Sunday, July 05, 2009

Mary, Queen of Scots revisited

Over the long weekend, I got to indulge my weakness for period films and I watched again for the first time Mary, Queen of Scots, one of my all-time favorites and one of the first period dramas that I saw as a kid. It has been over thirty years since I first saw this movie, but it still holds up beautifully for me.

Despite Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren, Glenda Jackson will always be Elizabeth I for me, which is interesting because despite the title of the movie, I came away from watching this as a pre-teen with an Elizabeth-over-Mary bias that still holds true to this day. Like Elizabeth, I can't help despising Mary for her weak head and wayward heart. Vanessa Redgrave plays up this side of Mary beautifully, and I couldn't help but remember the beautiful Natasha Richardson as I watched her mother as a young woman.

It was also a surprise for me to see Timothy Dalton as Henry Lord Darnley. When I saw this movie eons ago, I remember that Darnley made my skin crawl, as he is suppposed to, but I don't know that it ever entered my consciousness in the intervening years that Dalton played this role and did it so well.

Having visiting Holyroodhouse and Edinburgh Castle less than a month ago, I was particularly aware of how well they reproduced the scenes that took place in these locations.

Rizzio's murder burned in my brain when I witnessed it when I first watched the movie, and I was surprised to find that this time around Rizzio himself was a far more likeable character than I remembered. I had always categorized him as a Rasputin type, but that's not how he was portrayed in this movie.

Another scene that I remember vividly from my youth was the scene at the beginning when Mary and Francis II of France are boating and he is struck by a seizure. That terrified me then, and it still does.

Back to portrayals of Elizabeth and Mary, I credit my early viewing of this movie as placing me firmly in the Elizabeth camp, and much as I love Austen, I never could wrap my head around her allegiance to Mary. Maybe she really is more of a Romantic than I have given her credit for.

Maybe I'll get A Man for All Seasons (Special Edition)
next. I remember seeing that movie shortly after Mary, Queen of Scots as a kid, and it also made a deep impression.


  1. I just finished watching Elizabeth:The Golden Age for the first time! Don't know why I haven't watched it before now but I loved immersing myself in British history! I was just looking up Mary, Queen of Scots last week but haven't found a copy to watch yet! Mary is one that I know less about and I would like to learn more about her and seeing Vanessa would be a bonus! I also was interested in the planned movie starring Scarlett Johansson but I guess that got scrapped. It would be nice to see profiles of the other monarchs besides just Elizabeth and King Henry...

    A Man for all Seasons is another one that I'd like to take in. I think I've only seen snippets of it or forgotten it if I have seen it. I might have seen the TV film with Charlton Heston and...Vanessa Redgrave. I obviously have to go back and refresh my memory!

    It's wonderful that you got to visit England! Can you tell that I'm green with envy??!!

  2. What an inspiring review. Have never seen this version & will track it down now. And please do a man for all seasons!

  3. That's cool that you got to compare the real locations to the filmed ones! I love going back to movies that I watched earlier in life. It's never the same but that isn't a bad thing!

  4. Charley - I am completely surprised that you haven't seen MQofS--it's definitely your type of movie! I'm pretty sure that it was produced by the same team that did Anne of the Thousand Days, and the lusciousness of that movie shines through in this one as well.

    Bells - yes, A Man for All Seasons is on the list now!

    Kristen - definitely watching movies as an adult that you saw only as a kid is a subgenre in and of itself.

  5. I loved Vanessa Redgrave in her role as Mary Stuart. I saw that movie many years ago with my parents. I think I saw part of it again more recently, but I didn't realize that Timothy Dalton had a role in it -- he must have been very young then!
    I recently toured Edinburgh castle but didn't haved time for Holyrood, unfortunately as I think I would have preferred that tour.