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James Cellan Jones
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When Sir John Falstaff decides that he wants to have a little fun he writes two letters to a pair of Window wives: Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. When they put their heads together and compare missives, they plan a practical joke or two to teach the knight a lesson. But Mistress Ford's husband is a very jealous man and is pumping Falstaff for information of the affair. Meanwhile the Pages' daughter Anne is beseiged by suitors. Written by
Director David Hugh Jones originally wanted to shoot the entire film on location in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's home town, but when this proved impossible, he had production designer Don Homfray design a house based on the real life house which Shakespeare's son-in-law, Dr. Tom Hall, lived in. See more »
David Hugh Jones directed one other play for this series, the protracted, dull betrayal of "Pericles: Prince of Tyre." One can only conclude he has no sense of pulse, for this performance too is endless. Comedies are like sharks. If they don't keep moving forward, they die.
Some actors maintain their footing anyway. The women are good across the board. Judy Davis is a surprise as Mistress Ford - she's not the first actress that comes to mind when it comes to soufflés. Prunella Scales and Elisabeth Spriggs are particularly strong.
Richard Griffiths keeps promising to break loose as Falstaff but never does. He's cut all the nonsense, but there's not enough left without it. You finally wonder if he's ambivalent about playing the part at all. Michael Bryant, murderously ice-cold as Ratchkovsky in "Fall of Eagles," is here brilliantly funny as Dr. Caius. Most of the rest of the male cast are good in their parts as well.
A special exception must be made for Ben Kingsley. As Ford, he is weak, thin-voiced and neurotic, and when Ford masquerades as Brook, it's "Katy Bar the Door." The actor descends into an orgy of squeaks, gurgles, twitches and eye-rolling that give us a solid idea of what Jerry Lewis would have looked like in Elizabethan times. Or perhaps Dennis Weaver's baroque turn in Orson Welles's "Touch of Evil" done in iambic pentameter. A stronger director would have stepped hard on Mr. Kingsley's shenanigans and guided this misguided missile to a safer landing.
A lovely set by Don Homfrey is a valentine to the lost art of TV studio design. There is ample opportunity here for the eye to roam happily over the scenery while waiting for something to happen with the actors.
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