A Very British Coup (British Mini-series)
Sound: C+ Extras: C Episodes: B
After the Iran-Contra affair and the kicking in of the
Reagan/Thatcher Era of Neo-Conservatism, the story of politician Harry Perkins
(Ray McAnally) becoming Prime Minister of the U.K., but the twist is that he is
a self-willed man who also happens to be a Socialism. When he wants to go through with nuclear disarmament and
implement other programs, the Power Elite in the West hate it and go after him
in A Very British Coup (1988), from the novel by Chris Mullin.
There are the public figures, including Browne (Alan
MacNaughtan of The Sandbaggers series, reviewed elsewhere on this site)
who have to keep on a certain face, the U.S. Secretary of State (Shane Rimmer)
who tried open diplomacy before something more drastic is worked out, there are
the media types (played by Philip Madoc and Jeremy Young among them) who may or
may not tell the whole story as Perkins wants to break up media monopolies in
the name of Democracy (something recently used against U.S. Presidential
hopeful Howard Dean), and then there is the public who likes him so much that
he is too popular for the good of the establishment insiders. Some Hollywood films could offer such a
set-up, but would water it down and make a mockery of the real issues. This work does not. Mick Jackson’s directing is a plus.
Done in three nearly hour-long installments, the teleplay
by Alan Plater is very well laid out and articulate, surviving far after the
issues the mini-series had to deal with what turned out to be the final years
of The Cold War. When the Prime
Minister gets a money loan from the U.S.S.R. instead of the usual Western
Capitalist sources, the Western elites fail to possibly see this as a route into
the fall of Communism to be (which happened in real life in part), but as an
absolute sign of a dangerous Communist influence. The combination of nuclear disarmament and Socialist Party
control of one of the greatest Capitalist countries of all time always causes a
knee-jerk reactionary populist result, and with a popular Prime Minister with
these ideas would be considered a crisis by certain interests.
The 1.33 X 1 full frame image is a bit aged, but just fine
for the time it was produced. Color is
consistent, but the image is a touch hazy.
Cinematographer Ernie Vincze, B.S.C., comes up with a cooled visual look
that works to the narrative’s advantage.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is simple stereo at best. John Keane’s score is also subtly effective
and dialogue is clear enough. Good
fidelity for its age. Extras include an
audio interview with author Mullin, who later became part of the more Liberal
Tony Blair cabinet, now marred by his association with the administration of
U.S. President George W. Bush over Iraq.
The interview runs near twenty minutes. There is also a text character glossary, inside a paper foldout
in the DVD case, as well as a filmography on a bunch of cast members with
stills on the disc itself. That is a
decent group for any TV production.
Mullin claims that the book never came out in the United
States because all publishers told him there was no market for it, but that was
disproved by the success of the book and mini-series. I believe the publishers where simply scared of the material and
backed off, which is far more the case and truth than even Mullen
realizes. The cases of censorship of
the truth in the 1980s in the face of Iran-Contra, BCCI, the Savings & Loan
Scandal and many other atrocities necessitated this so those responsible could
get away with what they did. Time is
proving this true as you finish reading this review. A Very British Coup is still ahead of its time and a major
must-see, especially with the lack of such high quality programming around.
- Nicholas Sheffo