Friday, 22 February 2013

The Devil At Longleat

‘Blue Blood’ is a bit like Pinter's ‘The Servant’ in its tale of a man overcoming his master, but with added sex, drugs and satanic ritual. Yes, it does sound good, doesn’t it?
Derek Jacobi plays Lord Gregory, an enormously rich nobleman living in a huge stately home in the country. The selfish and spoiled Lord does very little during the day apart from painting erotic murals but, in the evenings, he throws lavish parties and sleeps with as many women as he can. In true feudal style, he keeps a retinue of ladies onsite to provide him with sons although, rather dopily, as he is married, very few of the kids can count as legitimate heirs. He obviously  just likes having his peerage polished.
Behind every decadent Lord there is a psychotic, jealous servant with a big moustache, and here that role is played by force of nature Oliver Reed as head servant, Tom. Tom knows he is a better, stronger, more powerful and more deserving man than his master, and has decided to take the house, the possessions, the wife, the ‘wifelets’ and the life and freedom that Gregory takes for granted away from him, and Tom has no qualms whatsoever in achieving his goal.
I like Oliver Reed a lot, but he’s not at his best in this film. He has the dark, glowering physical presence required, of course, and he delivers some key speeches brilliantly, but he saddles himself with an exaggeratedly working class accent which makes his character sound ridiculous and comedic rather than manipulative and menacing and fatally damages what he’s trying to achieve. Director Andrew Sinclair should have told him but then he may very well have been scared to broach the subject lest Ollie go mental and start flashing his tattooed cock.   
An uneven, sometimes queasily psychedelic film, the production benefits enormously by being filmed at Longleat House, the ancestral seat of the Marquis of Bath, a place of opulence and isolation, a real place with the feel of a fantasy. The Marquis’ son and heir, Alexander Thynn, wrote the book the film is based on, and also serves as the model for the promiscuous but slightly pathetic Lord Gregory. Thynn inherited the title (and the house and safari park) in 1992, becoming known as ‘The Loins Of Longleat’ in the tabloids for his interesting love life and unconventional lifestyle - although, as far as I know, this did not include employing a mad, bullying butler. Oh well, his loss.

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