SNARK WEEK: Oh the Strange Subtitled Frock Flicks You’ll Find

48

Support Frock Flicks with a small donation! During Snark Week and beyond, we’re grateful for your small, one-time contributions via PayPal or monthly pledges for exclusive content via Patreon to offset the costs of running this site. You can even buy our T-shirts and swag. Think of this like supporting public broadcasting, but with tons of swearing and no tax deductions!

 

I’m not saying America and Great Britain are the only places where historically accurate costume dramas are made (aw hell no!), but I have noticed that the non-English-language frock flicks that are imported to my streaming services are especially low-budget looking. Other countries may have amazing big-budget historical costume TV shows, but they’re not exporting them to Netflix and Amazon!

Maybe the storytelling is brilliant and filled with subtle, nuanced, award-quality acting. Perhaps these series are shedding light on fascinating parts of world history and literature hitherto unknown. I haven’t watched any of them, so I have no idea. Because this is Snark Week, and all we care about right now is poking fun at crappy historical costuming, and any interest in subtlety goes right out the window, bitches! Defend ’em if you must, but you’ll have to admit these things look pretty shitty.

Thus, here are some clunkers you can find right now, in 2020, to mock for yourself…

 

Find these frock flicks on Amazon, if you dare:

 

The Adventures of Captain Alatriste (2013–2015)

Set during the 17th century in Spain, this is a swashbuckling series full of leather doublets, long hair, and poly baroque satin!

Capitan Alatriste (2013)

Our hero, Diego Alatriste, he of the contractually obligated leather & open shirt!

Capitan Alatriste (2013)

But he’s not the only one wielding a sword. The corset is a nice shape, but oi, that’s really gotta chafe!

Capitan Alatriste (2013)

How many historical eras can you spot referenced in this dress?

Capitan Alatriste (2013)

Who’s a pretty pretty princess?

 

Isabel (2011–2014)

This series covers the life of Isabella I of Castile from 1461 to 1474, and while I’m totally into the topic, the costumes leave something to be desired. Cue the sad trombones.

Isabel (2011–2014)

This is not an era when princess seams would be used.

Isabel (2011–2014)

But at least that gown was somewhat fitted — so much of the series costumes are saggy & sloppy!

Isabel (2011–2014)

Or just wtf — I mean, really, is this the 1950s?

Isabel (2011–2014)

Obligatory note about bad hair.

Isabel (2011–2014)

Yeah, I’m crying too.

Isabel (2011–2014) snark 'History's first human tampon'

Per previous Snark Weeks.

 

 

Love in Chains (2019)

I’m not sure exactly when this Ukranian series is set, just sometime mid 19th century. It was hugely popular, and money was spent!

Love in Chains (2019)

The promo poster looks cheezoid.

Love in Chains (2019)

But maybe this is why it was so popular?

Love in Chains (2019)

Or this?

Love in Chains (2019)

Because otherwise, ugh, doilies. But, I guess, tits, so…

Love in Chains (2019)

Cold shoulders. And more tits.

Love in Chains (2019)

Crazy hair. Crazy fabric. Shit that doesn’t fit. Also, tits!

 

 

Queens: The Virgin and the Martyr  (2017)

Folks, I’ve watched the whole thing (only one on this list!) and tried for the past two Snark Weeks to write a full blog post about it. But I can’t, it’s so bad! As someone who loves the Elizabethan period and is steeped in QEI and MQoS history, this telenovela version makes me throw up in my mouth.

Queens / Reinas (2016)

I mentioned this in my skirt-hiking post. Also, the ladies-in-waiting are wearing giant 1860s-style hoopskirts, plus Mary is wearing a lavender Victorian-ish riding jacket.

Queens (2016) - Snark Week

Let’s review past Snark Weeks…

Queens (2016) - Snark Week

The other half could be solved by fabric choices.

Queens (2016) - Snark Week

Because that’s not how a wired ruff works.

Queens (2016) - Snark Week

Mary Queen of Scots as a blonde, ugh.

 

 

 

Find these frock flicks on Netflix, if you dare:

 

The Bonfire of Destiny (2019)

I may yet watch this series set in 1897 Paris, and I can’t quite tell if it’s serious or snarkable. Cruising through it quickly doesn’t reveal enough costume content. But I’m not encouraged by this:

The Bonfire of Destiny (2019)

WTfrock is with the chicks in prom dresses in this promo image?!?

The Bonfire of Destiny (2019)

And then the blonde wears a French braid for most of the series.

The Bonfire of Destiny (2019)

I’m not saying the style was never worn in the 1890s, but it was NOT the prevailing fashion.

 

 

Bolívar (2019)

A history of General Simón Bolívar, who helped liberate several Latin American countries from Spain. The series starts around 1802, and omg, the costumes are so low-budget, I kept checking the production date to see if the flick was first released in the 1970s.

Bolívar (2019)

The face on the bridesmaid at Bolívar’s wedding is priceless!

Bolívar (2019)

Newlywed’s dress from Wish? Or Amazon? Or a thrift store?

Bolívar (2019)

Don’t worry, the men’s costumes are just as shitty!

 

 

Cathedral of the Sea (2017)

Set in 14th-century Barcelona, I haven’t looked too deeply into this series just because the subject matter looks boring. Can’t even tell if there’s enough to snark!

Cathedral of the Sea (2017)

It might be a little shiny…

Cathedral of the Sea (2017)

Or it could be a lot of mud & pigs!

 

 

La Esclava Blanca (2016)

This has been on my watch-list for a while, but I fear the costumes are gonna suck! Set in 1821 Columbia, it’s about a white girl raised among formerly enslaved black people, and they all get revenge on the slavers, so could be cool. But will I be so distracted by these shitty costumes that I can’t deal?

La Esclava Blanca (2016)

I question the taste level here.

La Esclava Blanca (2016)

Is he a circus ringmaster?

La Esclava Blanca (2016)

Is she wearing her mom’s clothes?

 

 

Eugenie Nights (2018)

We often say if a costume drama can’t get an early 20th-century period right, then they’re really fucking it up. Well, take a look at this series set in 1940s Port Said, Egypt. Someone apparently thinks 1940s = cheap fascinator on the side of a woman’s head.

Eugenie Nights (2018)

Zero attempt at 1940s hair.

Eugenie Nights (2018)

Wearing gloves doesn’t not make up for the utter lack of period details.

Eugenie Nights (2018)

Historical costume fail.

 

 

Filinta (2015)

This murder-mystery series set in 19th-century Istanbul confounds me with low-budget costumes made of shitty materials.

Filinta (2014)

That’s some shiny paisley poly baroque satin on her. Plus he should button up his damn shirt.

Filinta (2014)

Ugh, hair.

Filinta (2014)

You don’t see panne velvet suits in the 19th-century much, do you?

 

 

High Seas (2019)

There’s only been one season of this murder-mystery set on luxury ship traveling from Spain to Brazil in 1940s, but it’s already renewed for two more seasons. Despite these costumes.

High Seas (2019)

In this promo poster, I see maybe two 1940s hairstyles, & I supposes the ship uniforms are kind of period.

High Seas (2019)

These costumes aren’t bad, but the hair is annoying. Just because you’re on a ship doesn’t mean beachy waves are appropriate.

High Seas (2019)

Both of these dresses are from ModCloth or Amazon, & not even “retro-inspired” styles.

High Seas (2019)

HOW IS THIS 1940S FORMALWEAR?

 

 

Thieves of the Wood (2019)

Set in 1747 Flanders, I think we should task Kendra with watching this one! It might be what Frontier (2016-2018) wishes it was — part grubby bandits in nature, part pretty ladies in 18th-century gowns. It might actually be good or so bad it’s good, I can’t tell!

Thieves of the Wood (2019)

Part “ew!”

Thieves of the Wood (2019)

Part “yay?”

 

 

What subtitled frock flicks are you watching on Amazon or Netflix?

 

So much to snark - Donate to Frock Flicks!

48 Responses

  1. Nzie

    I need to finish the second season of that Russian Catherine the Great series. And a. friend keeps recommending this one set in Azerbaijan I think that’s on Netflix?

    I dug around Russian language internet and the Russian wiki says Love in Chains is set in 1856. Who could tell from Generic 19thC Dress, I’ve no idea, but… shrug.

    For the Colombian set show, I have worked with a number of people from Latin America and I wonder if the dresses are supposed to reflect the embroidery traditions there? I still think the lace is super iffy and it doesn’t look like items I’ve seen, but I can’t speak with any authority on it.

    Reply
  2. Cheryl from Maryland

    As for Alatriste consider the 2006 film with Viggo Mortensen as the title character for non Snark week. The film didn’t spare expense and shows off Mortensen film combat skills and ability to speak Spanish , as well as having production values heavily influenced by Velazquez’s period paintings. One can watch it on youtube –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SX-y87nmZnc.

    Reply
  3. Kate D

    When I first checked the movie “Young Goethe in Love” out of the library, I didn’t realize it was in German. The first few minutes had no dialogue, so when the characters started speaking I went, “oh dear, gonna need subtitles!”

    It’s been a few years since I saw it, but I think I enjoyed Lotte’s dresses in that movie! Plus I loved her spunk! She was so much more “liberated” and knew her own mind better than most women in modern American chick flicks. And yet she worked within the norms of her time.

    I tried to watch the 2011 Dostoevsky miniseries, but only made it through one episode. Lots of time in prison, not many interesting costumes to speak of. I love his writings, but this miniseries was just meh to me.

    A Royal Affair was great. I really enjoyed the plot and couldn’t believe how much of it was true! Great dresses on Alicia Vikander.

    Reply
    • Damnitz

      Do you mean that mix of young Goethe’s life and the Werther-novel?

      Great actors, even if the costumes were not all really nice. But I would aprove it as a German production to be a good one (compared to many other).

      The film had the title “Goethe!” in German.
      We saw many movies about Goethe and Schiller in the last decade. Maybe you know “Die geliebten Schwestern”. It’s similar, with a lot of fictional aspects.

      Reply
      • Kate D

        Yes! I had just read the Sorrows of Young Werther (so emo! It was hard not to laugh at some parts. It’s a shame it inspired so many suicides!), so I recognized those plot elements from Werther and doubted most of them happened in Goethe’s life.

        I haven’t seen Die geliebten schwestern/Beloved Sisters yet. Did you like it?

        Reply
        • Damnitz

          As a German production it was OK. Some elements were very odd. I visited Rudolstadt, where Schiller met Goethe, for several occassions and I found it very confusing that they used the Palace (Heidecksburg) as the palace in Weimar, the palace of Rudolstadt and even the university of Jena. Especially the Scene at the university is looking very strange with that grand hall of the Rudolstadt palace (maybe one of the best example of such a room in the rococo style in Europe). The costumes in some places were very odd and looked like stolen from cheap theater fleemarkets, especially when the Story continued into the regency period. The best aspect of the film was the beginning with these really authentic looking landscape near Rudolstadt (which Schiller really loved, Goethe made some drawings of this landscape). I think, that it is nothing for Schiller/Goethe-purists.

          I remember that a friend of us, who admire Goethe, hated the “Goethe!” film about the young Goethe.
          I think that “Goethe!” reflected more an Image of Goethe, which he maybe loved to create himself. Some aspects are just wrong. Goethe was in Wetzlar during the vacation of the Imperial Chamber Court. Therefore most of Goethe’s own observations about that important Institution were completely wrong. And the movie did nothing better, as it missed what the task of that court was (mostly to solve conflicts of German estates vs. German estates or subjects vs. their rulers).
          I liked the Scenes when Goethe and his rival were working in the archives.
          I thought that it was a shame, that they didn’t filmed the first Scenes in Strasbourg. Strasbourg has such a different City than this town, which you can see in the movie (perhaps they used Görlitz again, with those typical Silesian Renaissance/Baroque buildings!).
          I thought that it had a nice silly (but endearing silly – you know) touch, when they introduced the Werther-clothing by Lotte’s accident. :-D (Although it’s not logical at all, as the actor of Werther’s/Goethe’s friend is a lot smaller than Goethe/Werther in this movie and you may wonder how his suit fits Werther/Goethe. :-D )

          Reply
  4. Gosia

    Not all costumes in “Love in Chains” were so shitty like those on the pictures you have shown. However, it’s true that many were bad. But would like to know, which ones were good. Sorry for bothering you again, but can you write a more detailed review of “Love in Chains”, please, please :-)?

    Reply
  5. Jutte

    Tried watching The Bonfire of Destiny just because English dubbing was available so I could spend my time watching the action rather than reading subtitles. Wasn’t worth the effort. It is very loosely based on an historical incident but needn’t have been. Meh.

    Reply
  6. Alicia

    Man, I tried Cathedral of the Sea, but it starts with rape in the form of droit de seigneur, and I just absolutely checked out.

    Reply
    • Nzie

      Yikes. Gross. Also, does anyone know how common that was? I feel like things that seem really strange to us today stand out and then get incorporated into historical dramas, but maybe they were also weird then? I have a hard time imagining highly religious societies where sex inside and outside marriage was highly regulated uniformly being like, oh yeah, this sacrament is totally violable by landowners.

      Reply
      • Alicia

        I doubt a member of the nobility would have been stopped from doing it, but I really don’t think it was a regular habit among any group. The last time I read about it, the author argued it was a misinterpretation of the money a seed paid to his lord for the right to marry

        Reply
        • Nzie

          That makes sense. Yeah, stopping nobility would’ve been hard, but it seems unlikely to have been that regular/common. Maybe in some areas it was normalized, but it is the sort of thing you could get in reach trouble with the church with, and the church would have some clout to put an end to things.

          Reply
      • Miriam

        Droit du seigneur is widely regarded to be a myth. No solid primary evidence of it occurring has ever been cited.

        Reply
  7. Shashwat

    Dis these productions really have costume designers,or some over enthusiastic Halloween party organizers?

    Reply
  8. Damnitz

    Oh no, I just finally had forgotten that Alastriste-stuff.

    The series was thought to benefit from the success of the larger movie (which had his stupid moments for his own). As the larger movie (with the clunky mix of episodes of the books), had some success, the responsibles for the series maybe assumed that modern shirts with these pleats as on your photo here are looking extremely Spanish.

    I can remember that I saw the first episode on Arte, where it was praised as “super authentic” etc.. What on earth! It’s not only the costumes. The whole storyline is so stupid and on top of that, it was so boring!

    I’m waiting for your review of that French series “Rani”. Set in the 1740s, that is really dumb. Not only the storyline with tons of stereotypes, but with such one dimensional acting. How could the great Jean-Hughues Anglade ever find in this production?

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      I actually had a Snark Week post titled “Rani: So Many Questions!” just based on promo photos because I couldn’t figure out WTfrock was going on. But I decided to skip it since I couldn’t find the series anywhere to even give it a brief look. I think I saved the pix tho, so maybe next Snark Week :)

      Reply
      • Damnitz

        Great News!

        The series was presented on Arte and later I saw it on dailymotion.

        There are so many aspects, that it truely would be a jewel for every Snark Week! Maybe something like a modern Version of these old “Angelique”-films, with “a hot damsel in distress” fighting villains and is accompanied by some pretty fools. Some cruelty and sex and crime in a combination with madness are a horrible mix.

        Reply
  9. Alexander Sanderson

    Is the guy in the panne velvet from Filinta wearing a car seat belt?!?! Was that even a thing in the 19th Century??? And the mens costume pic from Bolivar… hilarious! WHAT A WIG and all the guys looking like they’ve escaped from some cheap kids TV programme – how I’ve chuckled!

    Reply
  10. LisaS

    On Netflix I could only get through about 3 minutes of the series “Always a Witch”: that is contemporary set with supposed flashbacks to Colombia in 1646. But just a couple of scenes in I realized I’d go stark raving raging if I watched further. The teaser trailer here may have some of these costume crimes https://www.netflix.com/title/80205595

    Reply
  11. Jenno

    I’ll have you know that that third picture from The Adventures of Captain Alatriste, where she looks like her arms are wrapped in bacon, is entirely historically accurate from the period circa 2010 when Lady Gaga wore her meat dress. OK, well, it’s not exactly a whole period, more like an hour, but yeah. Accurate.

    Reply
    • Nzie

      Gosh, in 200 years there’s going to be some historic drama set in the 2000s and they’ll think we all dressed like Kardashians and Gagas and Hipster Brooklynites. I’m glad I’ll be dead by then!

      Reply
  12. Dawn

    Okay, the following comment shouldn’t come across as me defending these costumes… because I’m not (I mean… who could). Just wanted to sort of excuse the Spanish productions listed here. Mind you, not really excuse, but explain as someone with some first hand knowledge. In Spain there is no such thing as a real film industry due to very long political reasons (which might include the very real and felt consequences of a dictatorship that existed up until 1975). The two biggest audiovisual production companies are TV companies, and their budgets are not even a third of any BBC show. So, the answer is “yes, there is no money put into them and that’s why they all look like they bought their costumes at party city”.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      If these were all 10+ years ago productions, it’d be more excusable. But compare with ‘Cable Girls’ or ‘Morocco: Love in Times of War’ or ‘The Time in Between’ — Spanish-produced TV series that we’ve reviewed on the site & all of which look pretty decent in terms of costumes. Now those are all 20th-c. productions so sure it’s easier, but it’s also easy to fuck up (see above ;) ). And series like ‘Isabel’ & ‘Cathedral of the Sea’ seem to have thrown money at the screen (great locations, cinematography, shiny fabrics), but missed the mark in costume execution.

      Also, Snark Week!

      Reply
  13. Kathryn MacLennan

    The Bonfire of Destiny had potential, but they ramped up the drama too much, and that french braid was so annoying! I was like, hey, yes, let’s explore this interesting historical event I’ve never heard of before, and the writers were like no that’s not DRAMATIC enough!

    Reply
  14. Kaite Fink

    So that last teal dress from ‘Love in Chains,’ all I can see is that the squiggles on the skirt look like sperm to me. The worst of all this seems to be the extremely poor fit of most of the clothes. I’m guessing they skipped using the correct undergarments to save costs?

    Reply
  15. Coco

    I tried watching “Isabel” a few years ago and had to stop due to her sparkly eyeshadow.
    After “Love in Chains,” which I found entertaining, the Amazon algorithm recommended another soap that seemed like it had exactly the same plot but maybe a third of the budget. I think it was called “Once a Mistress” and I lasted less than ten minutes.

    Reply
  16. Sisi

    The most I can defend Bonfire of Destiny is to say that the prom dresses from that promo were never in the show, not that the actual outfits are too great (and the hair… we can forget about that) I did like it though, and I knew I was singing up for cranked up drama.

    Reply
  17. Nico

    I watched the first episode of Bonfire of destiny which was quite successful in France.
    It’s based on a true event and they give a quite realistic and horrifying version of this fire which killed 120 upperclass women (inclusing Sissi’s sister). But all the feminist themes sound faux and that’s translated into the hair and the way of speaking and acting which read 21st century and not all 1897

    Reply
  18. Brandy Loutherback

    I was so annoyed at Most Beautiful Thing on Netflix!, 1. The title isn’t grammatically accurate! 2. There are 0 attempts at Late 1950’s/Early 1960’s hairstyles!!!

    Reply
  19. Charity

    Me: yay, new costume dramas on Netflix!
    Me five seconds later: ugh, you mean I have to read subtitles? I’M TOO LAZY FOR THIS.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      You’re not the only one! And it’s worse when I’m trying to review it for Frock Flicks bec. I sometimes have my laptop open & am making notes as I watch, but I can’t read the screen & write at the same time. Too hard :(

      Reply
      • Mizdema

        Speaking about hell, she explains that many costumes had to actually burn for the famous fire scene.

        Reply
  20. Muriel

    Watched Bonfires of Destiny. The costumes were actually decent (glaring exception leading lady blond suffering from leading lady hairstyle and lack of hats) but they really cranked up the melodrama, handled the feminist theme with a heavy, unsubtle, and way too modern take (and there were great French feminists to draw from such as the great Louise Michel or Hubertine Auclerc), and finally added a moustache-twirling villain to avoid any real exploration of class divide.
    I’d still recommend watching the first episode who really pulled its weight in the reconstruction of the event (the fire at the Bazar de la Charite) and then read about it online (it was a huge shock in France and had a great cultural impact in the pre-WW1 years)

    Reply
  21. HeidLea

    Season 2 of “High Seas” is now on Netflix. I binge watched it last June while I was in Oakland taking care of my ex’s cats (long story). It’s basically a telenovella dubbed in English (though, I can tell from the actresses faces that the Spanish dialogue is probably WAY more passionate). The costumes are an attempt at 1940s, and some of the female characters are fairly modern, it’s sometimes pretty. I mean, the story gets pretty out there, and I haven’t watched season 2, because I know I’m going to binge it again and I don’t have that kind of time.

    Reply
  22. Zuz

    I accidentaly watched one random episode of Love in Chains in which a girl mentioned she is going to study medicine in Zurich, cause they started accepting women. I checked it (wondering when this weird thing is supposed to take place). It was, according to the university’s webside, in 1866. So i guess it’s late 1860s.

    Reply

Feel the love

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.