Sam Neill Update: Cardinal, Colonel, Madman

So since we last talked I have made great progress on my Sam Neill project! Mostly by making a spreadsheet and discovering that of his 100ish movie/TV movie/miniseries appearances, Netflix has a little less than half available in some format! Luckily, I have already seen around 10 of them (I know, I thought that number would be larger too). Here is a rundown of some of the favorites that didn’t get mentioned last time:

The Tudors TV series (2007)
I know this show is pretty recent, but I’m just now getting around to watching it on Netflix Instant. I’m not finished yet, but I’ve gotten past the part where Sam Neill’s character dies, so I figure I can check it off my list.

The point seems to be that history is ironically all about both sex AND clothes

The Show: Henry VIII has vaguely historically accurate affairs, while the rest of his court does the same, with a side of scheming. People argue about religion a lot and everyone generally dresses like it’s their job. When it’s clear that their real job is keeping Henry from killing them for reasons like “didn’t get me sex fast enough” and “would rather party with the Pope”.

"Dude, our hats!!!" "I know!!!!"

The Character: Sam Neill plays Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, which, if the picture on wikipedia can be believed, he has way too few chins to ever portray accurately. His main role in the first part of the series is to run things so King Henry can have more time with his mistresses, but later he falls out of favor when he can’t manage to get Henry a divorce from his first wife. He ends up banished, eventually killing himself rather than face a probable execution. He’s not really a “good” character, especially for what we might of expect of a churchmen. He’s devious and spends a lot of time scheming with various people, but instead of sleeping around like every other person on the show he seems fairly happy with his not-wife, Joan, which was apparently sort-of-okay for a churchman in England at the time. In the end, I ended up feeling really sorry for him, and not just because I hate to see Sam Neill cry.

Best Sam Neill Quote: “I don’t think anything, but I imagine everything.”
You don’t have to tell me, Sam Neill, I saw In the Mouth of Madness.

The Jungle Book (1994)
No, not the animated version. This one:

The Movie: Unlike the unsettlingly racist Disney movie of the same name, this movie spends a lot more time concentrating on Mowgli’s interactions with people instead of singing animals. We still get lots of shots of him palling around with bears and wolves and winning a monkey king’s affection by battling a giant snake, but most of the plot centers around his attempts to blend in to the society of colonial India. John Cleese and the Love Interest try to teach him English and manners, while an evil Westley jealously tries to kill him.

"Damn it, Love Interest is MINE!"

Eventually, Mowgli is forced to lead Evil Captain Robin Hood into the jungle after the monkey king’s treasure, but prevails in the end because Evil Cary Elwes doesn’t respect the jungle.

The Character: Sam Neill plays Colonel Brydon, Love Interest’s well-meaning but kind of ineffectual dad. Most of the movie he is either telling Love Interest to act like a lady or pushing her to marry the obviously Evil Captain Cary Elwes.

"My dear, all I ask is that you find someone with sufficient mustache to keep you happy"

I know I’m supposed to find Colonel Sam Neill completely tiresome, but I actually agree with him wholeheartedly. The jungle is clearly full of gross bugs and giant snakes, and Cary Elwes was ADORABLE in 1994. I mean, true, he’s also evil, but nobody’s perfect. Anyway, Colonel Sam Neill finally gets with the program but it’s TOO LATE and he ends up dangerously wounded and transported through the jungle on the back of an elephant. Luckily he maintains a respectable Stiff Upper Lip through the whole experience and learns to respect the jungle law, presumably later blessing his daughter’s shocking jungle union.

Best Sam Neill Quote: (to his elephant when it is freaking out about a tiger) “Damnit, pull yourself together!!!”
Sam Neill fears no jungle cat!

In the Mouth of Madness (also 1994)
I saw this movie kind of by accident in high school when I was looking for a horror movie at Blockbuster. This one seemed to be about a writer who fell into his own book or something, which seemed like a good premise. Only after starting it did I realize that, of course, Sam Neill is the main character.

This picture pretty much sums it up

The Movie: John Trent is some kind of insurance fact checker/private investigator/skeptical chainsmoker who is sent to find the missing horror novelist Stephen King Sutter Cane. He ends up in the fictional(?) town where all of Cane’s books take place and everything is exactly as Cane described, with people gradually going crazy, killing each other, and turning into creepy monsters. Trent thinks it is all a publicity stunt for a ridiculously long amount of the movie.

Sam Neill, no one would pay the money for this set up to publicize a BOOK you silly

Eventually it turns out that the insanity/bloodlust/monsterfication is contagious and you can get it just by reading the book! Cane turns out to just be a puppet of an “elder race” and his books are all some sort of master plan to release Cthulhu. Then everything becomes really meta and confusing.

The Character: Sam Neill is our man, John Trent, who Cane insists is just a fictional character in his book and therefore has no freewill. Sam Neill tries repeatedly to NOT follow Cane’s instructions, destroying the manuscript of the evil hellbook repeatedly, but each time it reappears. He tries just not delivering it to the publishers, explaining to them that he’s failed his task, but they act really confused and tell him he delivered it months ago. Then Sam Neil pretty much goes insane, kills some people, and gets locked in an asylum, which is the scene the movie begins with, the rest being an extended flashback. Eventually society ends, Sam Neill wanders out of the asylum to watch the movie version of In the Mouth of Madness, which is also the movie we have just seen.

Realizing you're a fictional pawn in humanity's extinction has a lighter side, apparently

So, yeah, John Trent spends most of the movie either calling everyone else crazy or laugh-crying hysterically. It’s pretty awesome.

Best Sam Neill Quote: (to his creator, Cane) “Your books SUCK!”

So Cardinal Wolsey, an elephant-riding Imperial English Colonel, and a horror movie hero/fictional character/villain/crazy person! Three great additions to Sam Neill’s resume and further proof that he can pretty much do anything!

Next time: Spaceships, Helena Bonham Carter (again), and Charles II
Previously: An Obsession Acknowledged

2 responses to “Sam Neill Update: Cardinal, Colonel, Madman”

  1. Brian says:

    I have seen the following Sam Neill movies: Jurassic Park I,

    …that’s it. Crazy right??

    Also: did you know (according to IMDb) Sam Neill has written a documentary called “Telephone Etiquette”?

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