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House of Cards: 05/23/21

House of Cards

House of Cards by Michael Dobbs is the novel that spawned a trilogy of British mini series and later an American series on Netflix. I haven't seen the American version, but I've watched the British ones numerous times.

The 1989 version has a similar relationship to the 1990 mini series that Arthur C. Clark's 2001 has to Kubrick's 1968 film. Both share the same characters, same settings, but go tangents to arrive at endings that can't possibly spawn the sequels that the films do. Yet, both authors opted to go with the photoplay ending when writing sequels.

In 2014 after the success of the Netflix Americanized version, the author decided to revise the original novel. I had hoped to get hold of an unrevised version, but the copy I was given is in fact the revision.

In the 1990 mini series, the climax and rapid denouement happens on parliament's rooftop garden. It involves a confrontation between a reporter and Francis Urquhart. The two have also been lovers in the course of his underhanded bid to be Prime Minister. It's here that the source material and the adaptation part ways.

In the original version (as I've read descriptions), Urquhart jumps to his death. The British mini series cast Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart. He has such stage presence that he turned a rather weak but devious character into a cool, cunning, and deeply evil character. Richard's Urquhart doesn't come across as someone who would die by suicide. That said, he could have lost in some other fashion that would allow Maddie Storin, the reporter, to live.

Instead, her life is swapped for his. In that final confrontation, rather than Maddie presumably talking him to the point of realizing and regretting all the evil he's done in the name of political power, she starts her confrontation and promptly loses. While Ian Richardson pulled off an impressive presence in his characters, he was still only 5'9" and playing a man in his mid sixties.

The life sized rag doll he picks up in place of Susannah Harker (the actress playing Maddie) and tosses over the wall of the garden completely breaks the tension of the moment. It looks fake. It looks ridiculous. To then read Dobb's revision that essentially describes what he watched on the mini series makes for an equally ridiculous ending in print.

Three stars

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