Saturday, 11 July 2015


Francis Urquhart wants to be remembered as the greatest British Prime Minister since Winston Churchill. But his popularity is low and his leadership is disputed. Will his plans to make history backfire?

The Final Cut (1993), the final BBC drama serial in the House of Cards trilogy based on the books by Michael Dobbs, is available since May on French Region 2 DVD from Koba Films as "House of Cards - Saison 3".

« All things pass. Nothing lasts forever. »

Ian Richardson bows out as Francis Urquhart (nicknamed "FU"), the Machiavellian politician created by British author Michael Dobbs, an ex-advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in his realistic political thriller House of Cards. Scriptwriter Andrew Davies adapted the novel in 1990 as a BBC serial directed by Paul Seed. He turned Urquhart and his wife Elizabeth into modern Richard III and Lady Macbeth, modified some important elements of the book and reversed its ending.

The Shakesperean portrayal of Francis Urquhart by the amazing Richardson and his "You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment." entered  popular culture. Michael Dobbs brought back the scheming FU in his novels To Play The King (1992) and The Final Cut (1994).

« After all that - the calculation of the odds, the sifting of the probabilities - and then, the fear. Fear in the smell of damp newsprint and the crackle of the radio. Fear that this might be the day that we wake to find the magic gone.  » 

Andrew Davies and Paul Seed reunited  for the adaptation of To Play the King in 1993 and Mike Vardy replaced Seed for the four-part serialisation of The Final Cut, penned by Davies. The tone is set with the pre-credit sequence where FU shoots his ageing Gun dog before attending Margaret Thatcher's state funeral. Upset by the latter scene because she was still alive at the time, Dobbs demanded his name be removed from the credits.

« The woman simply hung around too long. Better a quick exit than clinging to the wreckage of a lost career. Some people seem to lack all sense of timing. »  

As his 65th birthday approaches, Francis Urquhart wants to "leave his mark on the world" with a resolution of the Cyprus dispute while Elizabeth (Diane Fletcher) works to secure them a wealthy retirement. Her husband needs to show his authority within the Cabinet to discourage potential rivalry but he alienates his Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Tom Makepeace (Paul Freeman). Ambitious backbencher Claire Carlsen (Isla Blair), who has an affair with Makepeace, becomes Urquhart's new Parliamentary Private Secretary.

«  Look, Francis, I'm awfully sorry, but I've got myself in a spot of bother.
- What is it this time, sex or money? 
- A bit of both, I'm afraid. »

The twilight of Francis Urquhart's reign mirrors his own irony towards Thatcher. Weakened by unpopularity and a road incident, the Prime Minister struggles to keep power. His last supports seem to be his wife, his sinister bodyguard Corder (Nick Brimble) and the eccentric and innocuous Geoffrey Booza Pitt (Nickolas Grace). Urquhart plays with fire and a personal connection with the Cypriot history could seal his fate.

The Final Cut concludes the House of Cards trilogy with a bang. Skillfully crafted by Andrew Davies, the four-episode serial is, like its predecessors, blessed  with the stellar performances of a splendid cast led by Ian Richardson and Diane Fletcher. BBC One aired The Final Cut in November 1995. Koba Films releases it in a 2-disc DVD set with the original dialogue track and optional French subtitles.  (To Play the King) (House of Cards with Ian Richardson)  

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