This BBC production of The Borgias suffered from the timing of its original scheduling. Put up against the very stiff competition of Brideshead Revisited on ITV back in 1981, it got slagged off by the then TV critics, which damaged its ratings and its legacy. The BBC went into a massive sulk at both its ratings disappointment and that Brideshead grabbed the awards. The Beeb then hid The Borgias (1981) away in their vaults for the next 30 or so years, and didn't even give it the benefit of any further showings. You still cannot get a DVD version where you can turn the Italian subtitles off, but at least this Italian edition does have the option of turning the English soundtrack back on.
The storytelling and performances hold up quite well against the current Showtime reworking. The characterisations are not quite as colourful as the Showtime telling and the colours and general quality of pictures certainly are not what we are used to in this day of high definition and digital recording, but this version has its own pleasures. Adolfo Celi makes for rather more 'Mediterranean' Pope (basically because he was a native of that part of the World). That he is also convincingly villainous is probably helped by his far more famous performance as Emilio Largo in 'Thunderball'. Oliver Cotton's Cesare is also excellent and quite a lot more sinister and less likeable than the HBO version. Given Cesare's reputation that is probably much closer to reality.
So, if you have just enjoyed the Neil Jordan directed take and want more, or if like me you saw this long ago and want to see it again, then this version can provide good entertainment and proves that some TV criticism is bast just ignored.