Directed By: David Carson and Herbert Wise
Written By: Simon Moore
Starring: Kimberly Williams, John Larroquette, Scott Cohen, Rutger Hauer, Warwick Davis ...
Running Time: 45 mins per episode, or 417 mins total (DVD release)
Air Date: 27/02/2000
NOTE: While this show was aired as a weekly serial, the DVD release has it all without any episodic breaks (like a massive seven hour movie). This means that I had to do this overview instead as I have no idea where the different episodes begin and end.
A year before "Lord of the Rings" came along and made all previous attempts at epic fantasy sagas look like child's play, there was this great little mini-series that resulted from a USA-UK-Germany co-production.
It's about a teenage girl and her father, living in New York on the edge of central park, who through a series of unusual events end up taking refuge in a fantasy world consisting of nine kingdoms. I know what you're thinking -- this has Cheap TV Teen Fodder written all over it, and there are moments throughout where it does border on that. But as it progresses, there are enough great ideas and excellent performances to keep it well above that level, and it certainly does not look cheap.
At first the only object is to return home to their own dimension, which they almost achieve with the help of their companions -- a half-wolf, played brilliantly by Scott Cohen, and a prince who has traded bodies with a dog due to an evil witch's black magic. But as it goes on, they become involved in an epic struggle for power caused by the descendent of Snow White's evil step-mother ... and there are plenty of clever twists, turns and not-so-subtle fairy tale references to keep you hooked on this for hour upon hour. Chances are you'll probably end up like me, watching the first four or five hours in one go, then having to stop for fear of becoming one with the television.
There are appearances from cult icons such as Warwick Davis (who probably played about 90% of all memorable fantasy dwarf characters you can think of) as a tough dwarf convict, and the great Rutger Hauer (Ladyhawke, Blade Runner) who plays a very cool 'huntsman' character with a magic crossbow. The most memorable performance in the series would definitely come down to a toss-up between Hauer and Cohen, but the entire cast do a good job, and Dianne Weist inparticular is perfectly cast as the deviously evil queen.
In short, 10th Kingdom is as clever, funny and dark as the fairy tales it's based on. It's an epic story about dwarves, trolls, magical mirrors and mushrooms singing "A Whiter Shade Of Pale". Who could ask for more?
Cohen's character isn't strictly a werewolf as such, in that there are no silver bullets or pentagrams or anything like that, and he never actually changes from man to wolf. A "half-wolf" is simply a hybrid between man and wolf -- basically a man with a bushy tail (see bottom photo), who has the thought patterns and instincts of a wolf. He wants to behave like a normal man after he falls in love with our heroine, but occassionally he does almost give in to the fairy-tale wolf side of his personality (see top photo). A great quote from the first episode which really sums up the character is, "I've met this girl ... but I'm not sure if I want to love her or eat her."
But it's Cohen's own performance that makes the character so great, and he steals every scene that he's in with his crazy antics and spot-on comic delivery. He always treads a fine line between good and evil, and you're never quite sure what he's capable of due to the fact that he's constantly battling against his more dangerous wolf instincts.
The key segment comes when the full moon rolls around, and he gets those old primal urges. To add to the temptation, this just happens to be the time when they end up in Little Bo Peep's home town, which is of course full of succulent sheep and young, juicy shepherdesses. His behaviour becomes more violent and aggressive, and he gets a strong urge to kill things for their meat. When this happens, sometimes his eyes glow a yellowy-goldy type color, and sometimes he grows fangs (see middle photo), but he doesn't sprout any extra hair or anything.