Clarissa PBS Press Release #2

Sexual desire pervades Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, the new period drama, like a heady scent. The themes are rape, incest and prostitution -- unusual stuff from the staid BBC drama department. It airs on Mobil-funded Masterpiece Theatre nationally on PBS April 5-19 [1992] at 9 PM (ET).

This epic eighteenth-century novel tells the story of the pursuit of virtuous heiress Clarissa Harlowe (Saskia Wickham, in her screen debut) by the unscrupulous rake Robert Lovelace (Sean Bean), who abducts her, rapes her and finally brings about her death. The novel caused a scandal at the time and inspired Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The two achievements of this adaptation are its exhilarating feel for the period, and more notably, a script which brings out the relevance of the novel to modern times.

The gin-soaked period of Hogarth and Gainsborough remains largely unexploited by television, no doubt because of the lewdness of the times. As director Robert Bierman comments: "I've studied Hogarth's paintings and you should see the things that are going on in there. Those people were crazy." But the period found new favor in the straight-laced '80's and '90's. Milos Forman's Amadeus, his new release Valmont and Stephen Frear's Dangerous Liaisons all plundered the decadent lives of eighteenth-century aristocracy, dressing sex up in lavish costumes and literary respectability.

Mobil-funded Clarissa is presented on PBS by WGBH, Boston, where Rebecca Eaton is senior executive producer. Alistair Cooke is series host.

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