. I found (and still do find) the show fascinating to watch, and the dynamics are enough to keep you watching until the end. Sad to see that fewer and fewer of these get made anymore... Getting old, I guess. Sigh."
Did the "charmer" really deserve what he got in the end?
N. Muir | 03/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Saw it on tv - it was a mini series at the time - and
I just loved it. The acting is very good, the story
itself excellent...when you get to the very end of
the story you begin to feel some sort of sympathy for
the bad boy because he was at times misunderstood, and
used as well. I was fortunately enough to get the videos
from the N.Y. Public Library, though sometimes one or two
at the time, but every time I watched it, I loved every
minute of it....even the sad end."
One of Britain's best
C.A. Arthur | Tacoma, Washington | 09/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is not, as one reviewer describes it, a black comedy. Instead, it is a splendid three-part television program about a complete bounder, the sort of "cad" film that George Sanders might have starred in earlier. The acting is marvelous--right down to the smallest roles, such as the maid and the hotel clerk. Nigel Havers is perfect, as are Rosemary Leach and Bernard Hepton. This is television the way it used to be on BBC before the Huns took over. I noticed one small cut, however, in the sex scene between Havers and Leach, a moment of complete disgust on the face of the younger man. Perhaps the contemporary editors thought that the facial expression was politically incorrect. In any case, this is an excellent production, equal to Havers' performance in Sleepers."
"The Charmer" is one you won't want to miss
C. Marshall | Ann Arbor, MI | 07/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's rare that a program makes you root for the villain and despise the "good guys", if there are any good guys in this wonderful production, but "The Charmer" does just that.
Nigel Havers plays Ralph Gorse, a handsome immoral man who has one goal in life, to rise above his station. This series takes place in the 1930's, when England as indeed most places, was still very class conscious. Unless you came from a good family, which meant old money, not money coming from "trade" like Ralph's father-in-law, it was very difficult if not impossible to become one of the beautiful people.
Ralph desperately wants to live in the same world as one of his conquests, a young Fiona Fullerton as the wild socialite, Clarice Mannor, who he comes the closest to having any kind of feelings for. To get into this world however, takes money, so he takes advantage (in more ways than one) of a dowdy middle-aged Joan Plumleigh-Bruce, played wonderfully by Rosemary Leach. Plumleigh-Bruce is a basically petty and selfish woman who richly deserves everything she gets in this story. The worst of the lot as far as petty and selfish goes to Bernard Hepton's Donald Stimpson, a perfectly horrible man in every way. Old, ugly and wearing coke bottle glasses, he is truly a viscous little man. Even after the money that was conned out of Joan is returned to her, he just will not let it go. He will not rest until he sees Ralph destroyed. This, he does, but at no small cost to himself. In the end he finds he's won the battle, but lost the war. Hepton is so good in this role, I hated his guts by the time it was over, a sure sign of great acting.
There are really no winners in this six-part drama, each character ends up miserable in their own way in the end, but for me at least, even with all the horrible things he did, I couldn't help but hope that Ralph had gotten away with it. He was a charmer indeed."