Okay, now I have to also admit to coming late to The Borgias, which was recommended by a colleague, Peter Kitson. Thanks, Peter.
I managed to consume the entire first season in about two or three nights and, while I won’t claim it was the best thing I have ever seen, it made for a fun-filled couple of nights, with more violence and nastiness than you could shake an incense burner at.
For those of you who don’t know their history, Papa Borgia was a Pope with lots of illegitimate children and mistresses, who played power politics and whose machinations involved also sorts of murderous plots.
Those of you who have heard or read my discussion of Edward G Robinson (a horror star during the 1940s) will already know that Little Caesar was associated with Borgia by critics in the 1930s, and the series clearly sought to cash-in on the success of The Soparnos. If this wasn’t marketed with the tagline, ‘the original crime family’, the world has surely gone mad. My guess would be that the show was specifically designed with that tagline in mind.
Which is not to say that it is merely a rip-off. It is the creation of Neil Jordan, who knows a thing or two about both horror and Catholicism; and it is a wonderfully crafted tale of bloody intrigue.
But the real treat (and people who know me won’t be expecting this one) is Jeremy Irons. Not because he is Jeremy Irons – yes, its another posh British actor playing a nasty, vicious aristocratic type – but rather because Irons is playing one of the greatest horror actors of all time, Boris Karloff.
Irons’ portrayal of Borgia is, from the very first moment, a magnificent homage or impersonation of a whole slew of Karloff heavies. He has the bushy, hooded eyebrows working overtime and that funny mouth thing going ten to the dozen.
The whole thing feels like a more explicit version (both in terms of violence and nudity) of something like Tower of London, except that Karloff (Irons) has now displaced Basil Rathbone’s King Richard and taken center stage. Actually, to be honest, the performance is less Karloff in Tower of London and more his grim presences in films such as Graft, The Old Dark House, The Walking Dead and particularly British Intelligence (Secret Enemy in the UK).
So, while its not perfect, its worth seeing, if only for the return of the late, great, Boris Karloff. How I have missed him!