Lost Empires (DVD Review)27 Sep, 2011 By: John Latchem
Stars Colin Firth, John Castle, Laurence Olivier.
Here’s a treat for fans of Colin Firth and musical theater. Lost Empires is a 1986 British TV adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s novel of the same title. And it feels like a novel, what with Firth’s constant narration.
Fresh-faced Firth, 26 here playing a few years younger, is a far cry from his Oscar-winning turn as the king of England, or even as the pompous Darcy of Pride and Prejudice. Firth stars as Richard Herncastle, a young Brit who joins the traveling road show put on by his Uncle Nick (John Castle) because he wants to see the world.
Since this plays out during the 1910s, Richard will soon enough find himself recruited to fight in World War I, and the miniseries begins with a harrowing battle sequence that is pretty good for its time. Richard reflects on his situation and the loves he’s lost, and when he is injured in the fighting the story flashes back to relate how he got here.
The title alludes to the ever-present Empire theaters of Britain at the turn of the century, and their disappearance as a parallel development with Britain’s decline as a world power.
Lost Empires also features one of the final screen performances of Laurence Olivier before his death in 1989. He plays an aging comedian whose act is starting to stink up the joint.