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The kingdom of Gormenghast rejoices when its ruler, Lord Sepulchrave (Ian Richardson), produces a son and heir: Titus, 77th Earl of Groan. However, scheming kitchen boy Steerpike (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) himself dreams of taking power, and sets about driving Sepulchrave insane. He also seduces Titus' sister, Lady Fuchsia, planning to seize the kingdom through her. It seems that Steerpike cannot fail in his plans - only the timid Titus himself, young and inexperienced, stands in his way...
The BBC's lavish, glowingly designed adapation of Mervyn Peake's eccentrically brilliant novels Titus Groan and Gormenghast is a triumph of casting. Ian Richardson's Lear-like depiction of the mad earl of a remote, vast, ritual-obsessed building is matched by the brutal pragmatism of Celia Imrie as his wife, the synchronised madness of Zoe Wanamaker and Lynsey Baxter as his twin sisters and the duplicitous charm of Jonathan Rhys-Meyer as Steerpike, the kitchen-boy determined to take over no matter how many deaths it costs. John Sessions is surprisingly touching as Prunesquallor, the family doctor who realises almost too late what Steerpike intends.
It is always tricky to film a book dear to the hearts of its admirers: Wilson and his design team achieve a look rather more pre-Raphaelite than Peake's own illustrations, shabby velvets, garish sunlight and dank stone passages. The score by Richard Rodney Bennett is full of attractive surprises--fanfares and waltzes and apotheoses--and John Tavener's choral additions are plausibly parts of the immemorial ritual of Gormenghast.
On the DVD: The double DVD comes with scene selection, an informative half-hour documentary on the making of the serial and a slide gallery of costume designs, characters and their dooms. --Roz KaveneySee all Product description
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Two Mervyn Peake novels have been adapted for this lavish 2000 screen telling. I do not know the books, so can only comment on what was seen. Presented is a world extraordinary in the extreme, full of flamboyant characters played by some very surprising names. Central is Steerpike, Jonathan Rhys Meyers delivering a real tour de force. At first his plight evokes sympathy, this diminishing as he grows ever more callous - ultimately out of control.
Four crammed hour long episodes, attention riveted throughout. Interesting bonuses (which I found tricky to access). They contain fascinating anecdotes (as how that albino rook was obtained) and illuminating observations from several of the cast.
Fans of the books may have reservations, but I liked most greatly what I saw.
The world is fantastic and portreys well a society which now only contains two classes - only the lowest of the low (the carvers, servants) and the higest (aristocracy) - with everything in between decayed and missing. The story chronicles one of said lowest (a kitchen boy called Steerpike) transcending through guile, cunning and skullduggery into the Aristocracy.
The stellar cast is generally excellent and provide a wide variety of characters to love and hate! The style is certainly not to everyone's taste, and some of it seems to drag and feel unneccessary, but overall it's well worth a watch.
I bought this to see how the could possibly adapt this for television - and the said that it covered the first two books - ambitious to say the least.
I was right - too ambitious and in doing so great chunks of the books were cut - now Peter Jackson needs to take up the challenge, he managed Lord of the Rings, so why not this epic adult fantasy.
The story is long and complicated filled with brilliant characters that stay with you for ages, set in an old castle so large it's hard to fully comprehend the vastness of it all.
However, the BBC tried to convey some of this but as far as the story goes - it goes pear shaped, loses the feel of the book I read and enjoyed so much.
Mr J. Rhys Meyers does a good job as Steerpike the conniving central character in the second book as he rises from the kitchens as a dogs body to the high status of running the place by plotting and murdering those who are in the way or hamper his intensions.
I'll probably read the Titus Groan Trilogy again, as for this production - once is enough.
Years later I find it on DVD and I watch it as an adult and it is everything I remembered and more.
First off this edition features all four one hour episodes plus some excellent special features including a great thirty minute making of. The picture quality is very good and if you watch the making of which uses clips from when the show first aired you can tell that they have improved the picture quality dramatically for this DVD release.
Never read the books and all the negative reviews appear to be by the novel's fans, I however can not find a single fault with this amazing, captivating and complex series.
Everything is great about this series but if I had to pick the best aspect it would have to be the characters and the great performances behind them. Steerpike is as slimy as Draco Malfoy as tragic as Hamlet and with the vocabulary of Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange. There is a lot of Alex in the performance: intelligence, hostility and the desire to have what he wants no matter what. It is such an interesting character and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers gives the perfect performance of a power mad, homicidal lunatic while giving the character enough empathy that we still love and engage with him. The final episode adds even more depth to Steerpike when the love story takes a turn towards the Phantom Of The Opera and we realise that Steerpike and the Phantom have always had a lot in common.
This has to be hands down Christopher Lee's greatest performance, he takes a simple character who speaks very few words but creates and brings so much empathy and depth to him. These two stand out but all the performances are fantastic.
The story and the world is wonderful, it feels Gothic and Shakesperanen whilst also having that very British Terry Pratchett feel. It also has a very distinct sound design with strange, haunting and captivating music.
Most interesting is that Steerpike has become to me the most interesting anti-hero I have ever encountered.
Overall, it's wonderful with images and characters you will fall in love with. I can't offer a comparasion to the original novels but this was my introduction to this world and it's characters and I loved every second of it.
For people seeking something truly different, wonderful, unpredictable, well crafted and staring one of the most interesting anti-hero's of all time this is a must buy.
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