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Mary, Queen of Scots VHS
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As costume dramas go, this is a passionate and feisty one, keyed by the ever-luminous Vanessa Redgrave in the title role and the sharp-edged Glenda Jackson as her jealous cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (who knew a thing or two about palace intrigue). Mary, who was raised in France as a Catholic, claims the Scottish crown from her mother upon her death. But she runs up against religious prejudice, both from the Protestant Elizabeth (who had encountered anti-Protestant bias before she took the throne) and from Mary's Protestant half-brother James Stuart (Patrick McGoohan). Elizabeth, whose own reign is shaky (given a strong Catholic presence in her country), is nervous about her Catholic cousin--and made more so by Mary's seeming inability to appreciate the political niceties of the period. Redgrave received an Oscar nomination for her performance. --Marshall Fine
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Unfortunately, even this one is a bit sweet with Mary and goes on hard on Elizabeth.
The players are all first class, starting with a Clash of Titans between Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson. Two female screen giants fighting out in front of our own eyes. What a feast.
Then come the other giants: Trevor Howard, Ian Holm, Patrick McGoohan, Harry Andrews and many more othe British Screen legends. A real treat in Stardom and a who's who in this movie.
Just for that it is highly recommendable.
Now two points of woe.
First: in all these years (the movie dates back to 1971) do you think that Universal Pictures could have released at least one Widescreen version of it? Noooooh, the Gentlemen went on producing other insignificant stuff, but never cared on re-releasing this one in Letterbox format.
Second: although I liked it when it was released, especially for its cast and more than beautiful music scored by John Barry, why wasn't an attempt made at remaking it in a more true to history perspective?
After all Mary was not as innocent as depicted by Katie Hepburn or even Vanessa Redgrave. This is Folk Lore not History!
Mary was raised in France in exile, but pretty soon took a keen interest in politics and started plotting all by herself to take possession of the English Crown.
These were not the figments of the imagination of Elizabeth, but a hard and harsh reality that the English Crown and the Parliament both took immediately very seriously.
Mary tried it with whomever would have listened to her and would have granted her protection in doing so. She tried to drag the French on her side at first. When this didn't work, she tried the Italians, through the Pope. then came the Spaniards and ultimately the Scots. And they all fell for her.
The reasons for her mad conviction of being the only true Queen of England were inculcated into her by her family due to some contentions they had already back in Henry VIII's Reign.
All this though was certainly not enough to make her the legitimate Queen of England and she should have contented herself by already being Queen of the Scots.
Anyway, she remains a pathetic and sad figure in History and well deserves a movie such as this one as a remainder that at times it is better to be happy with what one already has, rather than wanting the whole pie.
In this instance Mary truly was too immature and too arrogant to admit defeat even if it loomed right in front of her eyes.
And arrogance as we all know, gets so often repaid with a harsh punishment. In her case she lost her head over it.
Some may say that she fought for religion's sake. Is any religion a valid justification for human sacrifice? Especially of other people, rather than your own. Of course not, and yet Mary never hesitated in sending innocent people to be slaughtered in her name.
Some may pity her, some may condemn her, but the fact still remains that she was an intriguing figure wonderfully portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave. And right or wrong, she did exist and should therefore be depicted in at least one movie.
Between Katie Hepburn and Vanessa, I still prefer Vanessa. Glenda Jackson reprises her role Elizabeth R in this one and she's one strong butch of a woman, a hard nut to crack. No wonder that men lost their heads (in more than one way) for her.
Anyway, this one with Elizabeth and Elizabeth R, should be movies to be bought and cherished dearly like good wine. After all it is seldom they make movies like these.
And if you're interested by more Tudor Lore, try also "Henry VIII and his Six Wives", "Anne of the Thousand Days", the filmed Play by Robert Bolt "A Man For All Seasons".
The King is dead, long live the Queen...
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