|Index||5 reviews in total|
If you've ever wanted to see Howard Cunningham as founding father,
scholar and inventor Benjamin Franklin, if you've ever wanted to hear
Jerry the Dentist from the "Bob Newhart Show" lecture on Rousseau in a
lousy French accent, if you've ever wanted to watch Patricia Neal die
midway through a monologue . . . well, find yourself a DVD of this
goofy mini-series based the first installment of John Jakes' pulpy
historical epic. It's odd, really, that in the post-bicentennial,
pre-Reaganite buzz of jingoism lingering in the late 70's that one of
the Big 3 Networks didn't pick up the option on Jakes' potboiler and
make it into a much better, glitzier miniseries. Instead, this
8th-grade pageant of B-listers, has-beens and never-weres wound up in
syndication, a chilling forbearer of the crud that would appear on the
early Fox and WB networks ten or twenty years later.
"The Bastard" is the story of Phillip Kent, born Phillipe Charbonneau, the illegitimate (i.e. bastard) son of an English nobleman and Patricia Neal. Little Phillipe's transformation from French peasant to American patriot would test a talented actor, but "The Bastard" stars Andrew Stevens -- Stella's boy, and the future Mr. Kate Jackson. Stevens doesn't bring much to his role except for a pleasant smile and a Keith Partridge haircut, but at least his blandness is offset by the cheesy sideshow that is the rest of the cast. The buck-toothed kid from those horrible "Witch Mountain" movies plays the Marquis de Lafayette, and that's just the start of it. Beginning with the aforementioned Marquis, Phillip keeps encountering the most famous people of his age in random places -- "hi, Mr. Franklin, what are you doing here in Philadelphia?" -- and the absurdity is exacerbated by the fact that these legendary figures are essayed by "Hollywood Squares" refugees in silly costumes (wait 'til you see Tom Bosley in the Bozo wig he puts on to play Franklin). William Shatner as Paul Revere. Need I say more? The other improbability is that every nubile young woman in the film goes wild for young Phillip when they get within sniffing distance of his hairspray and are willing to risk life, limb and social status just for a quick roll in the hay with this soap opera cast-off. ("I want you, Phillip. If only for tonight.") Not historically accurate, not dramatically compelling, hilarious for all the wrong reasons, "The Bastard" makes for some good, trashy fun you shouldn't miss.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Bastard is three stories in one: the England enlightenment, the
passage to America and America verging on Revolution. The tale opens in
France under the ancien regime where Philippe Charboneau, illegitimate
son of the actress Marie Charboneau (Patricia Neal) prepares to venture
to England to claim his inheritance. Philippe's mother is insistent
that Philippe get his due.
Patricia Neal plays the role of the domineering mother. A gifted actress Ms Neal skillfully performed the role of the domineering mother without overpowering less skilled cast.
There's a glimpse of pre-revolutionary France, before the viewer is swept into the class struggles of 18th century England held in a stagnant vassalage by hidebound landed elite. Where does Philippe fit in? According to Marie Charboneau, Philip belongs with the caste of his father. The problem is the father's wife and legitimate heirs do not wish the parvenue recognized. Cast out by his father's family, young Phillipe and his mother take refuge with Solomon Sholto, a worthy printer (Donald Pleasant). Donald Pleasant plays persuasively the 18th century printer Solomon Sholto, the beacon of the rising power of an informed, educated mass.
The Empire may be the captive of its traditionalist aristocracy with support from the church but the city of London is in the throes of intellectual ferment. The concepts of democracy which will reach around the world are taking form. Philippe comes into contact with America's elder statesman Ben Franklin (Tom Bosley) who is pleading the case of the colonies to crown and Parliament. Tom Bosley best known for his longstanding role as the ineffectual father in the banal sit-com Happy Days rose to the challenge of sagaciousness, especially when re-enacting Dr Franklin's air baths.
America has long pretended to be the offspring of the England brewing with the intellectual awakening of the Enlightenment, but how long has its elite, particularly in the 20th century yearned with the same tenacity as Marie Charboneau to join the betittled England.
But the shot heard round the world hasn't been fired yet. Hounded by his father's family, Philippe and his mother flee aboard an America-bound ship captained by the tight mouthed New Englander Captain Caleb (Harry Morgan).
The voyage to the New World in flimsy wooden boats across turgid seas is a long arduous one. Though without experience at sea, Philippe takes up duties as a cabin boy to defray the costs of passage. When Marie Charboneau takes ill, she makes Philippe promise never to give up claim on his inheritance. Wisely after his mother's death Philippe takes Captain 's advice to change his name to one more American sounding and start afresh.
Best known as a leading man in such sit-coms as Pete and Gladys and Mash, Harry Morgan as Captain Caleb projects the air of authority and command of an 18th century ship master together with that signature American pragmatism: look for the most expeditious way out.
Philip Kent the American is born and faces an uncertain future in his adopted country. As the ship lands at Boston young Mr Kent learns that if London is in a state of intellectual ferment, the colonies are one step ahead seething with rebellion. The third stage of the bastard is set as Philip Kent falls under the spell of the radical Sam Adams (William Daniels). William Daniels returns to his signature role, this time as radical Samuel Adams. Surely Mr Daniels has become a national treasure as the cinematic embodiment of America's leading family.
Jakes presents an interesting hypothesis about the origins of modern America: the bastard offspring of Britain and France. Certainly America was the offshoot of British and French colonial wars, but not a byproduct of specific interbreeding. French immigration was not significant enough to have created a blended inheritance, neither British nor French but distinctively American instead. Jakes also offers the interesting observation that to be American one must turn one's back on the past however good or bad and look to the future. America as a state of mind was virtually a tenet of faith in this country until recent years.
One problem with Part III of the Bastard is that it tracks the ground already covered in Esther Forbes classic Johnny Tremain. Both are set in Boston; Both Johnny Tremain and Philip Kent are of French extraction; both gain access to the Revolutionary elite in almost the same accidental manner. Part III fails the test of originality.
Each colony except Conneticut deposed the British by violence or threat of violence. It would have been nice if the story of the Revolution in a province other than Massachusetts had been told just for the purpose of distinguishing the tale from the earlier work Johnny Tremaine. But the Revolution enjoys such little attention from the silver and the small screen that John Jakes work even with this major flaw is a good primer on the rift that erupted into armed revolt.
The Rebels, the sequel, carries Philip Kent into the American Revolution and an eventual reconcilliation of a type with his dysfunctional English father who expresses pride in his son's accomplishments (in the anti-British rebel cause) despite all the obstacles the family puts in Kent's way. Jakes may have poetically described the love-hate relationship which would grow between Britain and her rambunctious former colonies and blossom into the 20th century dysfunctionality we live with today.
Author John Jakes may be better known for North and South. A lifelong admirer of Charles Dickens, Jakes imparted a Dickenesque sweep into The Bastard's view of London the blossoming capitol of both a world Empire and intellectual frement on the Eve of the American Revolution. Jakes hails Charles Dickens as "the greatest novelist in the English language." Among the cataologue of great historical fiction writers Jakes would include Kenneth Roberts. Curiously Esther Forbes did not make Jakes' list.
I think the other reviewers are a little hard on the first part of what
later turned out to be a three part mini-series. Part II, "The Rebels"
was not as good as the first, and the third part "The Seekers" is kind
of a throw away movie.
Still, I think "The Bastard" was pretty good and Stevens in the lead role was well cast in my opinion. Of course it doesn't have the technical sophistication that we have come to expect from more recent series like 'John Adams' but that is part of its charm.
This has a '70's' look to it all the way, and the photo locations are easily identified as California in some scene rather than England.
Heck, half the reason I like this series is because of the cheesy dialogue and there are some really good scenes such as Phillipe's encounter with Lord North on the stairway at Kentland.
Forget the bad reviews, just sit down and enjoy. No, it's not serious history but we have so little to choose on the American Revolution and the Jakes original story is quite good.
This should be available on DVD by now but alas it is not. This review is from the double VHS set.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although this is a hokey mini-series, there is no denying the enormous power of this television show. It's like what Gangs of New York would be like if Scorsese was still talented and it starred Tom (Happy Days) Bosley and William Shatner instead of Daniel Day-Lewis. Kim Cattral is amazing in this film, so incredible that it makes all her later work seem utterly redundant. It's a historical epic, which begins in France then moves to London and Bristol, before heading to America. It's the first in a trilogy of 4-hour TV films that use one man's life story to explain, as Raymond Burr suggests in his voice-over, the origin of all Americans.
Made for tv production typical for the time, The Bastard cast then hot-babe Andrew Stevens in the title role. With a cast of too many name Hollywood actors, this 18th century costume drama is based on The Kent Chronicles. Although heaving bodices supplied by buxom beauty, Olivia Hussey and chubby-face Kim Cattral of Sex and the City fame provide brief distraction, the story is too shallow and all too predictable. Andrew Stevens, in the lead role gives his standard wooden performance begging one to wonder why a sequel was ever produced.
|External reviews||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|