HOUSE OF SADDAM 1

 

 

THE PLOT THUS FAR

Revealing the private world of Saddam Hussein and his inner circle, this gripping 4-part, 4-hour miniseries charts the rise and fall of one of the most significant political figures in recent history. Over the course of 27 years, Saddam (Igal Naor) rose from peasant origins to the highest office in Iraq, consolidating his power by executing those who posed real or imagined threats, and surrounding himself with family members, ultimately his notorious sons Uday and Qusay. Along the way, Saddam pushed aside his wife Sajida (Oscar® nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo) for a young mistress, orchestrated the death of Sajidas brother Adnan (his closest confidante), and forced two cousins of high rank who had married his daughters to divorce their wives before meeting a grisly end. In the end, House of Saddam reveals its title character as a man of undeniable vision ultimately brought down by his own flaws especially an unquenchable thirst for power, attained at all costs, including the sacrifice of those who were closest to him.

WHAT WE THOUGHT

It is 1979 and Saddam – incorrigible old multi-tasker that he is – has decided to have two parties in one. As his daughter celebrates her seventh birthday, Saddam takes the Ba’ath leader aside and makes him an offer he can’t refuse: “Retire now and nominate me as your successor.” Colleagues who dissent from this unexpected turn of events are introduced to the terminally mind-changing properties of a .45 bullet, in several cases delivered by ministers eager to show their support for the new president.

Fans of The Sopranos will have no difficulty recognising the model for the opening of Alex Holmes and Stephen Butchard’s four-part mini-series, produced by the BBC in conjunction with HBO. Just like Tony, Saddam is having a hard time juggling the day-job (the brutal consolidation of absolute power) with the nagging demands of family life. Uday whines about the heat when he takes him on a hunting trip, his terrifying mother kvetches about his responsibilities to his relatives and on top of all that he’s got the Khomeini mob threatening to muscle in on his territory to the south. No wonder that, like Tony, he likes to get away to a nightclub with his cronies every now and then and relax with a come-hither blonde. There the similarities end. The dialogue in The Sopranos seemed to be imitating life. The dialogue in House of Saddam frequently seems to be imitating Dallas.

It may not matter a lot to most viewers. House of Saddam certainly isn’t dull and though Igal Naor’s performance struggles a little with the stock swarthy-villain effect that follows from the decision to have everyone speak a heavily accented English, he does effectively capture the penumbra of terror that must have surrounded Saddam. A good moment occured last night when he gently said, “I forgive you” to one of his cronies, and a spasm of dread crossed the man’s face. He hadn’t a clue what needed forgiveness but understood with absolute certainty that, whatever Saddam was saying, it hadn’t yet been wiped from the slate. The drama also conveys the extent of Saddam’s ruthlessness, which led him to execute his closest friend and his own brother-in-law

 
The DVD is pretty decent for a BBC mini-series that blasted through HBO recently. The A/V Quality is sharp, but I’m left wondering how it would’ve look in 1080 HD. The only special feature is a featurette that takes a look at Saddam’s rise to power. But, wasn’t that the power of the mini-series? Oh well, it’s still worth a rental.
 
RELEASE DATE: 04/14/09

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