Oh the Bad Movies & TV You’ll Watch!


Each of us at Frock Flicks HQ have access to Netflix, Amazon Prime, broadcast TV (including Turner Movie Classics), and some, ehem, other sources to watch historical costume movies and TV shows. Hey, we can even see movies at the old-fashioned theater with live people ‘n stuff! So we spend a lot of time in front of a screen, attempting to watch our backlogged 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 crappy 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 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, 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!


The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
This is what Google does to you — At some point, searching around online, I saw a photo of a really cool, authentic-looking women’s Italian renaissance costume that was labeled as from the movie The Agony and the Ecstasy. I thought, dayum, I need to see that flick! Super Meh. If that costume was in the movie, I missed it because I fell asleep. And now I can’t find the original photo. Fucking Google. — Trystan


The Devil’s Violinist (2013)

The Devil's Violinist (2013)
Long-haired guy plays really good violin but is an asshole. Sleeps around. Doesn’t pay his hotel bills. The end.  — Trystan

Does he not own a comb? — Kendra

Stringy hair is symbolic of man’s inhumanity to man. — Trystan


Gangs of New York (2002)

2002 Gangs of New York
Daniel Day Lewis is awesome and stuff. Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t totally annoy me for once. Cameron Diaz is inexplicably in this movie, and I can’t figure out why. Beyond that, it looks like Sam Peckinpah filmed a weekend at the Dickens Fair. — Sarah

Endless meat cleavers in people’s heads. — Kendra


The Good Shepherd (2006)

The Good Shepherd (2006)
It’s nothing against this movie, which has a spectacular cast and a great plot, but there is pretty much zilch here to discuss costume-wise. Just because a movie is set in a historical period, doesn’t mean it has interesting costumes. — Sarah


The King’s Thief (1955)

The King's Thief (1955)
Proof that not all swashbuckling historical romances with costumes by Walter Plunkett are a good time. Set in Charles II’s England, there’s the requisite sword-fighting and fancy dresses, but it’s dull as bricks. — Trystan


The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
This movie is like fondant — really gorgeous to look at, but leaves a weird, sticky, plasticky taste in your mouth. Leonardo DiCaprio dials it in as King Louis and his twin bro, while a bunch of incredibly talented actors (Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gerald Depardieu, Gabriel Byrne) are totally useless, as are the beautiful 17th-century costumes by James Acheson— Trystan


Marco Polo (2014-)

Marco Polo (2014-)
I wrote about this as an upcoming feature because there was so much buzz, and I wanted to give it a chance. And while the first episode was totally elaborate thanks to a massive budget, the story felt pretty unoriginal. Buh-bye. — Trystan


Murdoch Mysteries / The Artful Detective (2008-)

Murdoch Mysteries / The Artful Detective (2008-)
You guys love this one, I know. You’ve suggested it countless times here and on social media. I watched one episode, but I just don’t have anything to say about it because a) it’s a murder-mystery and that’s not my thing, and b) the costumes, while fine for the period, didn’t capture my attention. A thousand apologies! Surely there’s a Murdoch fan blogger out there who can satisfy you. — Trystan


Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Sherlock Holmes (2009)
I know that this franchise’s fans are legion. I, too, love the shit out of a good Robert Downey, Jr. flick. And, to be honest, I enjoyed these quite a bit. But they veers too close to steampunk which is SO NOT MY THING. — Sarah

This photo shows the best costume in this movie, FWIW. — 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?

37 Responses

  1. Charity

    Marco Polo is boring me. I gave it two and a half episodes. No one ever developed a personality. I hear it gets better later on but … do I want to invest hours of my time just to find out? :P

    • Broughps

      It does get better later on if you skip the Marco parts and just watch the Chinese characters.

      • Charity

        Shouldn’t a show CALLED Marco Polo have an INTERESTING Marco Polo?

        The writing disconnect there just shocks me.

        • Broughps

          I was very surprised that Marco ended up being the least interesting character when the show was suppose to be about him.

    • Cassidy

      I know people hate being told things like this, but I SWEAR it gets better after the first four episodes. Those writers never come back, and it’s a ton less male gazey.

        • Cassidy

          I halfway suspect that they used the scripts for those episodes to get Netflix to pick it up (or maybe they were originally gunning for HBO). But it was a terrible decision on their part not to totally rewrite them.

          • silveryrow

            Marco Polo’s an odd one; it both gets better and worse as it goes on. Polo is insanely annoying – bland and flat – and admitted by the creators to be included solely as an introduction to eastern history for western viewers. I struggled to get into it, but the lavish costumes and several intriguing characters had me continue, despite the usual playing fast-and-loose with history (who doesn’t like a blind kung fu monk?), only one or two Mongolian actors in a cast of mainly Mongolian characters, and not being filmed in Mongolia.

            That being said, I don’t think the FF ladies would like it – after reading many posts, if you’d allow me to presume, I’d say it’s not their thing. ‘Male gaze’, battles, a mostly male cast, loose history, costumes outside their preferred milieu… It’s not worth it.

  2. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Stealing Heaven. Good interesting story in a historical setting but a meh for costuming.
    The Knick, how many bloody coats can you see on screen?

  3. mmcquown

    Apparently, the story in “The Devil’s Violinist” was basically true, and the music was fantastic, but the sum was NOT equal to the whole of the parts.
    “The Black Rose” was on TV recently. Made in 1950, it got an Oscar for Best Costume-Color for Michael Whittaker. But the heroine’s hair and makeup were so very 1950’s. The Asian costuming seemed spot on, but the English period stuff, with the yoked shirts….
    Unfortunately for Murdoch, early 20th century clothing just isn’t very exciting — but that’s not what the show is about. And really, if you hate a particular type of show, perhaps you should delegate the review to someone else,.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      We’ve reviewed a ton of early 20th-c costume dramas (hi, Downton Abbey!). Murdoch appears to be aiming for late 19th-c. or turn of the 20th century, which is can be a fabulous period for costuming. But the series doesn’t do much with it. If it *did* that might make up for the mysteries being meh. And none of us are super into murder-mysteries (note the dearth of coverage on the whole site), but ppl keep suggesting we review them. If the costumes are AMAZING that could make it worthwhile tho :)

    • femmefan1946

      I really like Murdoch Mysteries, especially that it reflects Canada as it slowly moves from being British to being Canadian (and the Newfoundland episodes are a hoot!), but Julia’s hair drives me nuts.
      Not only is it too 21st century messy for the period, but she’s a damn doctor. No excuse for having hair dropping all over the corpses.
      I like that the dresses repeat from episode to episode. Probably as much the low costume department budgets of Canadian TV, but also a reflection of how little clothing people owned at the time.

  4. decrepitelephone

    I’d like to suggest “Hazard of Hearts.” Where Diana Rigg dies from pure evil and Helena Bonham-Carter’s constant stinkface is in overdrive (Don’t get me wrong, I love her, but girl looks like she’s just smelled a fart ALL. THE. TIME.)

    The costuming (Regency, or a polyester version thereof) is really bad. And the acting is wretched. But it IS based on a Barbara Cartland novel so it’s to be expected.

  5. Donna

    The Robert Downey “Holmes” flicks are mildly entertaining steam punk buddy movies with inappropriately named characters. They have *nothing* to do with the masterworks of Conan Doyle.

  6. Susan Pola

    May I make a suggestion for a review? It’s the film that brought us such incredible lines as: ‘Have fun storming the castle, ‘Incredible’, ‘You seem like a decent fellow…’, ‘As you wish’ and my all-time favourite, ‘My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.’. Yes. The Princess Bride.

  7. mmcquown

    Diana Rigg and HBC in the same film? Woo-woo! Rigg was my goddess back in the Avengers days. Interestingly, some reviewer once referred to Steed as reminding him of a ‘Regency buck.’
    Murdoch started in 1895 and added a year each season. The appeal of the show for me is the inventions and the often jaundiced view of famous historical characters. And the romance between him and his wife. Alas, Dr. Grace has moved on.

  8. Cassidy

    I was so worried you were going to put the Lady and the Highwayman on this list. I was even preparing to spout some Barbara Castlemaine-ism in response. Thank goodness.

    Murdoch seemed very bland to me as well. I also need there to be some extra catch for procedurals – turn off the century clothing just isn’t enough.

  9. Becca

    The historical movie I was most recently disappointed by was Renoir (2012). Full of pointless Freudian man-pain and not worth watching for the costumes, because the main female character spends the large part of the film naked/dishabille. As far as recent artist biopics go I prefer Mr. Turner (2014).

  10. Adina

    I totally agree with Sarah, I go from mildly disinterested in steampunk to full on HATE, when it gets in the way of researching Victorian or Edwardian clothing.

  11. Jen

    “Does he not own a comb?”

    *snerk* That’s what I think every time I see Tim Minchin perform. I do love his comedy, but the man needs a comb. And conditioner.

  12. Trystan L. Bass

    Either or both – fantastic costumes can lift up a mediocre plot, while a riveting plot can make up for average costumes. But look at our intro to this post: ultimately, they’re “weak tea.”

    And it’s our opinion (bec. this is our blog!). You can judge them however you like!

  13. Lily Lotus Rose

    I was so excited for The Devil’s Violinist, and alas…so disappointed. David Garrett is a musician, not an actor. In an interview he as much admitted that he wasn’t overly concerned with the acting in this movie. He did justice to Paganini’s music, but not to his story. The Man in the Iron Mask was a hot mess–on many levels, but in my opinion the elder statesmen Musketeers saved the day! I agree with everything you said regarding Marco Polo. What a disappointment! I like some murder mystery procedurals, but Murdoch Mysteries just didn’t have an umph–costume-wise and plot-wise. Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes, I loved those movies. I never thought of the costumes as borderline steampunk, but since you pointed it out, I can totally see it. I also agree with you that Robert Downey, Jr. wearing nothing but a pillow is fabulous! I’d like to uncover that mystery, for sure!


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