The Feathered Serpent – The Complete Series (1976 – 1978/Acorn DVD Set)
Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: C Episodes: B
Dark Aztec gods? Court intrigue? Poison and curses? A witch-woman with a crazy doll that might be
alive? By all accounts, the 1976 – 1978
British drama The Feathered Serpent
should be a hot mess, but a stellar cast, cool costumes, and solid scripts make
this twelve episode “historical” drama well worth watching. Anchored by the immensely talented Patrick
Toughton (the second Doctor Who) as Nasca, deposed high priest of the bloody
god Teshcata, the series also includes standout performances from Diane Keen as
Empress Chimalma, and Brian Deacon as the dashing Prince Heumac. Sheila Burrell gives a stunning performance
as Keelag, a witch-woman who lives with a strange-looking doll.
The creative team of writers John Kane and
Edgar Wallace, and director Victor Hughes were not afraid to take a few chances
with this series. The action builds
slowly toward the conflict between the followers of Teshcata and the adherents
of Quala, the Feathered Serpent god. The
battle seemingly leaves Nasca dead, and his foul blood cult smashed by the
heroic action of the Toltec hero Heumac.
However, Nasca does not die so easily, and Keelag seemingly calls him
back from the realm of the dead to wreak further havoc. The show treads the line between the
characters fear and belief in a magical world of gods and demons, and the
reality of history. No overt magic ever
really transpires, but mystery and action abound.
The sets and costumes manage to match the
quality of the cast’s strong performances.
If anyone felt ridiculous in all of the make-up and loin cloths, it
didn’t show on the screen. Troughton
possesses the role of the dark priest Nasca with fanatical fervor. His desire for vengeance, and the evil he
will commit to get it, make him a perfect villain. His and the other great performances in the
show could have been the fodder for some great extras--interviews, deleted
scenes, a feature on the making of the show.
None of this is included. All one
gets is a brief feature on the history behind the events in the show.
Although nothing like the hard-hitting,
hyper realistic treatment of Aztec culture seen in Mel Gibson’s woefully
underrated feature film Apocalypto, this campy romp
through Aztec history and mythology will draw viewers in if given it the
chance. Fans of Mr. Troughton will not
want to miss his powerful performance in this unique role.