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!
April Morning (1987)
I tried to watch this for Snark Week purposes, but it’s REALLY focused on the boys so there’s not enough to snark. Chad Lowe’s father (Tommy Lee Jones) doesn’t understand him, but then the redcoats go marching through town and he gets to join the militia. It all takes place over about 24 hours, and not much of interest happens. Most of the women are super background and wearing very butter-churny sacks; love interest Ruth needs to put her hair up, but otherwise, meh. — Kendra
When, oh when, will a good version of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla be made? Because this ain’t it. Not vampiric, just vaguely weird, with boring costumes. — Trystan
Harmony Lane (1935)
The life of composer Stephen Foster, raging alcoholic, who ripped off Black musicians via minstrel shows to make a name for himself. Well, that’s what I got out of this movie. It’s free to watch on the Internet Archive, if you’re curious. — Trystan
The House of Eliott (1991-1994)
We already have Kendra’s mini-review of this series, but folks go wild about it when we post pix, so I thought I’d watch it for a full review and take screencaps ‘n stuff. But it felt distinctly MEH to me, and the costumes were just FINE nothing special. What am I missing here? — Trystan
Maybe it was fabulous compared to other crap in the early 1990s? I don’t remember! — Kendra
Life in Squares (2015)
I wanted to like this miniseries about sisters, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, and the whole Bloomsbury set, but it was slow-going while also fast-talking. I was only sporadically interested in the plot, and there was minimal in the way of 1900s costuming to interest me. — Trystan
Madame du Barry (1934)
We’ve raved about Orry-Kelly’s designs — and yes, they are gorgeous — and bemoaned how hard it is to find this film starring Dolores del Rio as King Louis XV’s mistress. Well, I found it, and meh? Del Rio tra-la-la’s her way through being a historical manic pixie dream girl, Louis XV is all jovial creepy uncle, Marie Antoinette is snooty from the start. About the only interesting performance (besides del Rio) is Verree Teasdale as the Duchesse de Granmont. I think the main problem is I couldn’t find it in high res, so I couldn’t see the costumes clearly enough. — Kendra
Mourning Becomes Electra (1949)
Based on the Eugene O’Neill play which is, in turn, based on Greek tragedies, this movie has a labyrinthine plot full of hateful characters. That, plus hoopskirts post-Civil War made me lose interest fast. — Trystan
Aretha Franklin IS a genius, and her life seems really interesting, and Jennifer Hudson is super talented … but somehow this biopic didn’t really help me to understand the singer’s life any better. I think the difficulty is in that there’s some mystery around the core pain in Franklin’s life, which the film has to be fuzzy about because no one knows the truth … but then that makes it harder to understand her. I don’t know. It’s not terrible! It’s pretty good! — Kendra
The Underground Railroad (2021)
I tried, and maybe I’ll come back to it. But the gruesome first episode was enough. It felt very “eat your vegetables” to watch that — here’s the horrors of slavery in HD detail. It can only get better from there, I hope, but I’m not especially engaged enough to find out. — Trystan
The War of the Worlds (2019)
This was the BBC three-part version set in the Edwardian era with Eleanor Tomlinson, Rafe Spall, and no costumes of note. It’s just a post-apocalyptic thing but vaguely 1900s, and I just couldn’t get into it. — Trystan
The Vineyard aka La Templanza (2021)
Where’s the wine? This telenovela promised shenanigans based around a family winery but I got nothing but cheesy mid-Victorian costumes and some not-very-racy romantic longings. MEH. — 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?