I have not only seen this movie at least a dozen times, I have been actively looking for a copy of it to purchase ever since I first saw it on Georgia Public Television. Fortunately a local college had a copy of the tape in its archives, because otherwise it has seemed to drop off the face of the planet. This is particularly surprising because of the large public interest in Jeremy Brett after his sterling Sherlock Holmes series.
As Jack Absolute, Jeremy Brett is brilliant and hilarious in an understated and conspiratorial manner, and he is also the perfect romantic lead, dashing and absolutely gorgeous in his ponytail, epaulets & riding boots. He is surrounded by a cast of caricatures whose names not only help the viewer understand their personalities right from the start, they are such perfect distillations of those personality-types that you might find yourself referring to them as illustrations in real life: Lydia Languish, the idle beauty who needs more excitement in her life; Sir Anthony Absolute, the father who unequivocally knows best about everything; Lucy Locket, the pretty little servant with a sweet face and a helping hand for any and every one who will pad her pocket with a little change; and, of course, Mrs. Malaprop, now famous for the almost-but-not-quite-right words she uses meaning to make herself appear more cultured than she really is. John Alderton (whose range includes great comedy as a repertory player in The Wodehouse Playhouse as well as great Shakespeare as Malcolm In Macbeth)deserves special notice as he is excruciatingly funny as Bob Acres, the foppish gentleman farmer.
The costumes also underscore the personalities of the characters who wear them, and the sets are lovely and lavish (although this is a "drawing room comedy", and so the entire action unfolds in just a handful of locations.) The dialog is quick and memorable, with rapier lines delivered one after another with a wink to the camera, a feigned faint or a barely managed straight face in light of the surrounding farce.
This production of The Rivals is undoubtedly what Edward Sheridan had in mind when he first pulled back the curtain on this highly entertaining scene.
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