Grave-robbing can be profitable for those willing to creep about in spooky cemeteries late at night, but adapting the lost work of long-dead artists has seldom paid off artistically—or commercially, for that matter. The made-for-cable drama The Big Brass Ring is based on a screenplay by Orson Welles and Oja Kodar, but if the finished work is indicative of Welles' screenwriting output during the mid-'80s, perhaps it isn't so bad that he was best known as a portly pitchman during those waning years. An overheated, Tennessee Williams-esque foray into the dark past of an ambitious politician, the film stars William Hurt as a political rebel running for governor but aiming for the White House. His political progress is hampered, however, by a nosy newscaster (a wasted Irene Jacob) and the reemergence of his old mentor, an eccentric former senator (Nigel Hawthorne) with a penchant for blackmail. Miranda Richardson rounds out the cast as Hurt's hard-drinking wife, but the film's gifted leads aren't given much with which to work. Hurt has always had trouble with stiffness, and one of the reasons The Big Brass Ring remains so lifeless is that Hurt's walking mannequin seems incapable of inspiring anyone to do anything, let alone radically changing the face of American politics. The Big Brass Ring feels more like the pilot for an uninspired nighttime soap opera than the work of one of cinema's greatest innovators.