Here at Frock Flicks HQ we have access to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and some, ehem, other sources to watch historical costume movies and TV shows. Hey, we could even watch movies on ye olde DVDs sometimes! So we spend a lot of time in front of a screen, attempting to watch our endless queue. Alas, not every flick set in the past is worth our time (though for ones we DO review, use the search box or menus to peruse the archives!).
Here’s a little behind-the-scenes info: There are a lot of mediocre historical costume movies and TV shows out there! We’re not talking Snark Week-worthy travesties — we LURVE watching those. But some stuff is just distinctly average. These are boring movies, the dull shows, the ones with meh costumes and stories that can’t even rise up to the level of camp entertainment. Or the ones that are mildly entertaining, maybe have ‘good-enough’ costuming, or are moderately snark-worthy, but we can’t be arsed to work up a sweat about it.
Thus, this is an occasional series with our one-line reviews of things we’ve tried to watch but just don’t care enough about to write a whole blog post or podcast. Your mileage may vary!
Carnival Row (2019-)
A fantasy-Victorian series made by Amazon, so not strictly historical, but folks requested a review and I tried to watch it. But the story just didn’t grab me, and the visuals were rather pedestrian; I was hoping for a more distinct style, something really eye-catching. One neat costume bit was how Cara Delevingne’s fairy character wears a corset to tie down her wings when she works as a maid among the mundane folk. — Trystan
Dead Still (2020-)
Not a bad little show about an 1880s photographer for dead people memorials, who gets dragged into solving murder mysteries. The characters are all stock figures — crotchety old guy, his perky rebellious niece, young assistant moving up in the world — but they’re well performed. Costumes are standard-issue though. Available on Acorn TV exclusively. — Trystan
Not as bad as I feared from the trailer, but not that great either and not worth a full blog post. The costumes are mostly historical off-the-rack (I suspect rentals), but the plot and language are totally modern. And I do mean “totally,” as in, the characters speak like adults think teenagers speak, duuuude! It’s silly and inconsistent, not even camp enough to be hilarious. — Trystan
Green Book (2018)
Was it an enjoyable movie — well written/acted/directed? Sure! Was it an interesting story — classical/jazz pianist Don Shirley, who is driven by Italian American Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga while on tour through the South, and the development of their friendship? Sure! Did it feel like a contemporary story? Meh? There are definite white-savior themes here, and while I think this is a story worth telling, it felt like I was in 1995 in terms of how much this challenged the mainstream, and I’d rather Hollywood put its money behind something more thought-provoking in terms of racism and civil rights. The costumes were just fine, nothing outstanding or terrible to report. — Kendra
I wanted to like this movie. It’s artsy and about a real person, a woman at the turn of the last century, who gets pregnant by a Japanese man, is rejected by/rejects him, goes to Japan anyway, and raises her kids there alone. Emily Mortimer is fascinating to watch. But something about it started to grate on me, and I think it was that her character made a lot of actions and choices in reaction to men and I couldn’t tell what her own motivations were. Plus, the costumes are rather meh average. — Trystan
Fictionalization of Richard and Mildred Loving’s story, an interracial marriage that lead to the historic U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 decision that struck down miscegenation laws. Beautifully told story and Ruth Negga (as Mildred) was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. Standard-issue 1950s costumes though. — Trystan
I’m a terrible person, I thought this was such an important story and yet suuuuch a slow movie. I did try to watch it on a plane, maybe that explains it? — Kendra
The Pale Horse (2020)
Yet another Agatha Christie adaptation, this one set in the 1950s. Rufus Sewell is STILL HOT as a widower, and we learn about the death of his wife through flashbacks, as things get more and more suspicious. There’s been a number of these adaptations lately, and I’d say that this was one of the more successful in terms of being suspenseful and engaging. — Kendra
Up the Women (2013)
This is a really funny satirical series, currently available on BritBox. Set in the 1900s, one member of a village sewing circle decides to become a suffragette and wants to pull the rest of the ladies along with her. Hijinx ensue! The costumes and even the hairstyles are accurate, though not exciting. But for sewists, there are some good sewing jokes tucked in here and there. — Trystan
World on Fire (2019-)
This umpteen-billion-part BBC/Masterpiece series can be summed up as “World War II soap opera.” It seemed to go on forever (and I hear there will be another season, ugh), and I only faintly cared about a quarter of the 50 dozen storylines that zigged and zagged between Berlin and Britain and Warsaw and Paris and wherever else they were. Criminal waste of Sean Bean too. — Trystan
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
I loved the hell out of this movie as a pre-teen, and recently revisited it for something comforting to watch during lockdown. I’m pleased to say it holds up as pleasant entertainment with charming young actors (Nicholas Rowe is still a cutie!), an engaging story, clever dialog, and passably decent mid-Victorian costuming. It’s a Steven Spielberg production, so some money was spent, and it still shows. — Trystan
What did you think of these movies or TV shows? What other stuff should we remove from our queue? Have you searched our site recently to see if we’ve already reviewed your faves?