Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
Versailles The Complete Series One, Two and Three (Acorn). 28-year-old King Louis XIV, the Sun King, commissions the most beautiful and lavish palace in Europe and imposes his authority on the French aristocracy by forcing them to come and live with him. Versailles, his dream palace, is their prison. There are plots to kill the king. There is witchcraft and murders by poison. There is court etiquette to learn, a war to fight with the Dutch and lots of torture and lots of sex.
The series begins as a power struggle between the king (George Blagden) and his openly homosexual brother (Alexander Vlohos). Louis believes he is king by Divine Right. He orders Protestants at Versailles to convert to Catholicism and burns their French Bibles. His relationship with the Vatican is such that he is liable to be excommunicated. And then there is the Man in the iron mask. What does he know that King Louis doesn’t know?
The production is handsome, extravagant and entertaining fiction. A fortune has been spent on costumes, wigs and locations. The first-rate cast rise above the dialogue, which is clunky, cliché-ridden, full of anachronisms and often sounds like a very bad translation. The melodrama is good old fashioned Alexander Dumas stuff, the spectacle is great.
Beast (Altitude). A serial killer of young girls is on the loose in Jersey. The film is based on a true story. Two outsiders, both mentally damaged and both very dangerous, fall in love. Michael Pearce directs the superior thriller whose strength is its ambiguity. Who is the beast? Is it Jessie Buckley with her flaming red hair? She has horrific nightmares. Or is it scruffy. Johnny Flynn? “I want you to tell me you didn’t do it,” she says. Geraldine James is playing Buckley’s controlling mum and she is pretty beastly too.