Clive Owen in Lorna Doone!

Monday, 04 October 2010 12:13

You can link this TV movie adaption to Doctor Who, specifically the Paul McGann TV movie from the 1990s – Matthew Jacobs did the screenplay for that, and he also provided the script for this version of “Lorna Doone”.  Widely considered by classicists as one of the great love stories of English literature, here it is retold with direction by Andrew Grieve, who has since helmed the likes of Hornblower, Wire in the Blood, Poirot and Kingdom.

It’s the significant array of acting talent present which should really be the reason this one gains your attention. Starring as John Ridd is Clive Owen, who went on to star in Chancer and Sharman on the small screen, before becoming big box office in “Children of Men”, “Duplicity” and “Sin City”. Also on hand to lend thespian muscle are the icons Sean Bean and Billie Whitelaw.

A star studded cast in the 1990 version of Lorna DooneFans of the new Battlestar Galactica franchise will be interested to see a young Polly Walker making one of her earliest screen appearances as Lorna Doone – she can now be seen as Clarice Willow in Caprica. She has been seen in many TV roles over the years – Anne Collins in “State of Play”, Atia of the Julii in Rome, and Ellis Samuels in Cane. Regrettably, her role as one of gods, Cassiopeia, in the new version of “Clash of the Titans” saw her almost completely excised from the film due to numpty test audiences getting confused by the film’s over-arching sub-plot!

Based on RD Blackmore’s classic novel set during the turbulent times of King James II, the plot describes the life of John Ridd, a young West Country yeoman whose father is killed before the opening credits can roll, by the Doones – a clan of aristocratic but murderous outlaws inhabiting a neighbouring valley.

John’s search for vengeance is complicated when he meets Lorna, a rebel herself at heart, and a daughter of the Doone clan. Theirs is a forbidden love, made more complicated by the amorous intentions of the wicked Carver Doone (brought to life by an on-form Sean Bean), who will stop at nothing in his quest for power.

Behind the romance and adventure lie the traditional bodice-ripping themes of retribution and forgiveness, as John is ultimately able to heal the scars left by the killing of his father through his love for Lorna. The adaption is breathless in its execution, moving through the decades covered by the story at a rapid pace. 

Billie Whitelaw as John’s mother Sarah simply drips despair and feistiness. Jane Gurnett, easily recognised as Kate Russell from the resurrection of Crossroads, shows she can really shine with good material as John’s sister Annie.

You would have expected this to have been an HTV production, given its setting and style, so it was quite a surprise to find that it actually came out of Thames Television. One of the producers, Antony Root had been a Script Editor on Doctor Who during the Peter Davison era, having graduated from being an Assistant Floor Manager on Blake’s 7. He’s gone on to be Executive Producer the likes of The Grand, Touching Evil and Sofia’s Diary UK.

Also a producer on “Lorna Doone” was Alan Horrox. Having been ominated for an Emmy in 1989 for Outstanding Children's Programme for “Wonderworks: Young Charlie Chaplin”, Horrox went on to produce 1991’s Time Riders, as well as the 1990s revival of The Tomorrow People.

The Associate Producer role on “Lorna Doone” was filled by Peter Richardson, who went on to be an Executive Producer on Trial & Retribution, as well as a Line Producer for Hornblower, Jonathan Creek and Diamond Geezer.

All in all, this is an interesting little curiosity, well executed, with an ending that almost begged a sequel.  It never hangs around long enough to outstay its welcome, and the vistas of the location shooting make everything very pleasing on the eye.

“Lorna Doone” is out now on DVD from Network, with a ‘PG’ certificate, a running time of 90 minutes approx, and a RRP of £12.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

Lorna Doone – Cast List

Clive Owen as John Ridd

Sean Bean as Carver Doone

Polly Walker as Lorna Doone

Billie Whitelaw as Sarah Ridd

Jane Gurnett as Annie Ridd

Miles Anderson as Tom Faggus

Rachel Kempson as Lady Dugal

Kenneth Haigh as Judge Jeffreys

Hugh Fraser as King James II

Robert Stephens as Sir Ensor Doone

Michael MacKenzie as John Ridd's Father

Euan Grant MacLachlan as Ensie Doone

Martin Heller as Priest

Paul Young as Neighbour

Andrew Ferguson as Young John

Claire Madden as Young Lorna

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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