House of Cards

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Director:                Paul Seed
Producers:            Jeremy Gwilt
                                Ken Riddington
Script:                    Andrew Davies adaptation
                               Michael Dobbs (Book)

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Now before I get a string of emails from people telling me that THIS IS NOT A FILM – needless to say I realise that! I’ve given careful consideration to putting this series on the site and decided that it is just too important to leave off. There are three classic BBC dramas; ‘House of Cards’ (1990), ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' (1979) and ‘I Claudius’ (1976). I’m not about to put them all on but I thought I’d test the water with this one.

This series is almost 11 hours (3 DVD's) and has three parts ‘House of Cards’ (1990), ‘To play the King’ (1993) and ‘The Final Cut’ (1995). It features a string of classically training theatre and TV actors who would never make it into mainstream films other than as character actors – but they show the best of British acting. Ian Richardson has a show-stealing performance as Francis Urquhart, the government Chief Whip, who lies, cheats and tramples his way to Downing Street, leaving bodies, rival leaders, and political carnage in his wake.

The first series ‘House of Cards’ sees Urquhart being snubbed and passed over for promotion by the Prime Minister Henry. He vows revenge and we watch as he plots, schemes and engineers all manner of Machiavellian situations for unwitting enemies and rivals. Number two ‘To Play the King’ sees him take on a new form of rival and it is revealed how he has not learnt from others mistakes as he treats his own Chief Whip Tim Stamper the way the previous PM treated him. It would be unfair to review ‘The Final Cut’ as I don’t want to ruin this review by giving away too much that would spoil your enjoyment of the series…

Generally books are regarded as better than the adapted screenplays – it is widely accepted that although Mike Dobbs books are excellent, Andrew Davies who wrote the screenplay actually improved dramatically on the books. Richardson breathes exquisite life into the character of Urquhart and the story changes make the stories BETTER, not worse.

One theme (and there are many) than run through the series is that Urquhart’s relationships with women are both beneficial and destructive. The Maddie Storin character played by Susannah York is perhaps the most fascinating and the ‘Daddy’ twist (you’ll really have to watch it) was a controversial aspect of their relationship.

He is not a nice guy, and he eventually shocks both us and himself with how far he is willing to go to obtain his seat of power, but the sheer intelligence and complexity of his schemes compels our admiration. His dialogue is beautifully constructed and eloquently delivered and so whenever he speaks (regardless of our own political opinion) you end up with your heart swelling, for example,

‘We are not a nation of deserving cases. We are not, please God, a nation of social workers, or of clients of social workers. We are a fierce, proud nation, and we are still, God willing, a nation to be reckoned with’









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