|Index||6 reviews in total|
As the follow-on from Secret Army, Kessler lacks everything Secret Army had, tension, drama, good storylines and plotting and well-drawn characters. Alan Dobie's role as Richard Bauer is poorly developed and you never manage to find out why exactly he is pursuing Kessler or why. Nitza Saul's role, as the young Israeli chasing Kessler and helping Bauer, lacks any definition at all. Alison Glennie, as Kessler's daughter Ingrid, is little more than a cardboard cutout pretend Nazi. Not one of Gerald Glaister's better efforts
The first episode of the "Kessler" mini series is a re-worked version
of the (unbroadcast) final episode of "Secret Army" (1977-79), "What
Did You Do In the War Daddy?", which the BBC management had refused to
broadcast in 1979.
As such, the first episode features the surviving cast of "Secret Army" - Albert, Monique and Natalie. This is great, but they only appear in the first episode (which sets up this series).
Overall, "Kessler" was disappointing. It didn't have the strong dramatic tensions which had made "Secret Army" such a success. Removed from his Gestapo post, and on the run, Kessler was no longer the sinister menace that had given the character such strength in "Secret Army".
And it was, of course, impossible to present the character sympathetically. This was a serious drawback to the series. The main character must have the audience's sympathy if we are to care what happens to him.
"Secret Army" had very successfully characterised its two Luftwaffe officers - Major Brandt and Major Rienhardt - sympathetically, by their contrast to the evil Kessler. But it was impossible for the writers to do anything with Kessler himself other than demonise the character. This seriously undermined the "Kessler" series, as there was never any chance for the audience to like the lead character.
The presence of the well-loved Resistance heroes of "Secret Army" might yet have saved the day. But that was made impossible by the decision to set the sequel mainly in South America, and to give it a completely new cast (for all but the first episode). Only Kessler himself continued from "Secret Army".
I was particularly surprised by the absence of Madelaine (Hazel McBride), Kessler's only friend in the earlier series, who might have stood at least some chance of showing up a human side to him.
I remember watching this when it was first shown on the BBC. It takes the
story on, post-war, of what becomes of Gestapo chief Kessler. Hopefully UK
Drama will show this - as they are now showing Secret Army.
All the superlatives about Secret Army apply equally to this. It may be a cliche, but drama like this makes the BBC license fee worthwhile!
The creators of this series originally intended to set it in an earlier
decade - the 1960's - but the BBC objected on the grounds that this
would cost more than a contemporary setting. The writers were told that
it was deemed too expensive to hire 'period-appropriate' clothes, cars,
props and locations; when they pointed out that the Kessler character
would be quite ancient by the dawn of the 1980's (not to mention
further removed from the events of "Secret Army"), the BBC executives
apparently replied:"who cares, nobody will notice". Thus the cast and
those behind the camera began the project with legitimate misgivings.
In "Secret Army", Kessler had a romantic relationship which made the character three dimensional and showed that even a cruel Nazi bigot had human dimensions. At the time, some people at the BBC felt that this factor might inspire too much sympathy for Kessler. Perhaps the Corporation's fear of the SS man being hero-worshipped explains why his loving companion makes no appearance in the subsequent series?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I can't recall watching this on its original broadcast more than 25
years ago . I do recall the original episodes of SECRET ARMY and
watching the repeats recently I was very impressed indeed as to what
great drama they were and much of my enjoyment was down to Ludwig
Kessler , both the way he was written and the way he was played by
Clifford Rose , one of the most criminally underrated performances ever
seen on television . I wouldn't have thought it was essential to make a
follow on series and seeing KESSLER my opinion still stands because
this is a very unnecessary show
The reason SECRET ARMY worked so well was because it was bloody good drama . It may appear slightly old fashioned to a present day audience in 2008 in that it's somewhat stagey but no one can dispute that it's very well written and acted complete with superb character interaction and moral ambiguity . KESSLERR is entirely different because it's more a thriller in the same vein as Robert Ludlum , Frederick Forsyth and possibly even Ira Levin . A Nazi war criminal goes to South America and meets fellow Nazis including Dr Josef Mengele ! All we need now is Lord Olivier turning up with a laughably phony Yiddish accent and we've got another unintentional comedy about the Nazi Fourth Reich
Thankfully this series never descends in to camp and Oscar Quitak does give a convincing performance as Mengele but there's little else about this sequel that convinces . Where as in SECRET ARMY much of the drama comes from bad Nazi Kessler arguing with good Germans like Brandt and Reinhardt here much of the drama comes from old style Nazi war criminal Kessler arguing with new Fourth Reich Nazis and it doesn't work . We also have to endure repetitive scenes of Kessler telling his daughter " Did I mention how much I loved your mother ? " which becomes overbearing and unsubtle . There's also small details such as Jewish assassin Miccal Rac explaining that her explaining her parents were murdered by the Nazis but it's obvious by the casting that Miccal is played by a Sephardic Jew ( Arab Jew ) where as the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis were Ashkanazi Jews ( European Jews ) . This all comes together to make KESSLER a totally unnecessary sequel to one of the great British dramas
Bit of a damp squib,this series. I'm inclined to agree with Clifford Rose,a series dealing with "Kessler's progress"in the immediate postwar period would have been far more interesting. I'm not sure what Alan Dobie's task is in "Kessler".He more or less reprises his disenchanted Prince Andrei role....waxing on about the futility of all and general. I looked at the South American scenery and began to feel that exile to Paraguay was punishment enough for the geriatric gestapo! The little Israeli girl was a pretty unbelievable chic- I would have been much more comfortable had Major Reinhart's twin brother joined the hunt for Kessler!
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