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Cable Tv Review : Ian Richardson In British Thriller

July 24, 1987|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times Television Critic

No cable, no Arts & Entertainment Network. Hence, non-cable subscribers are underprivileged TV viewers, excluded from some of the medium's classiest programming, from prized American oldies in black and white to imports from England that you haven't seen on PBS.

Next to PBS, in fact, A&E is an Anglophile's best bet, a treasured sources of invigorating, alternative programming.

Take "Blunt," for example, the 1986 BBC movie depicting one of Britain's most famous spy cases, which A&E is airing today at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Others will have to judge its accuracy. As a story, though, it's poetic and totally engrossing, a titillating fusion of espionage and topicality splendidly performed by another of those standout British casts and masterfully written by Robin Shapman and directed by John Glenister.

Blunt is Anthony Blunt, whose exposure in 1979 as the last man in Britain's infamous Cambridge spy ring shocked a public that knew him only as an honored art authority and former Surveyor of Pictures for the Royal Family. Although Blunt's fellow spies, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, defected to the Soviet Union in 1951, he continued to lead a remarkable double life.

Ian Richardson is superb as Blunt. This is perhaps his best work, enhancing his reputation as a character actor of extraordinary range, whether heel or hero. His tantalizingly nuanced performance as that silken snob of a traitor hints at inner mysteries and untold betrayals.

Anthony Hopkins is interesting as Blunt's sometime lover, the outrageous and slovenly Burgess. And Michael Williams and Rosie Kerslake are compelling as Goronwy and Margie Rees, a couple who figure prominently in the story. Lavish. Suspenseful. Unsettling. Don't miss it.

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