Ruritania on TV
This 90-minute US TV version sounds promising cast-wise: Christopher Plummer played the 2 Rudolfs, Farley Granger, Rupert, and Inger Stevens, Flavia. Nancy Wickwire played Antoinette, and Philip Bosco was Michael. (I don't know what he looked like when he was 30, but I'm afraid my only recollection is of him playing Benjamin Franklin in a dramatised documentary a few years ago... Which doesn't leave the right impression!) John Williams played Sapt, and James Valentine Fritz. Roy Poole played Johann, Mark Lennard Detchard. Rex O'Malley was the Chancellor.
I've only seen a couple of stills from this version, but Elma assures me it was very good! George
Baker played the 2 Rudolfs, and Barbara Shelley (a Hammer favourite)
Queen Flavia. Rupert was played by Peter Wyngarde, better known as
Jason King (one of the inspirations behind Austin Powers...!). John
Phillips played Sapt, and the adaptation was by Donald Wilson.
Prisoner of Zenda (IMDb review)
I still have fond memories of this James Andrew Hall/Terrance Dicks adaptation, although it's 20 years since the winter afternoons when I used to gather with my friends in the TV Room in University Hall , St Andrews, after afternoon tea, to watch the 6 weekly instalments. Ah, happy, happy days
With a running time of 3 hours (nearly twice as long as the feature film versions!), the BBC adaptation retained more of the original plot, and also - at last - gave us Rudolfs with red hair (Malcolm Sinclair)! Jonathon Morris was a superbly insolent Rupert von Hentzau, suitably boyish, with the curls and the long legs in boots (Thanks to Heather's Official Jonathon Morris Site for the picture!). John Woodvine was pretty much the definitive Col. Sapt (unless either Klaus Maria Brandauer or Brian Cox have a go).
I recall the press commenting at the time that the female characters were not made sufficiently contrasting: Antoinette (Pauline Moran) seemed as young and girlish as Flavia (Victoria Wicks - later better known as Sally, the snooty newsreader with a secret penchant for rough trade, in Drop the Dead Donkey!).
George Irving (now more familiar to BBC viewers as Holby City surgeon Anton Meyer) had the potential to be a compelling Duke Michael: certainly he was nearer the character's age than nearly all of his predecessors in the role, being only 30 at the time. But the production decided to depict him as a shaven-headed heavy in military uniform - rather the antithesis of what the book implies re: his politics. (No adaptation has yet dared address the plot-point that Michael is a genuinely popular boy whom the working classes regard as their champion. He should be played as noticeably different from the army types around Rudolf - more of a young firebrand.) And again - despite generally greater fidelity to the plot - we still didn't get to see his last sword fight against Rupert: as in the films, Rupert knifes him. (I'm reminded of a line in Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Don Juan, in which he kills Robert Douglas: "The sword is not for a traitor. You die by the knife." Is this philosophy behind the screen depictions of Michael's death, I wonder?) Interestingly, Nicholas Gecks, who played Fritz, was Michael in the 1992 stage production.
But, for all its flaws - which were, on the whole, fewer than those of the big screen versions - it was fun, and I saw it when I was young and full of dreams. And that counts for something, too. It's just a pity the BBC didn't go on to make Rupert of Hentzau with the same cast. They don't make 'em like this any more! Can we hope for a DVD release...?
The first cut won't hurt at all,
The second only makes you wonder...
- Propaganda, Duel