Critics say drama fails to explicitly show how US supported Saddam Hussein during his early days.
LONDON - A new BBC drama of the life of Saddam Hussein which portrays the late Iraqi leader as a brutish mafia boss reminiscent of the TV gangster Tony Soprano received rave reviews on Thursday.
The four-part British-US co-production "House of Saddam" charts Saddam's eventual elevation to bogeyman of the West following the military coup which brought him to power in 1979.
Filmed in a location in Tunisia last year, Saddam is played by Israeli-Iraqi actor Igal Naor, who starred in "Munich" and "Rendition".
The first episode, shown on Wednesday, showed Saddam using his daughter's birthday party as the cover for a coup.
"'House of Saddam' is like 'The Sopranos' without the jokes, apart from a sterling performance by Chemical Ali to lighten the thickening darkness," the Guardian newspaper's reviewer wrote.
"It has the same sleepy-smiling, cigar-smoking, overweight and overwhelming gang boss, Saddam, who swells to fill the screen.
"It is an extraordinarily ambitious attempt and it succeeds very well."
For the Daily Telegraph, this Saddam shared characteristics with the two men who toppled him from power in the 2003 US-led invasion.
"Naor’s towering version of the dictator envisioned him as both adept family schemer and political giant," the paper noted.
"Naor gave the impression that Saddam was a man with total conviction in the rightness of what he was doing. Which conjured two more, somewhat uneasy comparisons: Messrs Bush and Blair when they went to war with him."
The Independent newspaper said the series had successfully captured the fear Saddam struck into all those around him, but wondered if it was not let down by several factual holes.
"Who the hell airbrushed the Americans out of the picture? There's good evidence that the CIA aided and abetted an assassination attempt in 1959 on the then Iraqi prime minister, which Saddam took part in," asked the reviewer.
"And if the documentary evidence for that is difficult to pin down precisely, there's no question at all that the American government encouraged Saddam in his war with Iran, with Donald Rumsfeld himself visiting Baghdad to seal the deal."
The writers of 'House of Saddam', Alex Holmes and Stephen Butchard, said the series is based on two years of research including interviews with members of Saddam's regime, employees from his palaces, eyewitnesses and academics.
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