In 1995, Patrick Malahide appeared as Uncle Ebenezer Balfour in Kidnapped.
This is a very long production. It was originally aired in two parts, though the DVD version runs it as a single film. Here is *very* brief synopsis of the film copied from IMDB:
When Scottish young gentleman David Balfour’s father dies, he leaves school to collect his inheritance from uncle Ebenezer, who in turn sells the boy as a future slave to a pirate ship. When staunch Stuart dynasty supporter Alan Breck Stewart accidentally boards the ship, he takes David along on his escape back to Edinburgh. They part and meet again repeatedly, mutually helpful against the Redcoats and respectful, although David is loyal to the English crown, but learns about its cruel oppression. Both ultimately face their adversaries
This takes about three hours, and none of it is wasted. It is an excellent and adventurous film with solid pacing and acting from all involved.
David Balfour (Brian McCardie), whose father has recently passed away, has been given a letter to give to his uncle. when he reaches Shaws, he finds it is a huge and dilapidated looking pile. He knocks loudly on the doors and is greeted by Ebenezer’s gun! Ebenezer is a crazy looking hermity man. Actually, his appearance is very similar to Balon Greyjoy, from a Game of Thrones. I thought that was really cool.
Patrick Malahide’s performance is absolutely amazing. He completely conveys a rather batty, guilt carrying hermit. His eyes dart about all over the place, refusing to look David in the eye. He has a very appealing Scottish accent too, which makes him slightly attractive despite the ragged appearance and darting eyes.
David is very surprised to learn that this ungentlemanly looking fellow is his uncle. Ebenezer’s clothes are torn up; he is unshaven. The place is a complete mess with cobwebs and dust absolutely everywhere. There is a bowl of porridge on the table which Ebenezer offers to David. David doesn’t seem too impressed and declines it. He soon learns that Ebenezer eats *nothing* but porridge! The man is a complete miser.
Later, Ebenezer goes up stairs and uses a gigantic mallet that is conveniently waiting there to bash away a support from the stairs. It is kind of a funny scene, since he told David he had “business to attend to.” So, with all that noise going on, David just finds a (dusty) book and has a little read.
It is a religious book, inscribed from his father to Ebenezer on his fifth birthday. David, who believes his father to have been the younger brother, is amazed at the penmanship. He shows the book to Ebenezer who claims their father wrote the inscription. In a surprise moment of tenderness, he tells David he “could do worse than to read it.” That was actually the second moment of surprise tenderness. Ebenezer also has a bit where he recalls David’s mother, as a “bonnie lass.”
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
During a storm, Ebenezer and David are enjoying their evening porridge. At least, Ebenezer enjoying the porridge. He gives David 60 guineas and tells him he has more money and properties to give him. He sends David up the (booby trapped) stairs to fetch a chest. While David is gone, Ebenezer is a state. Is it guilt, or simply just fear at what it is he is doing? Either way, he’s a mess. When he hears the stairs give way, followed by cries for help and a crash, he calms down a bit and helps himself, Goldilocks style, to David’s porridge. His moment of win is soon dashed, though, when David comes hobbling back to the table. So, Ebenezer plays surprised, sees to David’s wounds, and asks him to walk to town with him in the morning.
The next day Ebenezer is wearing the rattiest wig imaginable. He takes David to see some shifty bloke (pssst, he’s a pirate), and his equally shifty associate (he’s a pirate too), about signing some documents. He sends David away to order porridge and ale for himself and lets David order whatever he chooses. David is pretty pleased. But, he when he is ready to place his order, he learns from the landlord that everyone had thought Ebenezer had killed Alexander (David’s father, remember) and that Alexander was the eldest.
So, David zooms off to find a lawyer, but the pirates catch up with him and he is kidnapped and taken aboard the pirate ship.
Alan Breck Stewart (Armand Assante) accidentally boards the ship. The pirates plan to kill Alan. Alan gives David gold to hold on to. David and Alan team up and take on the pirates. The ship capsizes. David washes up ashore, still with his gold. A blind man tries to steal the gold. David is accused of killing the Red Fox (Brendan Gleeson, looking like a ginger Meatloaf). William Reid (Michael Kitchen), an evil Redcoat, captures him. Alan saves David. David saves Alan. They walk through a few hundred miles of heather. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat again. Oh, and then they meet BRIAN BLESSED.
Back to Shaws
Finally, they get all adventured out. Who wouldn’t? Alan plans to go to France and David returns to Shaws. We finally learn what happened with the Balfour brothers and Shaws. Alexander and Ebenzer loved the same lady. As the entire estate had to be kept together, only the eldest interited the estate and its rents. Alexander had Shaws; Ebenezer had the “misguided affection” of the lady. So, Alexander promised the land and its rents to Ebenezer if he would give up the lady. But, the deal was only good for Alexander’s life. After that, the estate and rents would go to David!
Alan, before departing to France, gets Ebenezer to admit his role in the kidnapping with the lawyer, David, David’s fiancee (he met her while adventuring), and a magistrate hiding within hearing distance. Ebenezer makes one last ditch attempt to make off with his gold, but is stopped.
It seems that all monies earned are to go to David too, so Ebenezer’s scrimping was for nothing! Well, it worked out okay for David, at least.
I actually did feel a bit sorry for the wretched Ebenezer at this point. He is sobbing and broken. Earlier, Alan told David that he had once broken the woman he loved’s heart because he was already married “to the sword” and his cause of Scottish freedom. I think Ebenezer was similar. When he gave up his lady for wealth, he became married to his gold. I don’t know if it was a form of self-punishment, but it certainly seems as though he was doing it partly to punish himself, subconsciously.
I don’t think this version of Kidnapped is particularly well-known, but it is certainly very good. It is full of adventure, dark(ish) humor, introspective conversations, and great acting. Fortunately, it is readily available on Amazon.com at a very reasonable price.