For years Mill Creek Entertainment has been one of my favorite distributors of older material hitting DVD or Blu-ray for the first time or getting re-released at fantastic prices. This month they put out three historical mini-series that were all new to me.
Up first we have World War II: When Lions Roared. I’m a big history buff especially war stuff so I’ll watch anything World War II related. Add in 3 fantastic actors and I’m sold. Michael Caine plays Joseph Stalin. Bob Hoskins plays Winston Churchill and John Lithgow plays Franklin Roosevelt. But the biggest surprise might be the performance of Ed Begley Jr. This is a look at three of the men that ended World War II and their relationships with one another. You get a lot of historical speeches and strategies they used in the war. Early on it’s focused on Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union and England’s fight in the war. Obviously the US had not yet entered the war at that time. Well we supplied weapons and vehicles, but we weren’t “in” the war at that point. As the US gets more involved, FDR’s interactions with Churchill and the dynamic with Stalin becomes the focus. I’m not sure if the black & white footage is actual war footage, but it’s cool nonetheless. It’s a bit slow at times, but the 3 main leads and Begley Jr. are fantastic in their roles. Military buffs will eat this up.
Second we have The Titanic. Years before James Cameron’s epic came this mini-series starring Tim Curry, Peter Gallagher, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Marilu Henner. It’s a pretty straight forward drama about the sinking of the Titanic. It starts off in England, you meet the main characters and a lot of side characters including a family. The boat (spoiler!) hits an iceberg and many lives are lost. Henner plays the famous Unsinkable Molly Brown who helped save many lives. It seems to be more historically accurate than Cameron’s film, but then again he made up characters to fit his plot from what I was told. This didn’t have a tenth of the budget the DiCaprio film had, but it does have solid production value. Set design, especially on the ship, costuming, and the overall look of the series is very good. They didn’t skimp on it. Obviously the boat breaking and sinking looks a lot different than the Cameron monster budget film, but you expect it. I like the cast and it’s cool seeing Tim Curry in a bad guy type character. Plus I’ll watch anything with Peter Gallagher. If you like stories about the Titanic, I recommend this.
Last we have The Devil’s Mistress. This is a total head scratcher for a few reasons. It has a big named cast and I had never heard of it. It stars Michael Fassbender, one of the biggest names in the acting world, along with current Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, Andrea Riseborough and Dominic West of The Wire/The Affair. Those are some pretty big names for something I’ve never heard of. I guess it’s also been called The Devil’s Whore so maybe you know it by that name. It’s also a head scratcher because I wasn’t familiar with the story and I don’t really know if I liked the series or not. The series takes place in 17th Century England during its Civil War. A lot of characters are historically accurate, but Riseborough is completely fictional. She has a supernatural element to her and I don’t think I understood it. Production value is great. Costuming and set design are great. The acting is top notch which you expect, but I really didn’t get the point of making this up during a historical event. Although I did find it funny that one of the other actors in this, played The Master at one point in Doctor Who. If you liked The Tudors, you’ll probably like this, but I’m confused at the point.