Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on September 2nd, 2003
Ian Richardson is Sir Francis Urquhart (FU to his friends), a scheming politician whocombines the guiles of Richard III and Iago. In House of Cards, the first mini-series ofthe trilogy, he is the Tory Chief Whip, and has just been disappointed in his expectations by anew prime minister he considers weak. Furious, Urquhart sets about the destruction of his ownprime minister. In To Play the King, Urquhart, now PM, comes up against the willfulnew king (who…bears a suspicious resemblance to the current British heir to the throne). And inThe Final Cut, Urquhart contemplates his legacy. Based on the novels by MichaelDobbs’, these three mini-series, scripted by Andrew Davies, are that rare thing: a television showthat is better written, more literate, and more devastating than the source material. Alternatinglysuspenseful and hilarious, propelled by Richardson’s explosive performance and dangerouslyseductive asides to the camera, this is one of television’s finest hours. See this, and you see TVdrama at an absolute pinnacle.
The sound is 2.0, and is generally fine, though there are a few moments of distractingsurround voices. Otherwise, the dialogue is free of distortion, and this is a series where you wantto catch every beautifully written and delivered line. One rather risque moment, clipped fromHouse of Cards’ PBS broadcast, is present and accounted for here. The music isappropriately sly and majestic, and the sound effects, particularly of crowds, are quite good.When there is no background noise, however, there does tend to be some hiss.
Decent, but unspectacular. The picture is quite grainy, and faces tend to blur as they recedefrom close-up. The colours too are a bit harsh, though the flesh tones are very good. The blacksare solid as well. A sharper image would have been nice, given how good this series is, but thiswill have to do.
Very disappointing: cast and crew biographies, and an 8-minute clip of Andrew Davies beingconfronted on a talk show about the supposed anti-Royalism of To Play the King.Interesting though that is, there was plenty of other controversy associated with the series(Michael Dobbs had his name removed from The Final Cut). There is so much that couldbe said about the trilogy, and such thin extras are a real let-down. The menu’s main page andintro are animated and scored. The tone is curiously gloomy, very much at odds with the jauntynastiness of the actual film.
So the extras are poor and the picture quality is merely okay. But trust me, TV just doesn’tget any better than this.
Special Features List
- Cast and Crew Biographies
- Biteback with Andrew Davies