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Sheer trouble and strife

Sheer trouble and strife.(Television program review)

The Daily Mail (London, England); 4/25/2006

Byline: PETER PATERSON

Sharpe's Challenge (ITV1)

* LAST night's concluding half of Sharpe's Challenge was noisy enough to earn an Asbo for viewers who failed to turn the sound on the TV set to its lowest register.

Director Tom Clegg was staging a memorable battle scene and the 'Forlorn Hope' - the name the army in those days gave to the first troops into the attack ahead of the main force - charged into a breach in the walls of an Indian fortress and were duly cut down.

At the head of the mainly Indian no-hopers facing a hail of rifle fire supplemented by rockets and, to employ a technical term, great balls of fire, was a cherubic, red-coated ensign who looked about 12 years old: I did not see him fall, but suffice to say, he wasn't around in the aftermath of the victorious engagement.

The director also gave us sword fights quite up to Errol Flynn standards, pitting Sean Bean's Colonel Sharpe, masquerading as a deserter, against the fiendish villain of the piece, Toby Stephens's sneering, renegade Englishman, William Dodd.

Sharpe, of course, could have beaten even as fine a swordsman as Dodd, but was constrained by the need to preserve his cover.

Only later, with the battle won and the traitor to the British cause trying to flee with the jewels of Indian prince Khande Rao, did Sharpe exact bloody revenge, pinning Dodd to the throne he'd so coveted and exchanging a few triumphalist words before plunging the weapon into his heart.

'No messing about' was a motto that would have fitted either man, for Dodd had just speared his mistress, Madhuvanthi (Padma Lakshmi), like a delectable kebab.

All this crash, bang, wallop was not for viewers of a nervous disposition, but the rest of us will be hoping that ITV1 will not allow another eight years to pass before the next Sharpe adventure arrives on screen.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Solo Syndication Limited
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