Dutchess and the Devil

100 minutes

Rating: 90%

By Richard Moore

Life is on the up and up for young Horatio Hornblower. He's an acting-lieutenant and manages to pull off the remarkable capture of a French ship without the loss of a single man.

This is despite having a maniac midshipman Hunter as his deputy - a man who just loves killing or injuring people.

Invited to a high-level dinner, Hornblower meets an English duchess who somewhat bedazzles the young man with her direct style and lack of subtlety.

Fresh from winning accolades for the capture, Hornblower must now sail through enemy waters and return the duchess, despatches and the prize ship back to England. A dangerous job, but the prize money will make him considerably richer.

However, on the foggy return journey the ship finds itself in the middle of the Spanish fleet and, when the mist clears, there is no escape.

Sent to a seaside prison, the internal disagreements between Hornblower and Hunter become open conflict. To add to his woes, an old friend is dangerously ill and the duchess - to whom he has given secret despatches - is very friendly with the Spanish commander.

As usual, in this terrific series, everything is just about perfect. The uniforms, the ships, the locations and the acting.

Ioan Gruffudd IS Hornblower. He has made the role his that any future attempts to film the character will have this placed as the very high benchmark.

Cherie Lunghi is marvellous as the over-the-top duchess and she swings brilliantly between raucous and friendly, or coquettish and secretive. Lunghi definitely enlivens this tale.

Hunter is played as a psychotic brute by Christopher Fulford and the characterisation works a treat. There is nothing you want to do more than smack him around the head or throw him in irons for his pig-headed aggression that endangers them all.

Ronald Pickup is the urbane and charming Spanish prison commander. He is benevolent and, until crossed by Hunter, treats the jailed British well.

The Duchess and the Devil has it all. Tension, internal bickering, suspense and full-on action. It is the most multi-layered of the plots, so far, and is a worthy addition to the collection.

The Cast


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