THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE is a movie based on the play titled THE
MADNESS OF GEORGE III. It tells a little known story of King George
III of England during the time (1789) right after he had "lost the
Colonies." (I have been told it was retitled for the US because
American audiences during the test marketing thought it was a sequel
and wondered what happened in parts I and II, but I think that is just
probably just another urban legend.)
The king (Nigel Hawthorne) is a strong-headed man who seems to
those around him to be acting stranger and stranger. His estranged
first son (Rupert Everett) seizes upon this and decides to try to get
his old man declared insane in which case he would get to be Prince
Regent. This would effectively make him king, and, most important of
all, he would then get all of the king's vast income and wealth.
The loyal queen (Helen Mirren) stands by her man. Meanwhile
Parliament splits on who to back with both sides caring only about
politics and not a wit about the king or the prince. The king's side
turns to a doctor played by Ian Holm. Finally, Amanda Plummer plays a
loyal lady-in-waiting to the Queen who is willing to do absolutely
anything to help her queen. Many twists and turns from there with an
ending you may have some trouble predicting if you are not up on your
British history of that era.
The historical story is fascinating and is the only reason to see
the movie. The period costumes are well done, and the sets are
carefully chosen. The acting is earnest, and Hawthorne does try
awfully hard to present a believable madman.
On the bad side, the movie is extremely tedious and pedantic. For
example, I lost count of how many times the scriptwriter had us hear
about the color of the king's "water" and "stool." Moreover, we had to
have numerous didactic lectures from doctors about the exact color of
the king's "water" and much speculation on what the color meant. The
best doctors in the land were also treated as nothing but quacks.
Perhaps they were, but I wonder about the historical accuracy of this
caricature. Finally, although the actors tried to give their best
performances, I found that I did not care about any of the characters
as written, and this comes from a guy who has taken seven vacations to
Britain and who knows a lot of English history.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes