Sir Jock Broughton (Ackland) and his young trophy wife Lady Diana Broughton (Scacchi) arrive in Kenya 1940. Taking their place among the expatriate 'Happy Valley' set, they soon become accustomed to a life of lavish parties, sexual infidelities, wife swapping, and some serious libation of the drink and drugs variety. However, when Diana falls for the rakish charms of Josslyn Hay (Dance), the sexual liaison pricks the jealousy of Sir Jock who becomes the prime suspect when Hay is murdered.
Radford's rather squalid tale (from a novel allegedly based on a real event) has little to recommend it, save for Roger Deakins' lavish photography and some impressive African settings. The idea that the affluent upper classes were prone to boorish behaviour and unscrupulous sexual shenanigans is second-hand at best and Radford and his co-writer Jonathan Gems seem content enough to trot out a series of dislikable, two-dimensional characters, hoping that the exotic backdrops may make them more interesting.
A host of talented actors go through the motions to varying effect: Scacchi in a sultry career-defining performance she has subsequently sought to avoid repeating, while Dance smoulders and flares his nostrils in a caddish manner for all he's worth. Of the supporting players, Hurt is good value as ever and a young Hugh Grant pops up for those interested in such things. Even for those interested in the flesh on show, this is eminently avoidable viewing.
"White Mischief" is on BBC1 at 11.25pm, Wednesday 18 April 2001.