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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

STRUMPET CITY (1980)

Seven-part mini-series about the Dublin lock-out strikes of 1913, holds up well in spite of the obvious budget scrimping. Playwright Hugh Leonard (of DA fame) easily handles the churning interconnected plot-strands of James Plunkett’s epic historical novel which is an eye-opener for people who think the only ‘troubles’ in Ireland involved conflict with the British military. The story concentrates on the faults, stubborn intolerance and mutually destructive blindness of three layers of Dublin society as the strike actions violently play out: the laboring poor, the wealthy elite & conflicted Catholic priests. Don’t be put off by the reductive characterization in the initial episodes, shades of complexity come into play over the course of the series, especially so in the case of the three local priests (strikingly handled by Frank Grimes, Pat Laffan & Cyril Cusack). The performances & accents are played in high theatrical relief (sub-titles would have been welcome at times!), but this presentational style of acting is in keeping with Plunkett ’s use of melodramatic incident as sociological plunder. Look fast for a quick cameo from Peter Ustinov and don’t miss a minute of Peter O’Toole ‘s apocalyptic turn as labor organizer Jim Larkin.

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