Vienna Blood (2019-)

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As someone who loves both murder mysteries and period flicks, I’m of two minds about Vienna Blood (2019-). As a historical costume piece, it is actually pretty good, set in the cinematically underrepresented era just prior to the First World War where a lot of Viennese culture and fashion comes across as very modern and chic. As a murder mystery show, though, it’s kind of boring.

The actors are not given a lot to work with, and what they are given is mostly just tired old tropes like the Crusty Old Detective Who Works Alone, the Annoying Intellectual Kid Who Is Teamed Up With Him Against His Will, the Bitchy Sister Who Won’t Stop Nagging Her Brother, the Bland Girlfriend Who Will Probably Be Dead Before The Series Is Over, and the Mysterious Woman Who Haunts The Annoying Intellectual Kid’s Dreams, and basically every other stock character you can throw into a mystery show. I guess you could say that the writers of Vienna Blood know their subject matter really well, because the writing absolutely clings to those stereotypes for dear life as though that’s the only thing they’re afraid the show has going for it, which is weird considering the secondary plot line.

The show attempts to inject a layer of cultural dissonance between the Jewish protagonist Max Liebermann (aka the Annoying Intellectual Kid, played by Matthew Beard) and the rest of “respectable” Vienna society that his family is desperate to secure their place in. That subject on its own would be more than enough fodder for a miniseries about an ambitious Jewish family trying to break into Viennese society right before everything goes to hell, but it feels crowded out in Vienna Blood by all the murder.

 

Bitchy Sister does get some really nice outfits, though. I particularly liked this wrap dress.

The main thing the show has going for it, however, is that the costumes (and hair and makeup) are really very good. Designed by Austrian designer Thomas Oláh, they show how varied upper-class clothing was in Vienna in the first decade of the 20th century. There are designs that directly reference Josef Hoffmann’s creations of the early Wiener Werkstätte period, Gustav Klimt’s dress reform aestheticism, Poiret’s futuristic flare, and Fortuny’s impossibly simple combination of silk pleats and luxurious velvets.

The technical term is “Fauxtuny.” Still, it’s a good approximation of the style and is quite pretty. Better than destroying the real thing just for some TV show.

 

Another nice outfit for Leah, aka Bitchy Sister. A sheer shirtwaist worn over a camisole, and paired with a smart brick colored skirt. It’s practical but fashionable.

 

The only thing not boring about Boring Girlfriend is her clothing. She gets some extremely cool, very fashion-forward outfits.

 

Gold lame is tricky, but this looks very much like a gold-and-black shot organza, and it’s an effect I happen to love.

 

There are some really good hats on the women in this show.

 

I’ve always been a sucker for a good wide brimmed hat and black and white stripes. The hair could stand to be a little fuller to balance the size of the hat, but it’s not bad.

 

Behind the scenes shot with another great hat. Matthew Beard is way too corpselike himself for me to really get behind his character, though.

 

While I’m not wild about this color choice, I do love the cut of this dress that Leah wears during a dinner scene in one episode. Nice camerawork to show off that low V back, too.

 

Is Vienna Blood worth watching as murder mystery show? Eh … But if you want to look at pretty costumes from circa 1907, it’s delivers that much.

 

What did you think of Vienna Blood? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

29 Responses

  1. mmcquown

    10 for the clothes, 8 for the mystery. A good period for men’s hats, but by now the suit is boooring. Vienna always strikes me as a bit stodgy and too much pastry.

    Reply
      • Aleko

        Believe me, there is, if you’re there visiting your Viennese-Jewish grandparents there! I couldn’t look a Dobostorte fearlessly in the eye till a good decade after they were dead and there was no danger of being made to feel guilty for refusing to eat a third slice of it (this being AFTER two helpings of Rindsgulasch mit Speckknödeln)!

        Reply
        • jeanie jay

          Aleko, I had to pop in to let you know that everything about this comment is delightful. :D

          Reply
          • Aleko

            Except that we knew my grandmother, near-crippled by arthritis, had been hobbling around the kitchen on her Zimmer frame for hours in considerable pain to cook all of this, and if I didn’t accept multiple helpings of EVERYTHING (NB this was after being plied with pastries on the hour, every hour, all morning), she would turn to Grandpa in deep distress and say “Oh, Freddy, she doesn’t like it! I must find something else from the larder to give her!” And she would.

            Leave me alone with a Dobostorte or three different kinds of strudel and you’ll see some energetic action; but if you hover over me with a cake slice, prepared to slap a third wedge on to my plate as soon as it’s empty, and go full-on ‘Don’t you like what I cook for you? You want to starve to death?’ if I refuse – trust me, that’s not a marvellous experience!

            It’s astonishing how much cake the true-bred Viennese can eat. The first time I was in Vienna on my ownsome, enjoying the fact that I wasn’t being force-fed like a Perigord duck, on a hot day I dropped into a cafe for an iced coffee, and decided to treat myself to a slice of torte as well. When my order came, I realised my mistake – if you want plain iced coffee in Vienna you ask for ‘kalte Kaffee’, but I’d said ‘Eiskaffee’, which is a whomping big sundae with coffee ice cream, coffee syrup, wafers, and mounds of whipped cream. Back home in Britain I’d say I rate as a tolerably greedy person, but I would never dream of eating all that and a slab of rich cream and chocolate cake at a sitting. I felt really embarrassed to be sitting there with such a piggish array in front of me – till I looked around and realised that customers at other tables had as many as three tortes lined up and were casually trenchering their way through the lot. So, when in Rome . . .

            Reply
          • Frances Germeshausen

            One of my favorite company dinners to make is schnitzel (I use pork) served with braised red cabbage and spaetzle with brown butter. Spaetzle is the only German dish I learned from my (American-born) German grandmother. Hubs calls it “OG style” – “Original Grandma.” I AM SO HUNRY NOW.

            Reply
  2. Oatmeal Pie

    I’ve been hooked on it since it’s all soooo pretty, but I don’t mind the mystery stuff. Everything’s kinda been done in murder mysteries, so it’s hard not to resort to tropes but I’m kind of a sucker for the “old timey detectives using technology that’s brand new to them” thing.

    Reply
  3. Frances Germeshausen

    Eh, we’re watching but, aside from being pretty, it’s not really floating our boat. And we watch a lot of mysteries. Give me Poirot any day.

    Reply
  4. Saraquill

    It looks like I’m better off visiting the Neue Gallery again if I want the aesthetic. If anyone plans on visiting Manhattan, I recommend checking it out for the Edwardian/Art Nouveau Austrian art and restaurant.

    Reply
    • Boxermom

      Cafe Sabarsky? I went there a few years ago, when I still lived in NY. Very nice, but I thought the Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte was a little dry. :)

      Reply
      • jane gardiner

        I loved cafe sabarsky when i was in NY, although that was a few years ago now – felt it was one of the very few places that wasn’t super expensive that had reliable fresh food, esp veg, without added sugar (sorry to dis american cooking, but . . . )

        Reply
  5. Jenno

    I fell into watching it because it came on right after “All Creatures Great and Small” on my PBS station, but stayed with it for Jurgen Maurer’s (Rheinhardt) Teutonic-Ian-McShane voice. I knit while half-watching, so sound matters to me. I did have a little trouble figuring out the era from the clothes, which makes sense because it’s not British Edwardian nineteen-aughts, but something different for once.

    Reply
  6. Orian Hutton

    Thank you for reviewing it. The mystery side isn’t outstanding and there are enormous holes in the plot, but my husband and I watch it for the period in which it is set and, of course, for the wonderful clothes. One of the few programmes that had my husband noticing what people were wearing. He read the books a few years ago and says they were so-so. A story that does better visually than just on the page.

    Reply
  7. Karin

    My mom got some of the books from a friend and she didn’t much like them – boring was her verdict. I watched the first series, but… yes, the mystery part doesn’t grab me, and so the rest didn’t grab me much either. Watching something set in Vienna in English may have added to it feeling weird to me, as German is my mother tongue and I am used to hearing Viennese dialect from TV and from having been there many times. I know Vienna quite well and something set in the city at that time would interest me, but with a more interesting story line please! What I can’t forgive at all is that at the end of the last episode of the first series, the golden statue of Joann Strauss is visible in the background in the park… which was only put up in 1921! That is such a lazy mistake!

    Reply
  8. Susan Pola Staples

    I’m watching too, but I not sure what’s my paramount reason. The books were intriguing when I read them years ago. The clothing shows a diversity which I feel other period shows lack. And then there’s the food. I’m a sucker for Sacher Torte. And then there’s the coffee. My mouth is watering just thinking of it.

    Reply
    • Mary

      I liked the books but can’t stand the series. I think of the books as murder mysteries with pastries. Max and Oskar are good friends fromm the start, and the show omits their many musical evenings together and the frequent visits to cafés for pastries. The show is farvyoo dark and unnecessarily moody.

      Reply
      • Susan Pola Staples

        Yes it is far too dark, but I’m sticking with it for the mouth watering food and clothes. Books aren’t as dark, if memory serves me. Wish they would put Klimt in as the women he painted, especially Adele and Emilie.

        Reply
  9. Badger

    I find the mystery stories pretty MEH but I love werkstatte and all things jugendstil and the particulars of the artstyle are done pretty well. I love checking out the sets for period pieces, of which there are quite a few, and the clothes are good.

    Reply
  10. MsNomi

    I watch it for the costuming first, Jurgen Maurer’s voice second, and eye-candy Matthew Beard third (I’m a sucker for tall skeletal men).

    Reply
  11. Gail

    Great costumes and set design … great feel for the time period; and I’ve been in apartments that felt like those in the series.
    I do think the actor playing Max ‘looks’ too young for the part.
    It’s knitting tv watching ….

    Reply
  12. Eileen

    I’ve been hesitating on this series, but I might have to check out an episode or two, if for no other reason than the clothes and pastries.

    Reply
  13. Nick Kalogeresis

    I think it’s great show. What kind of exciting murders are supposed to happen in 1910s Vienna?

    Reply

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