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Case Number 13352: Small Claims Court

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Noble House

Lionsgate // 1988 // 376 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // April 2nd, 2008

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker visited the Noble House. It was a very, very, very fine house, with two yaks in the yard. Life used to be so hard...

The Charge

Here in Hong Kong, profit is our pleasure!

The Case

Ian Struan Dunross (Pierce Brosnan, Die Another Day) is named tai-pan of Struan & Co., a.k.a. the Noble House, a huge British company based in Hong Kong. Evidently, a "tai-pan" is a CEO with Caligula-like powers. Once Dunross gets this lofty position (through bloodline—it's the only way), everyone must defer to him and address him by his title ("'Morning, Tai-pan!" "More coffee, Tai-pan?" "How 'bout them Jets, Tai-pan?").

Being tai-pan is no walk in the park, especially when your company's a bit vulnerable and your competitors are circling like sharks. Dunross tries to negotiate a deal with wealthy American entrepreneur Linc Bartlett (Ben Masters, Key Exchange), who comes to Hong Kong with his second-in-command, the lovely Casey Tcholok (Deborah Raffin, Once Is Not Enough.)

Of course, this is no simple business transaction, and in the days that follow, not only will lives change, but the fate of the whole global economy ends up hanging in the balance.

In 1988, when Noble House aired as a four-part NBC miniseries, the "big business" nighttime soaps—Dallas on CBS and Dynasty on ABC—had already peaked. The network's own foray into that field—1983's The Yellow Rose—was a dismal failure.

If The Yellow Rose bore a more-than-passing resemblance to Dallas, Noble House—based on the novel by James Clavell—seems like a kissing cousin to Dynasty. The general "look" of this miniseries recalls that ABC hit, as does the music, which underscores everything so obviously that a blind man could follow the story.

Noble House is what you might expect from a late '80s miniseries. It features a bland but attractive star turn by an actor who'd just left a successful series (Brosnan of Remington Steele), support by some B-listers (Raffin, Masters, Julia Nickson), and a florid villain played by character actor John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark). It's all rather quaint and naturally dated—there are no computers or cell phones, and $4 million is considered a high-risk investment from a super-wealthy corporate raider. The sets and costumes are TV-budget lavish and the cinematography good for this type of thing.

What Noble House has going for it, big-time, is an improbably entertaining plot.

We get all manner of skullduggery: hostile take-over attempts, double deals, triple crosses, back stabbing, conflicted loyalties, personal vendettas, kidnappings, political intrigues, and so on. All the characters have ulterior motives for virtually everything they do, from destroying someone's business to ordering dim sum. No one is what he or she seems, and dialogue is delivered cryptically and with lots of arching of brows. Seriously. Pierce Brosnan must have had the most muscular forehead on the planet after the workout his eyebrows got here. The guy can't open his mouth without one or both of his brows shooting up into his heavily moussed hairline.

Lionsgate gives us a barely there release. While the transfer is anamorphic, it looks dull, flat, and at times, grainy. The audio is the original mono, and there are no extras on this two-disc set, just two parts of the miniseries on each disc.

I was shocked at how entertained I was by Noble House—enough that I watched the entire 6-plus hours in two sittings. Yeah, yeah, I fast-forwarded through some of the romantic interludes (two tepid couplings, you'll figure them out when the characters are introduced) and scenes of people walking, driving, boating, and so on, but this was to get to the plot developments more quickly. Much of it is ridiculous—proverb-spouting pirates and a half of a coin that's tied to some legacy—but it's the kind of serious silliness that keeps you coming back.

While Lionsgate's presentation is just adequate, Noble House is the kind of guilty pleasure that's perfect for a rainy weekend inside—or anytime you've got six or so hours to kill.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 376 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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