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180 of 183 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2006
Horatio Hornblower - or simpy Hornblower to us non-Americans - is British historical fiction and naval adventure at its very best; an era when men were gentlemen, courage could still be found, and loyalty actually meant something. The series features fine acting and memorable characters, combined with action sequences of a scale and quality rarely found in made-for-TV productions.

Like many other British-American films (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone, for instance), the titles on this Region 1 US Disc differ markedly from the rest of the world: The Duel = The Even Chance, The Fire Ship = The Examination For Lieutenant, The Wrong War = The Frogs and The Lobsters, Hornblower 3 = Loyalty. Although one or two of these titles may seem obscure to an American audience, the terminology is covered in the episodes themselves and it seems a shame to change them, as I believe these titles to be more accurate and appropriate to the British source material.

As for the films themselves, Welshman Ioan Gruffudd is perfect in the title role, playing the gallant officer with ease whilst displaying just enough fear and self-doubt to make the character believable. CS Forester's original inspiration for this character is uncertain, with many citing Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (whose exploits and daring is indeed evident in the character of Hornblower). Yet to my mind Hornblower's severe seasickness, brilliant tactical improvisation under fire, and "Nelson Touch"-like ability to command respect from the highest officers and the lowest seamen, are all reminscent of the legendary Horatio Nelson.

As great as the acting is (Robert Lindsey is superb as Captain/Admiral Pellew), the real stars of this show are the ships themselves: the grand Justinian, the sturdy frigate Indefatigable, the 74-gun Renown, and Hornblower's very own Hotspur. These old ships from the Age of Sail bring a rare presence and dignity to the screen, and one can't help but watch in awe as they run out the guns in preparation for battle, trim the sails to ride out huge storms, or sail into the horizon with crew members perched high in the rigging.

Highly recomended, Hornblower combines action and adventure with a human touch, as Mr. Hornblower strives to fulfil his duty whilst wrestling with the morality of war and occasionally questioning his own ability to lead the men in his charge. Horatio Hornblower is a worthy hero in the chivalrous mould, displaying patience and bravery, greatness and extreme kindness, weaved into a series of inspiring tales.
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304 of 314 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 18, 2008
Given the title and subject matter- seaman- you might think that this is the latest release from Falcon (and I'm sure that they or another adult studio has certainly released their version of these classics). You'd be wrong. Horatio Hornblower is instead an epic story of honor, loyalty, and duty. Featuring bloody battles, incredible adventures, and a cast of characters as good as any ever imagined, it's no wonder that this Emmy Award-winning series got raves from critics and the general public alike.

Based on the novels by C.S. Forester, A&E's Horatio Hornblower was a made-for-TV series that ran from 1998-2003. The eight individual films that make up this Collector's Edition chronicle the unlikely rise of young Horatio from lowly midshipman to powerful commander, during the early years of the Napoleonic Wars. The stories are engaging and entertaining, the production grand and lavish, and the overall result brilliant.

Nothing was spared in making these films and they're worth watching for the visuals alone. (It's also interesting to note that no computer generated effects were used, which makes the intensity of the battles that much more exciting to watch.) That being said, the story lines are also enthralling, the characters fully developed, and the performances powerful all around. This is a series that will keep anyone engaged; from small children to grandparents.

Each film (or "episode") runs about an hour and a half, and each can stand independent of the others. Having said that, if you're going to watch them all, why not watch them in order and add that much more to the experience? The underlying theme to all episodes is strong personal ethics, against all odds, and while that may sound frighteningly preachy, I assure you that the films are not.

These films/episodes have been released previously a number of times, both individually and in sets, including a Collector's Edition that was released in 2005. If you own the 2005 set, do not buy this new set; as far as I can tell, other than extremely minor changes to the packaging, this is the same product.

Included films/episodes are :: The Duel, The Fire Ships, The Duchess and the Devil, The Wrong War, The Mutiny, Retribution, Loyalty, and Duty.


As if eight films spanning more than 13 hours weren't enough, the special features and extras are also copious. Two of the episodes (Loyalty and Duty) feature accompanying Filmmaker Commentary, which offers an incredibly thought-provoking and historically interesting look into the making of the series, the background, and the adaptation from page to screen. An Exclusive Interview with star Ioan Gruffudd is just as spellbinding (and with the latter you get the extra bonus of his incredibly good looks!).

Three Bonus Programs (England's Royal Warships, Sail 2000: Aboard the Eagle, and The Making of Horatio Hornblower) give an exclusive look at English ships from the past to the present, with fascinating descriptions and documentary footage on how these amazing machines are manned and run, as well as the incredible feats they're capable of. If this isn't enough for you, check out the Guide to Royal Warships, Nautical Terms and Definitions, and Interactive 3-D Naval Cannon, and you'll be a master seaman in no time!

For those interested in more background on the original author, a featurette entitled About C.S. Forester is especially interesting, as is the C.S. Forester Biography.

Cast and Crew Biographies are also included, as is a Photo Gallery.

The special features presented with this set are indeed incredible, although I wouldn't recommend sitting down and watching them all at once. In fact, it's best absorbed (and more interesting) if you watch one film/episode and one (or part of one) special feature, then take some time to digest and reflect upon them before moving on to another helping.

Final answer :: If you've not seen them, this is an extremely entertaining and wonderfully produced series, not to mention an incredibly good buy. If you own the previously released Collector's Edition however, skip this.
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94 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2006
Being a huge fan of the original Hornblower movie with Gregory Peck, and "Damn the Defiant" with Alec Guinness, I was an immediate fan of this series from the start when it first aired on TV. This is a magnificent series. Any fan of seafaring movies or British drama will love it. Some of the greatest acting, scenery, costumes, and music you will ever find. This set is now a bargain compared to what the original three sets sold for on release. This set is less than half the size of the three sets together. The DVD cases are very slender making a nice compact set of 8 DVDs. Shop around, although Amazon is competitive, I have seen this set for under forty dollars. I like you wish for at least another six movies so it would have at least as many as the Sharpe's set not to mention a great deal more enjoyment for us.
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2006
Although a bit uneven, on the whole, this is a very enjoyable series of films.

The first 4 movies stand out as the best. The first, "The Duel" is an introduction to our young hero, and his hard introduction to the ways of the sea and sailors. It has the best battle at sea footage of the entire series.

The second entry, "The Fire Ships" also includes some fine special effects work, and is possibly the best movie in the series.

"The Duchess and the Devil" and "The Wrong War" end the first series of movies. The former is finely done, perhaps more "real" than any of the other episodes, and you never know how this one will end. The latter is still very entertaining, and gives us more of the war on the land than any other movie. The love interest, unfortunately, ends the same way here as it does in most dramatic movies of this kind.

Set aboard the "Indefatigable", the series is in full sail. Ioan Gruffudd is very good as our hero, although he appears a bit older than 17, as he supposedly starts out. Robert Lindsay is the captain with which everyone would wish to sail.

Produced later, and set about 7 years after the first movies, now aboard another ship, "The Mutiny" and "Retribution" are actually two parts to the same movie. Therefore, allow yourself time to watch these two close together. Although done well again, there is something unsettling about any movie that is about the removal of a captain. David Warner does a fine job as the famous captain of the "Renown", who's more brutal than normal ways are fueled by growing paranoia. But when it get to fighting (mostly, again, on land), the movie takes off.

The final two movies, "Loyalty" and "Duty" are closely related (similar themes with one unresolved issue from the first leading into the second). Let me just say this "issue" did not add to the story as the writers had hoped. Although entertaining, it appears the budget might have been a bit worse, for the special effects, namely explosions, were horribly done. Another point of contention is the now Captain Hornblower still playing too much the hero. He simply doesn't delegate some matters that most captains would have delegated, particularly when he had such a good first lieutenant.

Quality wise, I was very pleased with the series, especially since this was a made-for-TV series, without the big Hollywood budgets. It's not "Master and Commander", nor was it meant to be. It was a bit disappointing after "The Duel" that we didn't get a really good, multiple ship fight at sea.

DVD extras were good, but not great. There definately could have been more cast/director interviews, but those they had were entertaining.

All-in-all a very good value that left you wanting for more!
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2005
A outstanding mini-series from A&E TV!! Tells the story of a young Midshipman who through a series of acts of bravery and determination becomes a Captain of his own ship. Very good script, costumes, and above all the actors seem to "be" the people they are playing. Set during the war with France this multi disc collection is a must for anyone who likes a good story.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2005
What can I say that has not already been said about these movies? A couple of buddies and I usually get together at my house on Thursday nights to watch films. I had purchased the first set of Horatio movies and we watched the first movie one Thursday, we were really blown away. The characters, the events, the ships everything rocked. Since then we have seen all the movies and we really cannot choose which one we like best.

Something we do agree on is that Horatio is the kind of guy we would all like to be like. He is the quintessential guy: strong in character, a born leader, not afraid to show emotion when called for, loyal, etc. You really have to give Ioan (the actor who is Horatio) his props. With any other actor this type of character might seem too perfect, yet you don't feel that at all. On the contrary you seem to see him as even more believable.

The movies show how Horatio goes from a midshipman (very low in the order of importance) and his hardships to prove himself and climbing the ladder to captain.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2007
JUST DO IT!!!!!The 8 dvd COLLECTOR'S EDITION of Horatio Hornblower is the only way to go in watching the heroic adventures of this amazing character from the C.S.Forester novels.Each of the 8 episodes,100 minutes in length, are chock full of naval history,fascinating characters and the superior acting of Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced Yo-an Griffith) and veteran stage idol Sir Robert Lindsay.We watch our hero grow from a "wet-behind-the-ears" English midshipman to full fledge Captain.Hornblower and his fellow shipmates become endearing friends to the viewer .You will find that as soon as you finish one episode you will want to pop in another.Ioan Gruffudd is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished actor

s in the world today,and he inhabits this character's skin to a tee! All 8 episodes are crystal clear in picture,beautifully coloured,subtitled (if you feel it necessary to navigate naval terminology and various English accents),perfect dolby surround sound,correct aspect ratio, with lots of neat interactive menues plus a wonderful interview with Gruffudd who is a really neat "actor's actor".Each dvd comes in a slim case and the entire collection is housed in a sturdy outer case.This is an extremely well made box set and is definitely worth the price.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2015
This is the complete collection containing 8 disk, 1 disk per episode, as of when I bought it in 2015. We have been signing this series out every 2 or 3 years now from our local library, every since it debuted on television. All the way back when it was on VHS format. Don't make the same mistake I did by reading the old reviews (which pop up first) & thinking that 2 disc cover 1 episode. The first 4 episodes were filmed apart from the last 4 so that is why I had this confusion. Was getting tired of the library not having all the episodes in at one time so I went ahead & bought this set. If you are an avid watcher of this series you will see by the dates why I was confused. DO NOT BUY "The Adventure Continues" that covers disc 5 & 6 NOR "The New Adventures" which covers disc 7 & 8 like I did (working on returning these 2). Best purchase I have ever made for a television series.
The disc number along with the U.S. titles & dates are as follows: 1) The Duel 10/7/1998 2) The Fire Ships 11/19/1998 3) The Duchess & The Devil 2/24/1999 4) The Wrong War 4/2/1999 5) The Mutiny 3/24/02 6) Retribution 3/25/02 7) Loyalty 1/5/03 8) Duty 1/6/03.
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65 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2009
I'm a bit surprised to see all the other reviewers drooling all over this DVD series with 5 stars. I suspect none of them have read the books.

It does have some good qualities. The casting and acting are good. It is cool getting to see the costumes, ships, and models. However, contrary to the ship model documentary, it's actually pretty easy to tell you are looking at models much of the time, especially from the scale of the fire and water.

My biggest problem with the films is the way they butchered CS Forester's stories, especially films #5 thru 8 which are maybe 25% Forester at most. The stories themselves are practically action-adventure movies in print form as it is, so I don't understand the screenplay writers' motivation.

Foremost, the changes they have made diminish the uniqueness of the Hornblower saga by injecting large doses of standard Hollywood-style melodrama. Characters are added to provide extra love and friendship interest, foreshadowed treachery, and tragic deaths. The Mutiny and Retribution stories are even turned into standard courtroom dramas with flashbacks. Things are rearranged such that you are less able to witness Hornblower's daring and ingenuity for yourself. Instead you mostly get told about it, and see it second-hand in other characters' congratulations.

The other big issue with the story changes is that they magnify historical anachronisms. For instance, a character drinking from a flask or pouring a drink is depicted as nearly sinister, whereas the standard sailor's issue on a ship at that time was about 11 beers and 5 shots of rum per day. A few whacks with a rattan cane is depicted as nearly deadly and deeply disturbing to the officers, whereas in reality crippling floggings with a cat-o-nine of a hundred lashes or more was common - a dozen lashes that would make the rattan caning look like a massage were standard for being a little too drunk at the wrong time. In general, the characters are emotionally effusive in a way that is out of character with the time and the way behavior was depicted in the books - especially Hornblower's.

Overall, I think it is pretty good - not a waste of time or a few bucks at all, but somewhat disappointing. If you are really interested, I recommend it, but you should definitely read the books first.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2008
The entire swash-buckling film series appears on 8 DVDs in this collector's edition of HORATIO HORNBLOWER, following the sailor from midshipman to commander and offering many high-seas adventures. In having all eight films connected in one DVD package, viewers enjoy an unbroken series in this Emmy-winning adaptation of the classic novels of C.S. Forester. Also included in the DVD presentation: an interview with star Ioan Gruffudd, filmmaker commentary, 3 bonus related sailing programs and an expose on the making of Hornblower, and more information on both the novels and the films they inspired. DVD libraries will find it a top pick.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
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