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House of Cards Trilogy (House of Cards / To Play the King / The Final Cut)
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In To Play the King, Urquhart appears to have everything he wants. He is the prime minister, he has no immediate rivals, and everyone who knows of his crimes is either on his side or dead. But a new challenge arises when the queen dies and the new king (Michael Kitchen doing a perfect Prince Charles) proves to be a thorn in Urquhart's side. Urquhart may be a staunch defender of the monarchy as a concept, but an individual sovereign is fair game if he proves to be a threat. With a Davies script that pokes fun at British politics and the antics of the royal family as well as a terrific cast led again by Ian Richardson, To Play the King maintains the high standard set by House of Cards.
The Final Cut, the last installment of the trilogy, strikes a more somber note than its predecessors. Urquhart has almost overtaken Margaret Thatcher to become Britain's longest serving postwar leader, but the public is tiring of him and there are rumblings of dissent in the Conservative Party. Urquhart and his wife plot to secure both their place in history and their financial future. Once again, writer Andrew Davies has created a satire to relish, one that confirms all of our doubts about the motives of politicians. Ian Richardson's wonderful performance--filled with sly asides and winks to the camera--makes Francis Urquhart as fascinating as he is wicked, and we find ourselves rooting for this terrible man. The world would certainly be a duller place without him. --Simon Leake
Top Customer Reviews
The series opens with Conservative Party Whip, Francis Urquhart, fondly holding a portrait of Margaret Thatcher, remarking that all things, no matter how good, must come to an end. This perfectly sets the time and tone of what is to follow. Urquhart must maneuver and control the political scene in the power vacuum left by the exit of the Iron Lady.
This production strives for Shakespearean proportions, and hits the bull's eye. The main character, Urquhart, played by Ian Richardson, is a crafty blend of Macbeth and King Richard. Like Macbeth, Urquhart has a power hungry wife gently messaging his shoulders and whispering pretty treacheries in his ear; and like Richard, Urquhart takes the viewer into his confidence, revealing his black plans with wicked joy. This technique of Urquhart speaking directly to you, the viewer, is a tremendous stroke. Like with King Richard, you will find yourself somehow cheering for this cold, angular blade of a man, as he slices through well-meaning fools and bumbling bullies alike (or, as Urquhart says, "put a bit of stick about").
A great production throughout, with wonderful writing and acting. Highly recommended. --Mykal Banta
Well cast, well directed, and with three thrilling political stories. However, this series would be nothing without Richardson, who amazes. Perhaps the best moments are when he breaches the fourth wall by talking to, or simply raising an eyebrow to, the viewer. While we could never approve of the things "F. U." does, it is hard not to love the character, as brought to full-color life by Richardson.
The only extra given on the DVDs, other than cast biographies, is a short BBC segment discussing the controversy over "To Play The King", or, to be more specific, over a line which some felt implied that the King used to send out for prostitutes (in context, it clearly does not, it implied he sent out for well-born ladies who would feel it their duty to come).
Each DVD contains four 50 minute episodes, so it is a good buy.
In fact, he makes a truly evil character so attractive that you find yourself rooting for him against your better instincts. At least, that's true for the first episode, before the extent of his monstrous nature becomes apparent. One gets entirely caught up in the behind-the-scenes machinations of this man-who-would-be-prime-minister.
The tone set by the first episode's shocking finish continues in "To Play the King," a fine and exciting sequel. Francis Urquhart (his initials are used to comic effect in the drama's newspaper headlines) goes head-to-head with the King, obviously modeled on Prince Charles.
The DVD for this installment has a bonus: An interview with writer Andrew Davies on the BBC. Judging by this segment, British talk show audiences aren't much higher on the IQ scale than their U.S. equivalents. Much of the audience is hostile to Davies -- who did extremely good work here (as he did on his more popular "Pride and Prejudice") -- because they entirely miss the show's ironic stance. It's great to have this extra feature, although a commentary track with Davies or Richardson (or both) would have been even better.
Finally, the trilogy ends with "The Final Cut." The tone really shifts in this one, and I have to say it's the least successful installment. Richardson no longer seems to be enjoying himself as much, although perhaps it's just that he's portraying a much more tired Urquhart. The pace is slower, the suspense is a bit more contrived, and the new characters are less interesting.Read more ›
The HOUSE OF CARDS, the first season, is quite clearly the best. The wit, the plot, the sheer malignancy of it is just pure delight. I worked briefly at the House of Commons, and I thought the presentation of Parliament and Westminster politics was brilliant. I don't think there is anything equal to the cynicism on display here, as France Urquhart (Ian Richardson) cheerfully outmaneuvers and destroys his political opponents (his colleagues within his party). The mockery of the British political system is right on. Richardson has these asides to the audience that work perfectly, and heighten the hilarity. It's what something like WAG THE DOG wishes it could be for American politics, but unfortunately American audiences don't always have the political sophistication to enjoy this level of satire. *****
TO PLAY THE KING has Urquhart as Prime Minister (known appropriately by the initials FU), master of his domain. The arc in this series focuses on the place of the monarchy in the constitutional system, with many asides on homosexuality in politics, manipulation of the press, exploitation of disaters, and the staging of politically convenient terrorist attacks. Not as good as the first season by any measure, however, Urquhart's systematic destruction of the King (a brilliant Michael Kitchen) masterfully communicates some of the political tensions built into Britain's constitution. This season generated a lot of controversy with the British public, many of whom thought it was intentionally and excessively disrespectful to the monarchy (see the DVD extras).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to buy a new DVD player as men was restricted to Australian purchases.
Very different to the US version and recommended.
Charles Dance at his best in an intriguing look into British politics at their worst!Published 1 month ago by VP Customer
UK (original) version of what became the US House of Cards. Solid acting performances, plot slightly different so its not fully predictable. Read morePublished 2 months ago by D. Dubois
Makes the current House of Cards, which is based on this original, more complete.Published 2 months ago by M. R. Carpenter III
This is superb! Don't waste your time or money on the American spin off.Published 3 months ago by OVERTIME
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