Oh the Bad Movies & TV You’ll Watch 13!

24

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!

 

A Suitable Boy (2020)

A Suitable Boy (2020)

Based on a very popular book that I haven’t read, this ends up being just a bland little soap opera about the young adults from different families and how they figure out their love lives. Only made it through a few episodes but could TOTALLY tell how everything was going to sort out. Set in 1950s India, the costumes are sadly also bland, with a mix of saris, Jodhpuri suits, and Western clothes, most of it very simple. — Trystan

 

 

Atlantic Crossing (2021)

Atlantic Crossing (2021)

Oh PBS Masterpiece, when will you tire of this World War II kick? Sure, this one wasn’t as tedious as World on Fire (2019-). More consistently strong acting all around, plus the story wasn’t a cliched mishmash of WWII tropes. I feel like I learned something about the Norwegian royal family and their part in the war. Standard-issue nice 1940s costumes and uniforms though. — Trystan

 

Barkskins (2020-)

2020 Barkskins

When will I learn? I’m fascinated by the real history behind Western European and indigenous encounters in the Americas, Australia, and more. I read books, watch documentaries, and listen to podcasts about this all the time. But every time I attempt one of these fictionalized stories, it’s all mud and dirt and dumpy renfaire bodices. This one is set in French Canada in the late 17th century. Dire. — Kendra

 

Dragonwyck (1946)

René Hubert, Dragonwyck (1946)

Vincent Price delivers one of his classic creepy performances in what is not actually a horror film. Set in the 1840s, this story of a psychotic landowner who kills one wife and marries a simple farm girl has an interesting backdrop of the feudal patroon system that lingered in the Hudson River valley. Costume designer René Hubert throws in a couple fluffy glamorous gowns, but not enough worth screencapping. — Trystan

 

 

England Is Mine (2017)

England Is Mine (2017)

This biopic of Steven Patrick Morrissey, co-founder of The Smiths, is depressingly boring, not depressingly fun in that jangly, witty way the band’s music is. I guess you can see why he wanted to get out of 1970s Manchester, if it’s as dull as this flick. The only close to highlight is Jessica Brown Findlay as a punk feminist artist. — Trystan

 

 

The First Traveling Saleslady (1956)

The First Traveling Saleslady (1956)

This is a rather adorable movie starring Ginger Rogers and Carol Channing as sassy women selling corsets in the Wild West frontier. It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds, and the costumes are very ’50s Victorian with “oooh corsets are sexy on dem pretty fillies!” type stuff.  — Trystan

 

 

In the Good Old Summertime (1949)

In the Good Old Summertime (1949)

Not one of the best Judy Garland musicals. The story is limply based around cranky co-workers at a music store who are unknowingly pen-pal lovers. There’s one really good song, IMO, being “I Don’t Care,” and a bunch of unmemorable ones. The costumes are supposedly 1900s, but nothing stands out. — Trystan

 

 

Judy (2019)

Judy (2019)

As a big fan of Judy Garland, I was prepared to be critical of Renée Zellweger in the lead, but she knocks it out of the park. She doesn’t necessarily look like Garland in her final days, but Zellweger has the attitude and brokenness combined with strength that make her believable in the role. Set during a short period of 1968, the costumes are spot-on recreations of what Garland wore for her performances of the time. Not much to review, but if you’re a fan, worth watching. — Trystan

Agreed! Very good and tragic! — Kendra

 

The Luminaries (2021)

The Luminaries (2021)

Wow is this tedious and apparently low-budget. Even the charms of Eva Green being all spooky and weird couldn’t make me watch another episode. Everything was dark and dull, and the characters (especially the main one) did dumb things. Costumes made little sense for 1860s, for their characters, or for a New Zealand mining town. Power to you if you stuck with it, I couldn’t! — Trystan

 

 

Miss Scarlet and the Duke (2021)

Miss Scarlet and the Duke (2021)

I know, I know, I’m not the audience for murder-mysteries, but dammit, they keep cranking them out and sticking them in historical costumes, so what the hell else am I supposed to watch? This one trots out a classic cliche and puts it in a corset: the plucky independent woman detective has to hook up with a man to front her business. Look, I already watched Remington Steele and Moonlighting in the ’80s, I’m out. — Trystan

 

The Romanovs (2013)

2013 The Romanovs

Having seen stills of this docudrama about the dynasty that ruled Russia from 1613-1917, and being a big fan of documentaries AND the Romanovs, I was eager to watch this sucker. The visuals were great, but the problem is the (English subtitled) Russian narration was literally: male narrator says two sentences; female narrator says two sentences; both rapid fire, with no breaks or real inflection or pauses or moments for dialogue or expert interviews or whatever. It just hit you over the head with FACT FACT FACT and gave you no time to absorb. I made it halfway through one episode! Too bad, because I like what I’ve seen of the costumes. — Kendra

 

The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

Set in the racist south of 1964, this story focuses on the cute little white girl who’s saved from her sad, complicated life by the mystical feminism of strong Black women. In spite of this glaringly cliched storyline, there are some good performances especially by Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys. The costuming isn’t much to talk about, as per this setting. — Trystan

 

 

Stardust (2020)

Stardust (2020)

How can you make David Bowie boring? IDK, but this biopic succeeds! Looking at his first visit to the U.S. in 1971, the movie paints Bowie as dull, aimless, clueless, lacking confidence, and not even very stylish. That doesn’t track with anything extant about him. Also, the story didn’t go anywhere or have anything to say. — 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?

24 Responses

  1. Fran in NYC

    I enjoyed the wardrobe in Atlantic Crossings! The Crown Princess wore great hats! And you get to see an aspect of the war from a different perspective.

    Reply
    • Frances Germeshausen

      Agreed! Her hats were great, and there were many really good print dresses on everyone.

      Reply
  2. Hooley

    I started Barkskins enthusiastically because of the great cast (Anuerin Barnard, David Thewlis, Zach McClarnon), but it disappeared off the small screen with much unresolved, and the plot was all over the place as well as too much of it. The only coherent piece was the Filles du Roi (desperate women shipped out to be wives) and the machinations of one of them, Melissande. I agree with Kendra — too much mud and horrible ye olde RenFaire costumes for most of the women.

    Reply
    • Rhonda Stannard

      Yes, I only watched Barkskins because of Anuerin Barnard. It ended on something of a cliffhanger so I have no idea where it’s going or if it will return.

      Reply
      • Hooley

        Anuerin Barnard is the ONLY reason even tried to watch “The White Queen,” based on Philippa Fucking Gregory.

        Reply
  3. Colleen

    I love Dragonwyck. Not for the costumes (although Vincent Price has some nice dressing gowns), but for the evil Vincent Price plays. Gene Tierney is okay, but the overall story is what brings me in every time.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

      I love both the film Dragonwyck and the book it is based on by Anya Seton.

      Reply
      • Jamie LaMoreaux

        I loved the book, I have yet to see the movie. Dragonwyck was the first gothic romance I’d ever read, the cover drew me in. :-) Vincent Price is always a good actor to watch and Gene Tierney is good in her movies also. I’ll have to look for it on TCM.

        Reply
        • JustaTech

          I’m delighted to be reminded of the title of the book. I read it as a tween because the title said Dragon. I was deeply disappointed in the lack of dragons, but bits of the book have stuck with me all these years (cheating with the Bible to be allowed to go, the poisoning, the servant girl in Niagara Falls), though I’d completely forgotten the ending.

          Reply
  4. the StoryEnthusiast

    With all the praise I’m reading elsewhere about A Suitable Boy, I’m so glad to find kindred spirits here. I couldn’t get past the first couple of episodes either. And I agree with Colleen about Dragonwyck. Great story! It has the feel of a Victoria Holt gothic romance.

    Reply
    • The Scrivener

      I hated A Suitable Boy. I could see how it was trying to be an Austen parallel set in young India, but the dialogue and direction were just awful.

      The costumes were actually the one highlight. Anything but bland! There are some good interviews is Indian media with costume designer Arjun Bhasin on the way he used costumes to convey character (including deliberate anachronisms, like sleeveless sari blouses) https://www.vervemagazine.in/fashion-and-beauty/theyve-got-the-look-costume-design-for-a-suitable-boy and https://scroll.in/reel/976603/how-arjun-bhasin-designed-a-suitable-wardrobe-for-mira-nairs-a-suitable-boy.

      Reply
    • Popka Superstar

      I hated A Suitable Boy. At the start it sets up all these things that would upend conservative Indian values, and then ends all the storylines so they confirmed those conservative values but it’s acting like it achieved something. There has been a real trend in recent Hindi movies of children, especially women because usually the men do get some choice, marrying according to the wishes of their parents like we’re back in the 1960s, and after like 8 of those I’ve come to absolutely hate it and immediately check out they go that way.

      I have to say I did enjoy the costumes even though they were like 10 steps below costumes from actual 1950s Indian movies.

      I looove Dragonwyck. Very gothic romance and Vincent Price is great in it.

      Reply
  5. Michael McQuown

    What keeps me watching Miss Scarlett are the little quirks like the earnest conversations with her dead father. But the poor woman does seem to be short on variety in her wardrobe.

    Reply
    • Kathleen Norvell

      Her wardrobe was certainly peculiar. And boring. But the storyline was fun.

      Reply
      • SarahV

        Oh, I watch that show for Teh Hotness that is the male lead, who is a dead ringer for a young hot Sean Connery.

        Reply
  6. M.E. Lawrence

    I, too, am past tired of mid-century. (Of course, we boomers probably have the ’70s and ’80s looming as costume-drama fodder.)

    Reply
  7. Katherine Nabity

    Every once in a while I stop and think to myself: Why would one make a David Bowie movie with no rights to his original music…? I still have no answer.

    Reply
  8. Lynne Connolly

    I loved A Suitable Boy! The plot wasn’t the point, and I thought they did a great job of making a really, really, long book into a snappier series.
    Anyway – the Bowie movie. Bowie’s estate refused to license any of his music for the movie, so it was dead before it started. For a far better version of his American journey, the documentary Cracked Actor knocks it out of the park.

    Reply
  9. Tanisha

    As an Indian, I don’t like A Suitable Boy at all. It presents this exotified, inauthentic version of my country. Also it butchers the book and several characters. The book explores 1950s Indian politics, culture, gender norms, religious tensions. It is vast and epic in its scale and has numerous characters who flit in and out of the narrative. It’s essentially about characters navigating their place in society, whether it’s an anglicised upper middle class woman or a farmer from rural India. Tolstoy would be a better comparison than Austen. The show just throws all this out to present a bland love story.

    Reply
    • Melanie

      I’ve had A Suitable Boy on my bookshelf for a couple of years now, and your description makes me want to read it even more! I was waiting to watch the series until after I’d read the book but it sounds like I should just skip it.

      Reply
  10. Carrie

    I really enjoyed A Suitable Boy, although there were weaknesses in plot and characterization. The lead actress, though luminous and joyful, didn’t convince me, although the script’s lack of depth may be responsible there. Finally, a lot of plot twists seemed contrived and came out of nowhere. But worst of all, for me— I’m okay with angsty romantic historic dramas, I live on those— I was 1,000% rooting for hot Muslim Kabir. I found her reasoning for rejecting him— “Have you ever heard of a mixed marriage working? I haven’t”— abhorrent. Basically arguing that Muslim and Hindus can’t coexist, they’re too different: even though the theme of the series is that they can. Hot Kabir forever.

    The man she did choose was super sympathetic though, and a wonderful actor.

    Reply
  11. Jamie LaMoreaux

    In the good old Summer Time is a tedious, poorly done copy of Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. the saving grace of the Garland version is Buster Keaton (if you are asking my opinion!) and Eva Tangary made the song “I don’t care” her song in Vaudeville, Judy oversold it. and her version lost all the fun and romance of the original version. even You’ve Got Mail is better than this.

    Reply
  12. LadySlippers

    Miss Scarlet and the Duke was awful. Plots were weak, stories were clichéd, and the obvious insertion of feminism into the story (and I am a feminist) made the series unwatchable. I have seen numerous historical stories that very subtlety frame the story with feminist themes (or any push against oppression) and pull it off. This clobbered you over the head with it every step of the way. What a waste of a potentially good story.

    I’ve got “Atlantic Crossing* queued up to watch soon.

    Reply
  13. Lily Lotus Rose

    Oh, dear!! Ladies, I am heartbroken to see Dragonwyck and Miss Scarlett and The Duke on this “meh” list!!!! Firstly, I only learned of Dragonwyck from this blog! You used a screencap for a quiz or something and I was immediately intrigued. When I finally watched it I LOVED it!!! Vincent Price totally made that movie!!! As for Miss Scarlett and The Duke, I also LOVE it!! Yes, the lead actresses wardrobe is repetitive, but she’s strapped for cash, so I’ve overlooked the 50 scenes of her in the blue dress. The lead man is GORGEOUS and thankfully, free from the horrible wig he wore in Medici. But beyond that, I’m so surprised to see on this “meh” list because this blog gave a favorable rating to Netflix’s Enola Holmes. I didn’t like that show because I thought it was too “kiddie.” The whole time I watched Miss Scarlett and The Duke I thought, “Oh, this is just Enola Holmes for grown-ups,” and I really like this version. I can’t wait for season 2. I never heard of Barkskins before but that picture is absolutely HILARIOUS and says it all for me!

    Reply

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