Last King [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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One of the better BBC costume dramas of recent years, 2003's Charles II: The Power and the Passion depends very strongly on its central performance. Fortunately, Rufus Sewell is admirable throughout as the saturnine, witty monarch who has retained popular fondness down the centuries in spite of his conscientious adherence to the bad and losing cause of absolute monarchy. Adrian Hodge's intelligent script dramatises the issue in quick sound bites--many politicians accepted the Restoration to avoid chaos and were determined to bring Charles to heel, whereas he was determined to defend the position for which his father had been martyred. If that meant handing the throne to his Catholic brother in default of a legitimate son of his own, so be it.
The four hour-long episodes cover the Restoration, the Plague and the Fire of London, the secret treaties with France and the Popish Plot, as well as giving us a fair bit of Charles's moderately happy marriage to Catherine (Shirley Henderson in the most hideously accurate historical hairdos ever) and his affairs with various mistresses. Among a number of fine supporting performances, Rupert Graves stands out as Buckingham, the friend who betrayed Charles. This sort of costume drama only ever works if the acting is as good as it is here.
On the DVD: Charles II on disc comes with a making-of documentary and a commentary on the first episode from writer Adrian Hodge and the director and producer. It also includes an extended documentary on Charles's back story--his education, his attempt to fight Cromwell's forces, his period on the run in England and his long exile--in which a number of eminent historians, including Richard Holmes and Ronald Hutton, talk about how he became the king he was. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Rufus Sewell plays Charles II, tenaciously, and Rupert Graves, plays his impulsive close friend George, The Duke of Buckinghamshire, with whom he shared his exile in Belgium and France before being recalled by Parliament after the death of Oliver Cromwell.
Weaving through the intrigues between Catholics and Protetsants, king and Parliament, Dutchess Barbara Villiers manipulated Charles, and Helen McCrory recreates this fascinating sultry role with great panache.
As a contrast, bright cockney Actress Nell Gwynn out lasted most other Royal Mistresses, and Emma Pierson, brings this role to life excellently. Charles is reputed to have had at least 16 mistresses.
Shirley Henderson portrays his official wife, with an amazing wig from the fashions of the period, whith whom he eventually fell in love, Catherine of Braganza, from Portugal. It was at first a political marriage. Unfortunately their son was still born, and to protect them, and thwart Parliament, Charles would not name any of his children as heirs, but named his younger brother James as heir.
Christian Coulson plays his eldest son the Duke of Monmouth, who led an unsuccessful rebellion after Charles's death, and throughout most of the action, his old friend and advisor Sir Edward Hyde is played by Ian McDiarmid.
Diana Rigg has a small but powerful role as the Queen Mother.
The power and the conficting passion makes powerful viewing.Read more ›
The casting does not help matters. Charles comes across as a man who is aloof and indiferrent, because of Sewell's poor acting. Sewell's little boy lost routine, may be endearing to his female fans, but it is inappropriate for King Charles II who was very much a man of action.
In the drama, much time is spent on Charles's insistence on having equality for Roman Catholics, but there is no clear explanation given as to why. In the extras, there is a full documentary about Charles's youth. Here we are given to believe that he was indebted to the crucial support given to his escape from England, by a network of Catholics. What is overlooked though is that by supporting religious freedom, he was allowing greater freedom for science and the arts. There is a moment in the drama where Charles does express an interest in science, but sadly that was not expanded on. Without the foundation of the Royal observatory, his patronage of the Royal Society and the religious exemption he granted Isaac Newton, the World would be a very different place today.Read more ›
A superb cast is empolyed including Rufus Sewell, Rupert Graves and the excellent Shirley Henderson among others. The music is beautiful. A documentary film about Charles' childhood and adolescence can be found on the dvd as an extra which is also worth watching.
I have a few little complaints to make. I feel that James, Charles's brother and eventual successor, is treated rather unfairly. Yes, James was very stubborn and not too intelligent, but in the drama he is constantly defying Charles and is often borderline disrespectful to him. As a believer in the Divine Right of Kings, James wouldn't have acted like that. Also, it would have been nice to see James's daughters, Mary and Anne, featured, or even his second wife, but I understand that time constraints probably made this unfeasible.
Diana Rigg puts in a good performance as Henrietta Maria, despite her English accent. There are some slight chronological inaccuracies however - for example, Charles's brother Henry was dead long before Catherine arrived in England. These are all minor points however, and are the only reason I'm giving 4 rather than 5 stars. It's a wonderful, exciting drama and is for the most part true to history.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was certainly no romp, the script and acting were quite dreary, and there was almost continuous background music - a sure sign of a poor production. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Alan T
If you're looking for a history lesson, this isn't it. If you're looking for a few hours of gripping drama, fabulous costumes, oodles of sex and periwigs a-plenty - you've come to... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Miss AJV
I really enjoyed watching this. If you like period dramas you'll like this. A fair bit of passion going on and quite decadent. Well acted and worth watching. Recommend.Published 14 months ago by mrs. s
DVD worked great, was brand new. I remember seeing this on television and was delighted I was able to purchase it.Published 17 months ago by gd