Top Five Frock Flicks I Was Prepared to Hate, but Actually Loved


The Duchess (2008)

I love this shot because Keira Knightley is almost in the same exact position as the portrait of Georgiana by Gainsborough.

Oh, I was fully prepared to hate this one when it first came out. FULLY. First of all, it starred Keira Knightley, who at the time was being rammed down everyone’s throats as the “historical chick du jour” and who I think has the acting range of a puddle of stagnant water. Secondly, it looked like it was going to try to cash in on some of the hype from Marie Antoinette (2006), and I’m just not here for a blatant cash grab like that. I think I only watched this film because we recorded a podcast about it, but it didn’t take long before I was hooked.


The Three Musketeers (1993)

Oliver Platt looking like he’s about to bust out “Every Rose Has a Thorn”…

Of course there is no comparison to the 1973-1974 Three & Four Musketeers. There just isn’t. But that didn’t stop me from making my mind up as a 15-year-old that the 1993 iteration of the classic tale by Alexandre Dumas was going to flat-out suck. I ended up watching this many years after it came out and realized how good the film actually is. And the costumes … Well, they’re not the best, but if anything, that is proof that you can have mediocre costumes and historical mullets, but as long as the cast is having fun with the material, it’s a good time. I should really give this one the full Frock Flick treatment one of these days.


Lovecraft Country (2020)

I loved all of Leti’s outfits in the show.

You might be surprised to learn this, considering how I raved about the show at the time. But I was pretty skeptical that I would like it when it first came out. I’m not a big fan of the horror genre, and Lovecraft was an awful writer, so I really didn’t think I would connect with the story at all. Turns out I was way wrong, and I got sucked in immediately. I’m particularly sad that there won’t be a second season, so we will never get to find out how the story resolves.


Victoria (2016)

2016 Victoria

This dress is based on the extant dress Victoria wore when she was announced as her uncle’s successor, following his death.

The previews of the costumes when this show was being hyped were what had me really leery of it. They just looked so … costume-y. I was very skeptical that it would pass my exacting standards (LOL, “standards,” what are those?) but I knew this was going to be one of those hot new flicks that everyone in the historical costuming community would be talking about, so I steeled myself, expecting to hate it. Turns out I really liked Jenna Coleman as Victoria and even though Tom Hughes’ perpetually sullen Prince Albert was not my favorite thing ever, the rest of the cast were great and the storytelling was compelling enough to keep watching.


The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

When is Helen McCrory ever not fabulous?

Same thing happened with this one that happened with The Three Musketeers. I saw the 1970s version with Richard Chamberlain as a kid and decided that any other version that came after would just, by default, suck. So when director Kevin Reynolds released his take on Dumas, I was very prepared to just reject it out of hand. I can’t remember what convinced me to finally watch it … might have been a boyfriend who insisted it was really good, but I finally caved and was immediately sucked in.

To make matters worse, I went back and watched the Richard Chamberlain version as an adult and had to wonder if I was remembering a totally different film from the one that captured my imagination so fully in my youth. Guys, it’s bad


22 Responses

  1. florenceandtheai

    I saw that version of The Three Musketeers in the theater with my mom. I would’ve been 9 or 10. I adored it. It was the beginning of my Tim Curry crush, my fascination with Charlie Sheen’s eyebrows (they’re so expressive), and Rebecca De Mornay as Milady de Winter made me cry. Of the others, I’ve only seen The Duchess. I don’t mind Keira Knightley, but I was so put off by Ralph Fiennes as the Duke that I haven’t watched it since, gorgeous costumes notwithstanding.

  2. susan l eiffert

    YES! to Keira’s acting range. She annoys the hell out of me. I think you’ve reviewed Colette? Such bad miscasting of a fascinating figure played by your stagnant – and petulant – puddle.

  3. SamIAm

    My mom loves The Three Musketeers! She used to make us rewind it if we were watching it and she missed the part where Oliver Platt yells, “come, D’Artangen, we’re saving the king!”

    And that’s why I watch Chicago Med.

    • Jenna

      My favourite line! I bust it out when I’m going somewhere and trying to get someone to come with me, but 99% of the time nobody knows what I’m talking about.

    • Al Don

      Oliver Platt looked like he was having the time of his life with that role and I am here for it!

        • Kirstin McAulay

          Champagne… We’re in a chase…. You are right, something red….

  4. Jenna

    The 1993 Three Musketeers has been a favourite of mine since I was a kid! It used to be on TV every now and then, and I’m pretty sure there’s still a VHS copy of it somewhere at my mom’s house. Tim Curry as the cardinal is just delicious.

  5. Damnitz

    Top five flicks which I watched but thought that I would dislike them?

    “Mademoiselle de Joncquières” (2018)
    I thought that it would be very poor because I saw I French aristocrat with a beard on the photos.
    But I loved the palaces, the performance by Cécile de France and Alice Isaaz. The scénario has some changes from the book but are OK and not too modern. It’s a shame that it was not in the cinema.

    “Die unfreiwilligen Reisen des Moritz August Benjowski” (1974)
    I feared that one of the most annoying German actors of that period (Matthias Habich) would have a too big role.
    But even with some bad costumes and a somehow strange Nicole Heesters as Catherine the Great the whole story is so interesting and so full of adventure and great actors such as Günter Strack as the commander in Kamchatka. It was one of the greatest finds for me on Youtube for years.

    “Der Kurier der Kaiserin” (1968/69)
    Initially I supposed that it would be one more silly German production with wooden acting and bad costumes.
    But the series is really funny, if you can live with completely unhistorical nonsense (Prussians and Austrians as friends during the SYW)… I especially loved the final episode “Staatsstreich” (Coup d’état).

    “Old Ironsides” (1926)
    I’m not really a fan of old silent films.
    But that film is exciting and I was completely surprised because many scenes are so special on board of real ships and the final battle is just breathtaking. It’s obvious why all projects to produce a remake failed – it would be too expensive and difficult to be compared with the original film.

    “Cadet Rousselle” (1954)
    Oh yes all those old French historical movies! Jean Marais and stiff French actresses.
    But not so in “Cadet Rousselle” which is really funny and full of funny ideas on a tour de force through the French revolution. Even the costumes are not too bad for a frock-flick from that period and the buildings are nice.

    • Al Don

      “Old Ironsides” (1926)

      I love silent films, but haven’t seen this one. Based on some clips online, I definitely have to check it out! Thanks for mentioning it.

      If you liked those sort of sequences, you might check out Le miracle des loups (The Miracle of the Wolves) (1924). The end siege of Beauvais in fantastic. There’s a clip of it on YouTube.

      • Damnitz

        Many thanks for your comment and advice!

        I love to find interesting old films.

        Maybe you will like “Le chevalier des Touches” (1966). I thought that it is looking very exciting and the castle with the strong ladies is a very interesting idea. It is settled during the civil war in the Vendée.

  6. Al Don

    The 1993 The Three Musketeers certainly doesn’t compare to the 1973/4 version. The 70’s cast is better suited, it’s more faithful to the material, and the fights are far more inventive and tense. But, I absolutely love the 1993 version. The cast has great chemistry, it’s fun, and has a lot of memorable lines.

    Tim Curry is fried gold as Cardinal Richelieu. And the woefully underrated Michael Wincott as Captain Rochefort? He was perfect.

    I also really enjoyed the 2002 version of The Count of Monte Cristo – despite the opening scenes with Napoléon making little to no sense (quite different from the book).

  7. MhWise

    Wait what!?! No second Lovecraft Country season??? You’ve got to kidding me, I just finished the first season. Argh!

  8. Lily Lotus Rose

    OK…Sarah, if we have established anything from this post it’s that there is a huge and loving audience for The Three Musketeers (1993) version. So we definitely NEED a FrockFlicks post about it. I LOVE THAT MOVIE UNAPOLOGETICALLY AND FOR ALL TIME!!! Ok, I’ll stop screaming now…but, it’s soooo fun and everyone looked like they had so much fun. Amen and hallelujah to all comments on all the cast members, especially Tim Curry and Oliver Platt and my BELOVED VILLAIN Michael Wincott. PS: Can we PLEASE have a Michael Wincott MCM?? He’s so obscure and so beautiful and so underrated and sooooo crush-worthy!!!!! Also, this is THE movie that turned me into a lifelong lover of film scores. The opening scene with Cardinal Richelieu’s beautiful red cape billowing on the water to the ominous chords of Michael Kamen’s score. I still listen to it all these years later!! And let’s not forget the 90’s rock ballad All for Love featuring Sting, Bryan Adams, and Rod Stewart.

    “With a flick of my wrist, I could change your religion.”
    –long live Rebecca De Mornay’s Milady de Winter!!

    OK, the ’02 version of The Count of Monte Cristo is in my hate column. Sorry y’all, I just can’t. For me, I just can’t get past the fact that Dantes is supposed to have aged so much that he is unrecognizable and also looks about 20 years older than his real age. I just couldn’t buy Jim Caviezel with a mustache as fitting that crucial (for me) criteria. Re The Duchess: I don’t have a problem with Kiera Knightley, and I thought the movie was fine. Ralph Fiennes’s character was sooo horrible that he was definitely a downer, but that’s what I thought he was meant to be. For me, the biggest miscastings were of Dominic Cooper.

    I can’t think of any costume dramas right now that I thought I’d “hate” and then didn’t hate them. Usually, I was either meh and stayed meh or hated before and hated after: Valmont comes to mind. Ones I went from meh to “that was pretty good” or “I actually liked it”: Les Enfants du Paradis (1945) and The Phantom of the Opera (the 1925 Lon Chaney version).

    • florenceandtheai

      I just restarted T3M (available on Disney Plus) and I blame this blog. I’m also particularly pleased to be reminded that it features a poncy Paul McGann!

  9. kathleenjowitt

    The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my absolute favourite books, and I’ve never quite dared to watch any adaptation of it. Maybe I should…

    • A

      Don’t. As far as I know, there isn’t a good one in existence.
      I used to have high hopes for the French miniseries (this is a book totally made for miniseries), but it sucked big time. Also, while Gerard Depardieux has many strong points, or at least had back then, he is not and never will be Edmund Dantes. Even 50 years in the frealkng Bastille will not give anyone that nose… (Anyway, in the series he was not in jail for 20 years, but only a year or so… don’t even ask)

  10. Kelly

    Watch this one instead: the 1990-something adaptation of Comte de Monte Cristo, French/Italian production with Depardieu (who is basically impossible to disguise, despite the number of aliases he trots out in the service of this story) and Depardieu’s son as young Edmond; also with Ornella Muti, Jean Rochefort, and a cast of superbly-costumed thousands. This is the one, folks–you need a miniseries for these 19th-century novels, so that you can luxuriate in the convolutions of the plot and enjoy the many many outfits!

    • A

      Nooo! They made Edmund Dantes to be nice! Edmund Dantes is NOT nice!
      (Also, they made Haydee into a prostitute)

  11. Pip

    I ADORE the 1993 version of Musketeers! It is ridiculous but everyone is having so much fun … and Tim Curry!