The focus of King Charles II (Rufus Sewell) is his court, his squabbling family and his glamorous mistresses - from the high-born and promiscuous Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine (Helen McCrory), through folk heroine and sex symbol of the day Nell Gwynne (Emma Pierson), to the French spy Louise de Kéroualle (Mélanie Thierry). It is an original take on a historical period written by award-winning Screenwriter Adrian Hodges, whose credits include David Copperfield (1999) and The Lost World (2001), which penetrates to the heart of the charismatic monarch who was deeply traumatized by the execution of his father.
The version shown in UK was titled "Charles II: The Power & The Passion" and its original running time is 235 minutes. It was broadcast on TV by BBC in four parts, as it is also on the UK DVD distributed by BBC. The longer UK version has also been released in many European countries (Finland, Netherlands and more) and Australia. The version shown in USA on A&E was titled "The Last King" and has a running time on 188 minutes, cutting it down by almost 40 minutes. The DVD released by A&E in USA is the shorter version. See more »
Classy production which assumes previous knowledge
You cannot help but be impressed by the production values of this potentially great BBC series. However, the scenes jump quickly, characters come and go quickly and overall the story is hard to follow unless you read up on the history of the reign of Charles II. Either the editing has been so severe that the continuity has been damaged or the producers have assumed that viewers are fully aware of the history. Either way, a narrative would have helped to fill in the considerable gaps.
That said, the sets are impressive and the acting is first-class. With better continuity, this could have been an impressive tele-movie. In the form that it was presented on TV, it just misses the mark unless you already know your history.
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