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Barry Lyndon

In the opening scene, set in 1750s Ireland, the father of Irishman Redmond Barry (Ryan O'Neal) is killed in a duel over the sale of some horses. The widow (Marie Kean), disdaining offers of marriage, devotes herself to the raising of her son.

When Barry is a young man, he falls in love with his cousin, Nora Brady (Gay Hamilton). She likes him well enough to seduce him, but when the well-off English Captain John Quin (Leonard Rossiter) appears on the scene, the poverty-stricken Barry is quickly dropped. She and her whole family are set on relieving their financial difficulties with an advantageous marriage. Barry refuses to accept the situation and (seemingly) kills Quin in a duel.

Fleeing the law, Barry travels towards Dublin, but is robbed by a famous highwayman, Captain Feeney (Arthur O'Sullivan), and his son Seamus (Billy Boyle), leaving Barry little choice but to join the British army. Later, he is reunited with a family friend, Captain Grogan (Godfrey Quigley), who informs him that the duel was faked. Barry's pistol was not loaded with a real bullet, but one made with tow, and Quin was only stunned. It was staged so as to get him out of the way, so the cowardly Quin could be coaxed into marrying Nora, thereby securing the family's financial situation.

Barry's regiment is sent to fight in the Seven Years' War in Europe. During one skirmish, Grogan is fatally wounded, and Barry deserts at the first opportunity, impersonating a courier. He spends a few pleasant days with Lischen (Diana Körner), a lonely woman whose husband is away fighting. When he resumes his journey, he encounters a Prussian captain, Potzdorf (Hardy Krüger), who sees through his disguise. Given the choice of joining the Prussian army or being taken for a deserter, Barry enlists in his second army. During one battle, he saves Potzdorf's life.After the war ends in 1763, Barry is employed by the Prussian Minister of Police, Potzdorf's uncle. It is arranged for him to become the servant of the Chevalier de Balibari (Patrick Magee), a professional gambler. The Prussians suspect that he is a spy and Barry is assigned to try to determine if he is. However, when Barry finds out the chevalier is a fellow Irishman, he confesses all to him and they become confederates. Barry assists the chevalier in cheating at card games, but when the Prince of Tübingen (Wolf Kahler) suspects the truth after losing a large sum, they are unceremoniously expelled from Prussia. They wander from place to place, cheating the nobles. Barry proves to be very useful; when a loser refuses to pay his debts, Barry's excellent swordsmanship convinces him otherwise.

Hardened by his experiences, Barry decides to better himself by marrying well. During the course of his travels, he encounters the beautiful and wealthy Countess of Lyndon (Marisa Berenson). Barry has little difficulty seducing her. Her sickly husband, Sir Charles Lyndon (Frank Middlemass) dies; the following year (1773), she and Barry are married.

Young Lord Bullingdon (Dominic Savage), Countess Lyndon's son by Sir Charles, hates Barry from the beginning. The marriage is initially not a happy one, although they welcome a new son, Bryan Patrick. Bullingdon thinks nothing of alternately ignoring, and venting his pent-up malice on, Bryan. Barry enjoys himself while keeping his wife in dull seclusion. However, when he is caught seducing one of her maids, he begins treating Lady Lyndon better.

Barry brings his mother over from Ireland to live with him. She warns her son that his position is precarious. If Lady Lyndon were to die, all her wealth would go to her son Lord Bullingdon (now a young man played by Leon Vitali); Barry would be left penniless. Barry's mother advises him to obtain a noble title to protect himself. He cultivates the acquaintance of the influential Lord Wendover (André Morell) with this goal in mind, spending much money to grease his way. All this effort is wasted however. One day, Lord Bullingdon announces his hatred of his stepfather and is beaten by Barry in front of many important guests. Bullingdon leaves the family estate after this. Barry's public cruelty loses him all the powerful friends he has worked so hard to make and he is shunned socially.

As badly as he has treated his stepson, Barry proves to be a doting father to Bryan. However, when he is eight, the boy is thrown from a horse and soon dies. The grief-stricken Barry turns to drink, while Lady Lyndon seeks solace from religion, assisted by the family priest, Reverend Samuel Runt (Murray Melvin). When that does not ease her grief, she tries to commit suicide. Barry's mother then fires Reverend Runt for fear that his advice is only making Lady Lyndon worse. Upon hearing this, Lord Bullingdon resurfaces and challenges Barry to a duel.

A coin flip gives Bullingdon the privilege of shooting first, but his pistol misfires. Barry magnanimously fires into the ground, but Bullingdon refuses to let the duel end here. He fires again, this time hitting Barry in the leg, which has to be amputated at the knee.

While Barry is recovering, Bullingdon takes control of the estate. He offers his stepfather an annuity of 500 guineas if he leaves England; otherwise, with his credit exhausted, his creditors will see to it that he is put in jail. Wounded in spirit and body, Barry accepts. He goes first to Ireland with his mother, then to the European continent to resume his former profession of gambler, though without his former success. He never sees Lady Lyndon again. The final scene (set in 1789) shows the middle-aged Lady Lyndon signing Barry's annuity check.


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