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Herc Has Entered HBO’s

I am – Hercules!!
Depicting the career of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, “House of Saddam” is a four-hour BBC/HBO miniseries directed by Alex Holmes from a teleplay by Holmes (the BBC TV-movie “Dunkirk”) and Stephen Butchard (the British detective series “Vincent”). Its big star is Shohreh Aghdashloo, the Iranian actress who kept screaming “Behrooooooooooz!!!” on “24” a few years ago, and who plays Sajida Khairallah Talfah, the first Mrs. Saddam. As history lessons go, “Saddam” is painless, an interesting glimpse into a not-so-fundamentalist Arab territory in which men swill whiskey, dance in discos, wear double-breasted suits and covet the blonde wives of other men – and the wife of the nation’s president never dons a burkha. Saddam’s inner circle even boasts a profane Christian fellow. At times this family saga feels almost ridiculously evocative of the Corleones, full of Fredos, Connies, Toms, Sonnys, Paulies and Michaels. Powerful men arrange to assassinate supposed allies and members of their own families. Cars are ambushed on well-traveled roads and riddled with a shocking number of bullets. An enemy is dispatched by trapping him in a revolving door. Even the dispute with the Kuwaitis reeks of a turf war with the Tattaglias. (One has to substitute oil for gambling and narcotics, but you get the idea; the story begins subsequent to the release of the first two “Godfather” movies – perhaps the Iraqis are fans?) The Los Angeles Times says:
… above average as docudramas go, but as docudramas go, "above average" is still something short of essential. … for all the time it spends on Hussein, the film doesn't communicate a theory of the man inside the monster that feels exciting, revelatory or useful. …
The Washington Post says:
… "House of Saddam," properly grim and even horrific, earns its time on the air. … a chilling and riveting essay on the evils that men do and continue doing, year after year, century after century, millennium after millennium. …
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… offers a fascinating but limited portrait of the Iraqi tyrant. It also reminds viewers that America was once allied with Hussein against Iran. … Although somewhat structurally flawed, "House of Saddam" still manages to tell a complicated, historical story as an entertaining, political melodrama. It's "Dallas" in the desert with oil as the common commodity. …
The Boston Globe says:
… lugubrious style makes "House of Saddam" a slog, even while it is precisely paced and seamlessly directed. … avoids the pitfalls of most TV biopics, which skip ludicrously from big moment to big moment. But it repeatedly asks viewers to trudge through static, angst-filled sequences in which Hussein, his family, and his generals seethe with aggression, betrayal, and self-destruction. None of the many murders in the miniseries shock; the script marches toward each like the grim reaper in lead shoes. …
Variety says:
… too episodic to be fully engaging, providing a sporadically interesting glimpse into how cheap life was under Hussein's brutal rule. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… as much drama as it is documentary. It crackles with palace intrigue, family rivalries and the unpredictability of an amoral strongman with an unquenchable thirst for power and absolutely no qualms about snuffing out the lives of friend and foe alike. …
9 p.m. Sunday. HBO.

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