1 9 7 5 (USA)
2 x 110 minute episodes
An adaptation of the Leon Uris novel about Jewish American author Abe Cady (Ben Gazzara) who accuses anti-Communist Polish doctor Adam Kelno (Anthony Hopkins) of assisting medical crimes at a Nazi death camp. The doctor sues for libel.
The story unfolds in three parts. First, there is the story of Kelno after his release from the concentration camp; his marriage to a nurse; his adoption of British nationality; his work among nomadic Arabs in Kuwait (Malaya in the novel but Kuwait is closer and the budget had its limits); his knighthood, his return to England and distinguished work amongst the poor. That takes 80 minutes.
Then we have the story of Cady, ex flying ace, a Jew who denies his heritage and settles in Hollywood to make a fortune writing commercial rubbish, meanwhile drinking and debauching his life away. He is inspired and changed by a visit to Israel to see his dying father and becomes a man with a mission. That’s another 90 minutes.
The next few hours – apart from a few preliminaries and excursions – are set in the courtroom where the American defends himself against the libel charge by trying to bring proof of his allegations.
Written by Uris from his own experience – he had been taken to court in Britain by one Dr Wladislaw Dering for a derogatory reference in his book Exodus – it was windily directed and scripted and mindfully ignored the complexities of history.
Its importance mostly lies in its format. Transmitted in two chunks of 110 minutes, it was one of the foundations of the phenomenon which came to be known (erroneously) as the “mini-series”. Despite its stature as a television event, though, QB VII amounts to no more than a very cursory rendering of a novel which itself was no classic.
Ben Gazzara had played too many bland television heroes to be wholly convincing as the reformed womaniser, especially when at the end he makes a very unlikely speech about the future of man; and Anthony Hopkins, god actor as he is, has an impossible task with Dr Kelno when so much of the character’s life and motives are cast, and left, in doubt – and to make matters worse, his accent varies alarmingly throughout.
Jack Hawkins (Justice Gilroy), in his last performance, was suffering from throat cancer during the filming and his voice was dubbed by Charles Gray.
The ‘QB’ in the title stands for ‘Queen’s Bench’ and VII (seven) is the number of the courtroom at the Old Bailey in which the climactic trial occurs.
Dr Stanislaus Lotaki