The BBC's lavish, glowingly designed adapation of Mervyn Peake's eccentrically brilliant novels Titus Groan and Gormenghast is a triumph of casting. Ian Richardson's Lear-like depiction of the mad earl of a remote, vast, ritual-obsessed building is matched by the brutal pragmatism of Celia Imrie as his wife, the synchronised madness of Zoe Wanamaker and Lynsey Baxter as his twin sisters and the duplicitous charm of Jonathan Rhys-Meyer as Steerpike, the kitchen-boy determined to take over no matter how many deaths it costs. John Sessions is surprisingly touching as Prunesquallor, the family doctor who realises almost too late what Steerpike intends.
It is always tricky to film a book dear to the hearts of its admirers: Wilson and his design team achieve a look rather more pre-Raphaelite than Peake's own illustrations, shabby velvets, garish sunlight and dank stone passages. The score by Richard Rodney Bennett is full of attractive surprises--fanfares and waltzes and apotheoses--and John Tavener's choral additions are plausibly parts of the immemorial ritual of Gormenghast.
On the DVD: The double DVD comes with scene selection, an informative half-hour documentary on the making of the serial and a slide gallery of costume designs, characters and their dooms.
Picture in Picture
Home to the ancient family of Lord Groan (Ian Richardson), the majestic Castle of Gormenghast has gone unchanged for thousands of years. However, this long-running dynasty is threatened by the charming yet villainous kitchen boy, Steerpike (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). With the birth of a new Groan heir, Steerpike begins his ruthless ascent to power. This dark fantasy series from the BBC also features Stephen Fry, Christopher Lee, Fiona Shaw, and many more.
From the Back Cover
The glorious castle of Gormenghast is home to the ancient family of Groan, where nothing has changed for thousands of years. The dynasty is threatened by the charming and evil kitchen-boy Steerpike. With the birth of a new heir, Titus Groan, Steerpike begins his ruthless ascent to power.
As he charms, outwits and terrorises the castle's inhabitants, only Titus, the young and timid Earl of Groan, stands in Steerpike's way. Who will triumph? And can Gormenghast survive?