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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Elizabeth
Elizabeth
A&E Video // Unrated // May 28, 2002
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Dvdempire]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted May 15, 2002 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The story of Elizabeth is a powerful and complex one. Born to a king mad with power (Henry, whose eight wives didn't really bear him a suitable male heir) and thrown into her own power struggle that included philandering in-laws, murderous sisters, and national uncertainty, Elizabeth proved to be one of the most powerful wearers of the crown in Britain's long history. When she died she left the country in much better shape than she found it, militarily, culturally, and structurally.

The History Channel's Elizabeth tries to use its extended length (200 minutes) to tell the story in more detail than a fictional film can. Enlisting David Starkey, who wrote "Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne," as narrator, the producers of Elizabeth hoped to add an authoritative air of completeness. The film is structured in a strange way; As a mix of narrative, delivered by Starkey and a host of British historians, some of whom seem like Monty Python skits come to life, and dramatic reenactments. The reenactments are often very effective, giving a peek at what Elizabeth's world may have looked like. They are filmed much more plainly than the recent feature film version of Elizabeth's life by director Shekhar Kapur and what they lack in style they make up in near docudrama authenticity. The draw-back to using recreation in what is probably a pretty low budget production is that some material is repeated. In the case of a shot of Elizabeth standing in a room filled with candles, the repetition gets a little numbing. At times the film devolves into vague shots of water and trees with narration filling us in on all the unseen action.

Still, Elizabeth is a fine production. Starkey certainly seems to know his stuff and his use of some stunning original documents, including letter and a journal written by Elizabeth herself, brings the real life story alive in a way that reenactments can only attempt.

VIDEO:
The interviews are shot on video while the reenactments mostly on film. Both look fine. The entire presentation is full-screen.

AUDIO:
The Dolby stereo is fine, if simple, although subtitles would have helped with some thicker accents.

EXTRAS:
A chronology of British monarchs is included.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
This two disc set is a good introduction to the life of a legendary royal. With today's royal family essentially a joke, this detailed film gives a good example of when the matter of who wore the crown was life or death.

Email Gil Jawetz at buskerdog@yahoo.com

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