What fresh madness is this, Sir?

A Sharpe Entrance
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I told you I don’t mind being late on things, but this is ridiculous. Sharpe, based on the swashbuckling novels by Bernard Cornwell that I will never read, has been on television since 1993. Time to watch one of them, then. This latest, something like the 14th, Sharpe’s Challenge, was on a few weekends ago, and a clean slate on the schedules tonight allowed us to sit down and luxuriate in what is surely the perfect addition to the Hornblower-loving household’s armoury. It’s Hornblower on land. Sean Bean made his name in the role of Richard Sharpe, once a grunt, now a retired Colonel, or so it seems, and I understand that Cornwell has actually adjusted physical descriptions of the character in later books so that he’s more like Bean. What an honour. This adventure, post-Waterloo, which we’re about an hour off finishing, still tired out by the constant chaperoning of Paddy and Pepper, is set in India – and filmed there, I’d wager (look, I’ve gone all 19th century!) – and assuming it’s archetypal Sharpe, it’s fine by me. Lots of caricatured British officers willing their own comeuppance upon themselves by being fat, posh, obstinate and drunk, every woman melting at Sharpe’s very presence, swordplay galore (good to see Toby Stephens in a pantomime villain role again, fencing against our man in the midday sun) and endless gunpowder being poured into musket barrels. No need to go into plot. Needless to say, Sharpe will sort it out, with his Irish pal Harper. Quite brutal – with men having nails driven into their skulls and then having their heads chopped off – and sexier than I expected (that general’s daughter, played by Lucy Brown, captured by the dastardly renegade Indian Maharaja, seems to be there purely to have her dress fall off) – but solid ITV1 stuff built around an iconic performance. I enjoy Sean Bean in Hollywood films, assuming he’s allowed to play Yorkshire. I once saw him on Parkinson and he appeared to have no personality whatsoever, unable to form sentences. He comes alive for the camera. The perfect actor.

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12 thoughts on “What fresh madness is this, Sir?

  1. The books are well worth reading too – excellent rip roaring adventures with historical detail to set the scene and an unflinching eye from some of the horrors of war. The author, Bernard Cornwall, is honest enough to admit where he has stretched the facts of the real battles to get Sharpe into the action, and always has a ‘what really happened’ post script chapter.Some of the early TV adaptations suffer a little from being done on a limited budget and make liberal use of clouds of gun smoke to disguise the same set of extras marching past the camera several times. Good fun though.

  2. The books are well worth reading too – excellent rip roaring adventures with historical detail to set the scene and an unflinching eye from some of the horrors of war. The author, Bernard Cornwall, is honest enough to admit where he has stretched the facts of the real battles to get Sharpe into the action, and always has a ‘what really happened’ post script chapter.Some of the early TV adaptations suffer a little from being done on a limited budget and make liberal use of clouds of gun smoke to disguise the same set of extras marching past the camera several times. Good fun though.

  3. I’ve never understood why people would want to see an interview with an actor. Parky asking them “So you were brought up in a house then?”I don’t care. They should get off my Television and not come back until pretending to be someone else. That’s the point of them isn’t it?

  4. I’ve never understood why people would want to see an interview with an actor. Parky asking them “So you were brought up in a house then?”I don’t care. They should get off my Television and not come back until pretending to be someone else. That’s the point of them isn’t it?

  5. I watched a bit of that Sharpe, first I’ve ever seen too. Didn’t like the torture so I turned it off. It’s a shame that he’s not a great speaker though, I imagined he’d be like Justin Sullivan, due to the honourable but practical roles he tends to choose (except in American films where he seems to be a soon to be defeated baddie).

  6. I watched a bit of that Sharpe, first I’ve ever seen too. Didn’t like the torture so I turned it off. It’s a shame that he’s not a great speaker though, I imagined he’d be like Justin Sullivan, due to the honourable but practical roles he tends to choose (except in American films where he seems to be a soon to be defeated baddie).

  7. I’d recommend the first 2 TV installments Sharpe’s Rifles and Sharpe’s Eagles. They both follow a standard Sharpe plot of being wronged by fellow British Officer for not being posh enough / fall out with Wellington or the bloke who runs his intelligence service; go off on an adventure with the Chosen Men to right said wrong / show Wellington what’s what; flirt with Spanish women along the way; have interim skirmish with French enemy of the week that you might possibly lose but not catastrophically so; flirt with some more Spanish women; right a social injustice committed by the French on the Spanish; come to the adventure’s desitination having reinforced blokey bonds with the Chosen Men; have climactic battle with French enemy of the week using an innovative tactic you’ve thought up along the way where you a) win convincingly, b)right the wrong with the British Officer / Wellington / the spy master, c) get the girl, d) prove you and the 4 Chosen Men could have won the Napoleonic Wars in half the time given half the chance.There’s also 2 later episodes where Pete Postlethwaite plays an enemy of Sharpe’s from his days inthe ranks which are excellent & worth watching just because Pete’s in them.

  8. I’d recommend the first 2 TV installments Sharpe’s Rifles and Sharpe’s Eagles. They both follow a standard Sharpe plot of being wronged by fellow British Officer for not being posh enough / fall out with Wellington or the bloke who runs his intelligence service; go off on an adventure with the Chosen Men to right said wrong / show Wellington what’s what; flirt with Spanish women along the way; have interim skirmish with French enemy of the week that you might possibly lose but not catastrophically so; flirt with some more Spanish women; right a social injustice committed by the French on the Spanish; come to the adventure’s desitination having reinforced blokey bonds with the Chosen Men; have climactic battle with French enemy of the week using an innovative tactic you’ve thought up along the way where you a) win convincingly, b)right the wrong with the British Officer / Wellington / the spy master, c) get the girl, d) prove you and the 4 Chosen Men could have won the Napoleonic Wars in half the time given half the chance.There’s also 2 later episodes where Pete Postlethwaite plays an enemy of Sharpe’s from his days inthe ranks which are excellent & worth watching just because Pete’s in them.

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