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4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

As seen on PBS

The many amours of the French emperor

We know about Napoleon and Josephine. But what about Napoleon and Desirée? Napoleon and Pauline? Napoleon and Georgina, Eléonore, Marie Walewska, and Marie-Louise?

This British costume drama skips the battlefields and heads straight for the sumptuously appointed ballrooms and bedrooms where Napoleon woos, and sometimes weds, the women in his life. We meet him at 25, already a general in the French army but not yet worthy to wed a wealthy merchant’s daughter. We follow him through campaigns, affairs, and marriages as he conquers most of Europe and achieves absolute power. But will he ever have what he desires most: an heir?

Oscar® nominee Ian Holm (The Lord of the Rings) leads an illustrious cast in this classic British series seen on PBS and A&E. Also starring Peter Bowles (The Irish R.M., To the Manor Born) as Captain Murat and Billie Whitelaw (Hot Fuzz, Quills) as Josephine, with Ronald Hines (Van der Valk), Sorcha Cusack (Jane Eyre), Susan Wooldridge (The Jewel in the Crown), and Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show).

Due to the age of these programs and the improved resolution that DVD provides, you may notice occasional flaws in the image and audio on this DVD presentation that were beyond our ability to correct from the original materials.


This archival gem from the BBC vaults will be a drawing room delight to fans of the earliest incarnations of Masterpiece Theatre. Dating from 1974, it's a nine-part miniseries that delivers exactly what the name promises--a look at the boudoir behavior and upper-crust machinations of romance during the 20 or so years of Napoleon's dominion over French warfare and politics in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. You'll find no battlefield action of any kind, only bawdy behavior, randy dialogue, corruption, conniving, sexual intrigue, and the sort of stagy scenes of highbrow dialogue that marked a generation of BBC productions which eventually found appreciative audiences on American public television.

Each episode bears the title of one of Napoleon's many mistresses, whether they figured into his life as genuine objects of love or as steppingstones to political power. Josephine gets an episode to herself, but as she was a constant in his life (whether constant thorn or constant obsession) she is omnipresent throughout the series. As played by Billie Whitelaw, she is a delightful foil to the outsize, tiny fellow. Ian Holm takes great relish in playing the little big man under an assortment of wigs that capture him at key moments in his military and political life. Holm was 43 when he played the role of a man who ages from 25 to about 50, and he takes us through the phases of Napoleon's life with believable zeal. He seizes Napoleon's mercurial personality with gusto, whether in anger, passion, jealousy, graciousness, or gripped by the boundless ego that colored everything he did and touched everyone around him. Though this is clearly not meant to be a historical portrait, those who know the story of Napoleon and Josephine only as a fairy tale will find the nuance of that relationship fascinating. Because the series takes its time and moves with deliberate pacing through Napoleon's campaigns and travels through places like Italy, Egypt, Poland, and Austria, there is an excellent context that makes sense of the extraordinary career led by this complicated, brilliant, fanatical narcissist.

An array of midlevel British actors including Peter Bowles, Peter Jeffrey, Edward de Souza, and Tim Curry populate the bedrooms, war rooms, parlors, and drawing rooms of the sometimes cheap-looking sets. As was the BBC house style for decades, the interiors were shot on video, relying on blocking that is often clunky and awkward. The few exterior scenes bang against each other in grainy 16mm film, all of it edited together in rather harsh fashion. But the technical specifications are pretty meaningless when pressed against Napoleonic obsessions over power and love. Napoleon & Love may be a relic, but it should bring new pleasures to aficionados of classic British historical drama. --Ted Fry

Special Features

Timeline of historical events
Cast filmographies
SDH subtitles

Product Details

  • Actors: Ian Holm, Billie Whitelaw, Peter Bowles, Ronald Hines, Peter Jeffrey
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: March 1, 2011
  • Run Time: 468 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004EP433M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,162 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "NAPOLEON & LOVE" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This series is an overlooked gem from the 1970s. It tries, and largely succeeds, to examine the personal side of one of history's most famous and, sadly, often stereotyped figures - Napoleon. The fine acting of Ian Holm and Philip Mackie's intelligent scripts give us a human Napoleon, full of faults and emotions just like anyone else. It makes for a remarkable and entertaining blend of drama and history.
Anyone looking for spectacle and a military and political history of the First Empire will be disappointed. This series concentrates solely on Napoleon and the women in his life. Battles and events may be mentioned in passing, names familiar to those with a knowledge of the period's history are constantly dropped, but this is a series about love and lust. As such, the focus is on character. Like many other British series of the time - I Claudius, Upstairs Downstairs, etc. - Napoleon And Love is studio based with sets ranging from fairly realistic to little more than theatrical backdrops. To compensate, the costumes are amazing and very accurate - the elaborate uniforms of the men almost as gorgeous as the Empire-style gowns of the women. So even though the production may seem dated by today's standards, it still looks pretty good.
By the way, the Amazon review by Ted Fry makes several references to this being a BBC production. It's not. Napoleon And Love was made by Thames Television.
The whole enterprise is helped immeasurably by a fantastic supporting cast, many of whom will be recognised by viewers of other British series. Some were just starting out like Tim Curry, looking very dashing in a hussar's uniform as Josephine's son. Most look remarkably like the historical character they are playing, none more so than Peter Bowles as the peacock Murat.
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Format: DVD
A docu-drama, or dram-entory. It's half history and half romantic drama. Napoleon was as wild with his women as he was at making war. This series takes a look at some of the most significant women, lovers, of his life. An episode for each, and how one was played against another. It was all primarily for producing an heir, and satisfying Napoleon's desires.

This is not all about bedrooms, bed scenes, dances, and the social life. There are some political ties, and some military, but it is the telling of "Napoleon & Love" not his wars. If you want battle scenes, there is not much. If you want bedroom scenes, you get plenty. But all is done under cover and clothed, somewhat. Keeping in mind this is 1795 through 1815, you get a grand glimpse of lowcut French costumes both in court and in the bedroom.

The series was created years ago, but seems quite contemporary since it is a period piece, almost historical documentary, but it is drama, romantic drama, and the Brits do that well.

Stars: Napoleon (Ian Holm-'Ratatouille' 'Lord of the Rings'). He's young, passionate, self-indulgent, ambicious, & pompous.
Josephine (Billie Whitlaw-'Quills'). Capt to Gen to Gov of Paris Murat (Peter Bowles-'Lytton's Diary' 'Rumpole of the Bailey' 'To the Manor Born' look those DVDs up). Berthier (Ronald Hines-'Middlemarch' 'We'll Meet Again' 'VanderValk' look those up).
Sorcha Cusack from "Jane Eyre" and one of my favorites John Welsh ("The Duchess of Duke Street" a must own DVD).

9 Episodes 52 min each all with SUBTITLES:
1 Rose 1795 Paris
Gen Napoleon (age 25) looks for a wife with $$. Life moves to a Paris position and other ladies are met. Rose is set upon him by Nobleman Paul Barras.

2 Josephine 1796
Napoleon leads the army in Italy.
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Format: DVD
It seems that lately the vaults are getting picked over for more great (or near great) 1970's mini-series that haven't previously seen the light of day. This one does not disappoint. I purchased this at a Border's closing just to try it out without knowing anything about it, other than the info on the cover, and was pleasantly surprised. I expected Ian Holm to turn in a fine performance, and he does, but he is also very well supported by the secondary actors. I'm not an expert on Napoleon, so have no idea how official it all is, but certainly agrees with what little I do know.

There is an episode for each mistress, or at least that's the aim, and the costumes and sets are very nice, for the time. I'm not certain this series will entertain generation x'ers - I grew up in the 70's and don't mind the lower production values and slower pace of this series. I'm after good acting and dialog, and this series is up to that.

For those who love other great 70's series, such as I. Claudius and Elizabeth R, well, this isn't quite that caliber, but it is in the same ballpark, and won't disappoint historical mini-series buffs.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
NAPOLEON AND LOVE (1974) Multi directors.
Starring Ian Holm (as the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte) Peter Jeffrey (as Tallyrand), Peter Bowles (as Murat), Catherine Schell (as Marie Walewska) Edward De Souza (as Joseph Bonaparte) Tim Curry, Christopher Neame, Stephanie Beacham, Tony Anholt and Billie Whitelaw as the Empress Josephine.
A superb 9 part miniseries biography of Napoleon told through the various women in his life---which filmmakers have traditionally prefered since bedrooms are cheaper than battlefields. It really should not work and usually does not(see the hideous miniseries with Armand Asante) but this one does magnificently. Film fans should note that besides covering new ground we also get defacto remakes of DESIREE(Episode 1) and CONQUEST with Schell giving Greta Garbo a very credible run for her money. There are several definitive performances here (Whitelaw, Bowles and Jeffrey) and Holm is in the top five best Napoleons I have ever seen...possible top three.
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