Here at Frock Flicks HQ we have access to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Starz, and some, ehem, other sources to watch historical costume movies and TV shows. Hey, we can even see movies at the old-fashioned theater 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 made of meh. These are boring movies, the dull shows, the ones with just average 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!
A super interesting look at the 1942 Wannsee Conference, at which top- and middle-level Nazi leaders planned the Holocaust … but beyond, what I assume, are well-done uniforms, there’s nothing costumey to analyze. — Kendra
The Current War (2020)
I tried, people, I tried … to watch this long-delayed film about the late-19th-century struggle between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse over which technology and firm would power the US electrical grid. But it just was dark and draggy. Both men have wives who had very nice bustle wardrobes, but, since they were both dark brunettes, I kept confusing them. I was on a plane, and I got sucked into my seatmate’s sci-fi movie, and that was that. — Kendra
Miracle Workers: Dark Ages (2020)
Apparently it’s the second season of some show about low-level angels with some kind of mission on Earth (?), IDK, but this season is set in ye olde medieval times. Daniel Radcliffe (yes, Harry Potter!) is a goofy prince whose dad is a blood-thirsty tyrant. Then there’s a girl who doesn’t want to be a shit-shoveler like her dad (Steve Buscemi). The costumes are intentionally goofy AF. Watch with cocktails. — Trystan
The Monuments Men (2014)
A surprisingly light look at the U.S. army platoon (including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean DuJardin, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett) that scoured Europe at the end of World War II for art looted by Nazis. Watch the really great documentary The Rape of Europa instead. — Kendra
Mrs. Wilson (2018)
This was a FASCINATING miniseries, but just not terribly shiny in the costume department. Actress Ruth Wilson plays her own real-life grandmother, who finds out she isn’t the only Mrs. Wilson after her husband dies. I don’t want to give away any of the plot, because it’s EDGE-OF-THE-SEAT interesting, in a small-scale, human way. WATCH IT! Set in the 1960s, with flashbacks to earlier periods. — Kendra
Nefertiti Queen of the Nile (1961)
Truly DIRE early 1960s Italian movie purportedly set in ancient Egypt and purportedly about the Egyptian queen. The opening is about 15 minutes of dimly shot, day-for-night on low-quality film stock, and I have no idea when Nefertiti shows up because I ditched out at that point. I had signed up for shlock, but I was hoping for shlock I could actually SEE. — Kendra
I was hoping this would be terrifically bad so I could use it for Snark Week. Alas, this TV movie was just boring, and the costumes were just so-so. The story is more about the later books with Poldark and Demezla’s kids as sassy teens / adults, but everyone is predicable and it’s just a snoozy mess. — Trystan
Tell It to the Bees (2018)
Set in a small, dour, Scottish town in 1952, this flick doesn’t have much going in terms of costume content. And while the story is a slow burn, it does get interesting as a young mother (Holliday Grainger) falls in love with the town’s doctor (Anna Paquin). Along with their sweet romance is an interesting side-look at women’s medical care in the period. — Trystan
Vienna Blood (2019-)
This murder-mystery series set around 1900 in Vienna has attractive costumes and settings, but I’m totally not the right audience for this. I just stumbled across a few eps because they came after the other Masterpiece shows on PBS. — Trystan
Year of the Rabbit (2019)
Funny little murder-mystery series set in late Victorian London — it aired in the U.K. in 2019 and then popped up on BBC America and IFC in the U.S. in early 2020. Not much to talk about in regards to costumes because it’s dark and dirty East End stuff. The characters are enjoyably foul-mouthed and story isn’t entirely predictable. If you can find the show, it’s a nice diversion, and apparently a second season is in the works. — Trystan
Do you love one 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?
Year of the Rabbit: Is that an old blanket the jacket is made from on the creepy guy in the front??
Holliday Grainger shows up in many period dramas,doesn’t she?But I want to see her in 16th and 17th century finery.The perfect face for that era.She looked amazing in Tulip Fever;I feel she would make a lovely young Catherine of Aragon with red hair(I have seen her in so many hair colours that I don’t know what is real hair colour).
I totally agree I think she would be better as Catherine than Charlotte Hope but of course phillipa f****** Gregory isn’t supposed to be very historical I would love to see a well researched film about Catherine rather than see Anne boleyn get Another job
I don’t think poor Holliday should even have been approached for that monstrosity.Philippa Gregory’s version of COA offended me more than The Tudors;atleast they cheapened the history but retained a sense of the historical characters.I would not imagine COA as a self-centered eh-I-want-to-be-queen princess wannabe.
I didn’t meant to say Holliday Granger should be CoA on TSP I meant that she was much more appropriate than Charlotte Hope to play Catherine in any way film or series
I watched Nefertiti because I like both the character and Jeanne Crain who played her, she was brilliant in Pinky (1949) (would have loved to see her Daisy Buchanan) and actually I remember seeing her on the beginning praying for her beloved but only her back appears (can’t commend anything don’t get any least idea of how the old Egyptians dressed for used their hair) but the movie was quite good if you don’t mind seeing a highly fictional work on a very little known historical figure
And as Jeanne Crain starred almost right after this in a polish novel I would very much like to recommend to you my dearest frock flickers to try on polish series especially the old ones I find amazing how well the could work with costumes at the limited level of technology they had I recommend Noce I Dnie (1975) as a good beginning there’s a couple of subtitled trailers of it at YouTube that show how pretty it is and I would also like to recommend some old Italian miniseries (especially Anna Karenina (1974) my dream is that you would make a post about the best dressed Anna version, Madame Bovary (1978) I know it’s hated by some of you but this version is well dressed and Emma is more understandable I saw it on YouTube but as I am from Brazil I don’t know if it’s available on your country and to finish La certosa di parma (1982) a very pretty miniseries
I hope you appreciate any of my ideas as much as I love this place
My best regards from Brazil
Because someone on tumblr apparently loves Królowa Bona (1980) a incredible polish miniseries and I wanted to recommend something else for you here’s a link
I saw Conspiracy. I don’t remember much, except that Kenneth Branagh played a Nazi to perfection. But what hasn’t he played well?
I thought Mrs. Wilson was good – and yes, what a story!
I stumbled upon Vienna Blood on the BBC by accident, it’s a co-production by them and Austrian TV. What irked me a bit was seeing well-known and good Austrian actors being underused in small roles. And at the end of the first episode, they didn’t even manage to shoot the scene in the park in a way that you do not see the Johann Strauss monument, which was only built later. This is just pure laziness by the filmmakers and totally unforgivable. I like a good crime drama usually, but this one didn’t really grab me. It was all a bit too “unusual” or constructed…
Conspiracy is great and has quite a cast but it’s almost entirely uniforms.
I really liked The Current War! But I can see how it would be too hard to make out on a tiny airplane screen. I just would love to get your takes on the dresses.
I loved Mrs. Wilson!!
A white African queen? A bad casting choice then and now.
As for bad shows/movies, i think my brain is blocking the horror.
We enjoyed ‘Tell it to the Bees’ apart from the weird bit with the bees sort of saving the day [not a spoiler…I think] A few nice underwear shots lol
You have “Conspiracy” on this list? Seriously? As for the 1996 television movie, “Poldark”, it’s decent. Frankly, I don’t think the 1975-76 and especially the 2015-2019 series aren’t any better or worse. The 1996 TV movie is only shorter and based on one of the Poldark novels, 1981’s “The Stranger From the Sea”.
The Poldark movie is especially bad after seeing the two series, maybe not as awful if you had seen neither…
otherwise none of these interest me, though I love this topic/theme. I really can’t get into any movie set after WWI or before War of the Roses…and never any fantasy or time travel…but will try any trash they put out there set from 1400-1925ish.
The Vienna Blood books are so good that I got excited when I saw there was a dramatization. However . . . it was a big disappointment. They completely changed the relationship between the two leads. The psychiatrist and the police detective are closer in age (the doctor in the series is much too young), and they get together every week for music (the doctor plays the piano, and the detective sings). This show has no musical evenings, and worst of all — no time spent in cafes eating pastries. In the books, I looked forward to their frequent chats over Viennese pastries.
Conspiracy is great, and really excellently shows how perfectly bland and mundane people are capable of doing the most terrible things
I watched Conspiracy in college over the course of a few classes because our professor didn’t feel like teaching that week. I remember thinking that it was weird how a movie about such an important topic could be so boring. But in all fairness, I may need to give it another watch sometime when I’m not sitting at a desk and annoyed that I had to get up early for a class where nothing was even taught.
That was kind of the point of Conspiracy. The militaristic and austere manner they discussed the solution to their problem is straight from their own documentation. The perfunctory manner of the secret meeting is unsettling in hindsight of what unfolded from it. I encourage you to try it now that it isn’t for a course grade.