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Adapted from the novel Lost Empires' released in conjunction with original telecast. In 1913 young Richard Herncastle joins his Uncle Nick's magic act and is introduced to the enchanted ... See full summary »
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1986  
Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Series cast summary:
...
Gillian Bevan ...
 Cissie Mapes 7 episodes, 1986
...
...
Ted Morris ...
 Sam Hayes 7 episodes, 1986
Neil Boorman ...
 Ben Hayes 7 episodes, 1986
...
Francesca McGregor ...
 Nonie Colmar 5 episodes, 1986
Jean Marie Segal ...
 Gustav Colmar 5 episodes, 1986
John Ballanger ...
 Andre Colmar 5 episodes, 1986
Larbi Slemane ...
 Jean Colmar 5 episodes, 1986
...
 Tommy Beamish 4 episodes, 1986
...
 Nancy Ellis 4 episodes, 1986
Emil Wolk ...
Anthony Newlands ...
 Hubert Courtenay 4 episodes, 1986
Rio Fortune ...
 The ragtime three 3 episodes, 1986
Mike Mosebury ...
 The ragtime three 3 episodes, 1986
Claude Walloon ...
 The ragtime three 3 episodes, 1986
Brenda Larenty ...
 The Montanas 3 episodes, 1986
Miguel ...
 The Montanas 3 episodes, 1986
Stephen Brigden ...
 Bob Hodson 3 episodes, 1986
Jane Arden ...
 Susie Hodson 3 episodes, 1986
Bruce Morrison ...
Mick Walter ...
 Philip Tewby / ... 3 episodes, 1986
John Asquith ...
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Storyline

Adapted from the novel Lost Empires' released in conjunction with original telecast. In 1913 young Richard Herncastle joins his Uncle Nick's magic act and is introduced to the enchanted world of the British music hall. Traveling from one city to the next, assisting at conjuring acts and disappearing acts, Richard comes to know romance, politics and high adventure. The next year, in a true and terrifying vanishing act, the guns of August blast away that world forever. Written by Anonymous

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Drama

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Release Date:

24 October 1986 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Los imperios perdidos  »

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Did You Know?

Quotes

Nick Ollanton: Those plankheads, they come pouring into the variety theatres to be flattered, to boo and clap or walk out in protest, to forget the bloody mess they live in outside, everything in the paper they can do nothing about: high class women being forcibly fed just because they want their vote, strikes, lockouts, butchery in Ireland, Germany looking uglier and uglier, filth everywhere. The golden age is gone, lad. We're slithering into a bog, slithering fast, and no-one is stopping us.
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Soundtracks

The Honeysuckle and the Bee
Written by Albert H. Fitz (as Alb. H. Fitz) and William H. Penn (as Wm. H. Penn)
[First Published 1901]
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User Reviews

 
Brilliant show-business epic
7 February 2003 | by See all my reviews

The mini-series 'Lost Empires' is a brilliant adaptation of J.B. Priestley's novel, extremely faithful to the original text (even using much of Priestley's dialogue) yet opening up the material to heighten the contrast between the false world of the British music-hall (where this story's leading characters spend much of their time) and the grim reality of life in working-class England in the months leading into the Great War. The opening scene of the first episode sets up the mood perfectly, with a chorus girl in military drag as Tommy Atkins, singing the recruitment song 'We Don't Want to Lose You, But We Think You Ought to Go'.

The title 'Lost Empires' is a pun. Explicitly, it refers to the events of the First World War causing the deterioration of the British Empire and the decline of Britain as a global power. More subtly, the title refers to the leading chain of variety theatres in Britain's major cities during the early twentieth century, known as the Empires (the Bristol Empire, the Glasgow Empire, and so forth). Even more subtly, the decline of Britain's variety halls (paralleling the death of vaudeville in America) happened at roughly the same time as the decline of Britain as a world power. There are many levels of meaning in Priestley's novel, and this mini-series cleverly depicts them all.

Colin Firth is splendid as the callow young Richard Herncastle. It's 1913: Herncastle has left school and is now seeking a career. Unexpectedly, he gets an offer from his uncle Nick (played by the brilliant John Castle). Nick is a stage magician who tours the variety halls with an elaborate stage act involving all manner of trick apparatus and stage effects. Nick offers Richard a job, in charge of maintaining the act's equipment and arranging its transport from one theatre to the next. Also, Richard will appear onstage as Richard's assistant, wearing an elaborate Arabian Nights costume and riding a bicycle during a vanishing-trick. As the plot progresses into the events of 1914, Britain is plunged headlong into the war ... and Richard must contemplate a vanishing-trick of another sort.

Laurence Olivier is prominently featured in (only) the first episode of this series as Harry Burrard, a comedian who isn't funny ... and whose deathly-bad performances are harming the success of every other act on the bill. This series depicts the routine of variety-hall performers with keen accuracy. Because Nick and Richard are on the same bill as Harry, they more or less have to live with him round the clock: he travels with them aboard the same trains from one engagement to the next, and stays in the same theatrical hotels with them. Olivier gives a stand-out performance, as Burrard gradually reveals his paranoia and his increasing mental disturbances. I recall that when 'Lost Empires' first premiered on television in Britain, several critics made glib comparisons between Olivier's role here and his performance as Archie Rice, the untalented pierside comedian in 'The Entertainer'. These are two entirely different roles, and Olivier gives one of his finest performances in 'Lost Empires'. My only complaint about this excellent mini-series is that Olivier's abrupt departure in the first episode skews the dramatic emphasis towards the beginning of this series rather than its final episode.

'Lost Empires' is a triumph: well-written, well-directed, brilliantly paced and well-acted all round. No question: I rate this series 10 out of 10.


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