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Clarissa (1991)

Vice was his weapon, virtue hers. But love would destroy them both.

Directed by:

Robert Bierman

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 194 minutes

UK Certificate: 15


Sean Bean stars as Robert Lovelace, a handsome but ruthless seducer of women, who has left a trail of destruction in his wake. When he meets beautiful but chaste Clarissa Harlowe (Saskia Wickham), he becomes driven by an ambition to seduce her. Clarissa, a wealthy heiress, is under pressure from her family to marry a rather unpleasant suitor. That she was named heir has upset her brother and sister, who do everything they can to make her life difficult.

When Lovelace makes his presence felt, Clarissa's family do not approve of him, but the more they interfere the more desperate she becomes to escape the marriage they have in store for her. In desperation, she plans to run away, and the only help she can turn to is Lovelace. He manipulates all the arrangements, ultimately taking her to London and finding her what appear to be perfect lodgings. But it is all an evil scheme, and Lovelace is convinced that everything is going according to plan – until his own feelings start to get in the way.

This is the film version of the acclaimed BBC drama of the same name that was shown in several episodes. At 194 minutes, it is long but it certainly never feels like time wasted. Instead, one is gripped by the plot almost from the first few scenes and it doesn't let go until the film is over. Sean Bean is outstanding as the scheming rake Lovelace, charming and terrifying by turns. Saskia Wickham does a fine job portraying the virginal Clarissa. If anything, she's so virtuous as to be irritating, but that works perfectly in making Lovelace's frustration understandable and allowing him some sympathy – somehow this man who does very unpleasant things is almost likeable. Lovelace and Clarissa are surrounded by a supporting cast of delicious characters, some honourable and some wicked, all played with style and enthusiasm. This film, currently only available in the UK on DVD really should be made available to a wider audience.

Also features appearances by Sean Pertwee and Patsy Palmer.

"Clarissa" is based on the novel of the same name by Samuel Richardson.

It's Got: Sean Bean as the fabulously slimy Lovelace.

It Needs: To be made available to American audiences – they’d love it.

DVD Extras This lengthy drama comes with a second DVD so that extras could be included. Extras: Outtakes, Screen tests, Rushes of key scenes, Interactive editing sequence. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10


Dangerous Liaisons, The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights.


This is an outstanding period piece full of wonderful characters. Although this film version runs to longer than three hours, it never drags or loses its grip. Highly recommended.

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