Here at Frock Flicks HQ, we spend a lot of time working through our backlogs on Netflix, Amazon Prime, TiVo (especially Turner Movie Classics), and some, ehem, other sources where we watch historical costume movies and TV shows. We’ll even go out to a theater to see a movie some days. Alas, not every flick set in the past is worth our time (though check our our archives of reviews by using the search box!).
We gotta tell ya: There are a lot of crappy historical costume movies and TV shows out there! Not everything’s bad enough for Snark Week — some is just weak tea. These are boring movies, the dull shows, the ones with mediocre 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, here’s a continuing 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!
Call the Midwife (2012-)
Yes, it has great female-centered stories so you think it’d be perfect Frock Flicks material. But the fashions of lower-class 1950s London (plus lots of nun’s habits and nurse uniforms) bore me to tears. I’m out. — Trystan
I made it through half an episode? I’m a heathen! — Kendra
Still haven’t bothered, because meh. — Sarah
Despite the Amazon Prime description, this movie is just woo-woo New Age schlock with no real attempt at medieval costuming and not a ‘feminist retelling of the King Arthur legend.’ Skip. — Trystan
Where’s MST3K when you need them? — Sarah
Surprisingly not as culturally insensitive as it could be, but also a totally boring story of Christian missionaries (featuring Julie Andrews) colonizing the islands while wearing polyester. Me and Turner Movie Classics get weird sometimes. — Trystan
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
A huge percentage of my friend group LOVES this movie, and so I was expecting something amazing. It didn’t live up to any of the hype. I have a whole bunch of notes typed up for an article about this flick, but I got halfway through and just gave up because meh. I am told that I need to watch the director’s cut, but that still doesn’t fix the fact that the costumes are really not that interesting. — Sarah
Masters of Sex (2013- )
I actually watched at least the whole first season of this show in an attempt to find a Mad Men replacement. It’s no comparison, but it’s decently well made and acted, and the mid-century costumes are well done. I will say that it’s surprisingly non-erotic to watch people have sex in a clinical setting! — Kendra
Was def. expecting more sex. :( — Sarah
Mrs. Brown (1997)
Judi Dench is fabulous as always, don’t get me wrong. And Billy Connolly is fine as Queen Victoria’s highlander pal. It’s just not much of a costume film per se, given that most everything is plain black mourning garb. Worth a watch, just not a write-up. — Trystan
I saw this when it first came out and remembered liking it, but not loving it. Haven’t managed to get around to re-watching, which probably tells you something. — Sarah
Saints & Strangers (2015)
I made it about 15 minutes into this National Geographic Channel TV miniseries about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans in 17th-century America. All I know is that everyone’s costumes seemed to be dyed with mud (brown brown and more brown), and there were a lot of depressed-looking people yelling at each other in the hold of a ship. YAWN. — Kendra
Lordy, where do I start? This taps into my goth vibe like whoa, because I would TOTALLY wear anything the lead witch, Janet Montgomery, wears, and just to go grocery shopping. But I’m annoyed because these costumes, while gorgeously elaborate, are a mishmash of historical eras and don’t fit a 17th-century Massachusetts colony at all. The story wavers between serious horror and campy soap opera and just can’t commit. Also, the main male character / love interest is super annoying. — Trystan
Parade’s End (2012)
I actively disliked watching this story of the breakup of a couple who never should have gotten married — he’s a WWI soldier, she’s a cold-hearted bitch — and the young suffragette that he’s in love with. It was relentlessly depressing. I have no memory of liking the costumes, but now every time I see a still image I go “oooo” — what gives? Side note: why does a young woman wear a bobbed hairstyle during World War I? — Kendra
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?
Call the Midwife is actually a really good show. You should give it a try.
I know, everyone loves it! Gah!
All three Frock Flickers gave it a pass!
It is good, but halfway through the first season there was an episode so dark I quit watching for awhile (the one with the girl on the ship, her father the captain was pimping her out to the sailors). A realistic show but my God it can be gut-wrenching.
I got as far as the illegal abortion that nearly killed the mother. I couldn’t watch after that- I have enough dark in my life as it is TYVM, and I really don’t need to do it for enjoyment.
Bobs were worn by dress reformers quite early in the 19th century already (see e.g. Dressed for the photographer by Joan Severa), and in the 1910s, especially during WWI, became fashionable- at the time in America because of Irene Castle or so the legend says. But a lot of other famous people of the era also bobbed their hair. Examples are Polaire (I have postcards of her from before 1910 with short hair) and Annie Bos, the Dutch silent film star. I find it difficult to decide for that series whether it was exactly the sort of thing a political young lady would wear, or whether it would be already too fashionable and dashing by the time WWI happened, though.
Yeah, the bob certainly existed pre-1920s — it’s just that it seems to have a been a very rare style worn by very specific women. My research looking at college women in the US (obviously a different country/demographic) shows that they really didn’t start bobbing their hair until 1920-21, and even then it was a BIG deal when they did.
You’re right there. The character in the series is really politically active and progressive, so I think they used it to signify that. I looked into it and very short hair was definitely a thing among pacifists and anarchists so. I somehow thought they all looked like Rosa Luxemburg and that bobbed hair was for the demimonde but there you are. It seems accurate to me.
Okay, I’ll buy it then!
Yeah, I was going to point out that Irene Castle supposedly bobbed hers in 1912.
Hawaii is pretty much of a yawner- got dragged to it as a kid and bored then, bored now when I recently re-watched it. Yep, polyester central… :-)
Kingdom of Heaven wasn’t bad as an action movie although it played pretty fast and loose with the historical record and the plot was improbable in a number of places. I don’t know enough about the period to comment on the costuming but outside of the battle scenes, it’s a bit of a drag.
and I love love love the book, so it was very disappointing
While I totally love Call The Midwife, I have to agree about the costumes being too boring for words. I’m watching for the story, not the clothes.
The costumes generally aren’t anything to write home about in Call the Midwife (though I do love The London’s purple and white nurse uniforms), but you all should definitely give the show another chance. I honestly think it’s the best show on TV right now. All the characters are fantastic, and the storyline has really held up over all the seasons. I can’t recommend this show highly enough, and I’m excited to watch a new episode every Sunday.
Oh yes the puff sleeves on the London’s nurse uniforms!
I agree with Rebecca, Elizabeth and Broughps — Call the Midwife is a good show, yes the costumes are often uniforms or nun habits but the middle and lower class clothing is perfectly done — and I think the stories are interesting. You can record it and ‘fast forward’ through the weekly births — I know that many people don’t like that part of the stories, but hey, it’s a story about midwifes, there has to be an occasional birth. Your site is very powerful and affects the viewing of many people. This season the nurses even got new “stylish” uniforms so I do believe the costumes are worthy of Frock Flicks recognition.
When I saw the description on Netflix I thought Salem was going to be a serious show about the causes and impacts of the witch trials (a la the Crucible). Then I watched 5 minutes and it was oversexualized fantasy drek. I was genuinely disappointed.
Mrs. Brown is a fantastic film! It’s such a different kind of love story. True, it’s pretty blah costume-wise, but story-wise it’s amazing.
I totally agree about Parade’s End. It was so tedious and dull. I couldn’t get through it.
I’m not sure the adaption of Parade’s End was so successful but it has a lot more texture and nuance (dramatically wise) than anything I’ve seen in Downton Abbey, for example. The costumes are gorgeous though, there’s even a copy of a Poirot coat in it!!
The 2015 Cinderella. (iwatchedafreepiratedownloadofitandIwantedarefundwhenIwasfinished) I was also not impressed with it costume-wise.
I was so glad we saw the 2015 Cinderella at the drive in because all we did throughout the whole thing was quote Ever After. :DDD
Dear God! How could anyone endure that movie?
I love Call the Midwife, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Salem is… beyond horrible. I didn’t know whether to gag or laugh uproariously over the two episodes I watched.
The only thing about “PARADE’S END” that I actually enjoyed was Rebecca Hall’s performance as the cold wife. Otherwise, I found it hard to get interested in Benedict Cumberbatch’s growing obsession with the virginal and highly idealized suffragette.
I’m not sure the adaption of Parade’s End was so successful but it has a lot more texture and nuance (dramatically wise) than anything I’ve seen in Downton Abbey, for example.
I have to agree. I may not have loved “PARADE’S END”. But as a story, it was a masterpiece in compare to the mediocrity of “DOWNTON ABBEY”.
I seem to be the only reader who adores ‘Parade’s End’ – characters, costumes, story, music, the lot! Perhaps reading the books helps when it comes to understanding the characters’ motivations (although the main explanation for all three leads’ behaviour is basically that they’re extremely maladapted people). It’s definitely not a casual watch or read, but for me it was well worth the investment.
Costumes-wise, I really did love the clothes they dressed Rebecca Hall in, so I’ll hold out some hope that you might cover a few of them one day. :3
I love Call the Midwife. It’s true the costumes are not exciting, but the show is great. I also loved Mrs. Brown. I wholeheartedly detest Salem–I expected to find something to like because I love gothic, horror, the history of Salem, and camp is a show commits. But there was NOTHING to like. Not even fun to mock, and that’s saying something.
Ugh..IF a show commits
My cousin has been trying to get me to watch Call the Midwife for years. I saw 5 minutes of it and was totally meh. Ever since then I haven’t been able to muster up the drive to watch a full episode. I’m in the camp of people that loves Kingdom of Heaven. Mrs. Brown was a solid–if at times boring–movie. Judi Dench and Billy Connolly were perfectly cast. I never watched Salem, but it’s always been on my maybe one day list. I’ve never heard of Parade’s End before, but the dress Rebecca Hall is wearing in the picture you posted is absolutely beautiful.
I always suppose Scott was so forced to shorten the Kingdom of Heaven so he cut off some essential parts. There is impossible to watch the movie in the cinema version and understand the plot😁