Friday, October 5, 2007

Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) was on my want-list for about a year and I was afraid that I would have to get the VHS, which was rare and quite expensive; but at last it's available on DVD.

The picture transfer is wonderful. This movie begins with Mary Stuart's last days as the Queen Consort of France. After the death of her husband, King Fran├žois, Mary (1542-1587) returned to Scotland, hoped for a better future. The fortune, however, didn't smile on her. Her brother, James, betrayed her. Her marriage to Henry Lord Darnley, was turned to be a mistake. Darnley was furiously jealous to her secretary, Riccio (these two had an affair), and joined in a conspiracy with the lords to get rid of him; only to realize that they used him in the rebellion against the Queen, so again he changed side. The lords didn't like Darnley so much that they couldn't wait until he died from the pox, and soon after he made a narrow escaped when they blew up his house, they killed him. From Darnley, Mary had a son, James I, who later would reign Scotland and England, because Elizabeth I had no child.
Mary married for the 3rd time to Bothwell, but soon they were separated. Bothwell died in Denmark, and Mary at last beheaded by her cousin's Elizabeth I.

Compare to Mary of Scotland (1936) , I like the 1971 version better. Katherine Hepburn made a very strong queen. Lord Darnley here was evidently gay and I wonder how the marriage could even produce a son. She married him only to secure her throne. There were also silly scenes like when Mary turned down all of her suitors and when Bothwell joked with Mary's ladies-in-waiting. My favourite moment was when the people of Scotland came to give their support to the new queen with a song. The melody was similar to "The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond", but the lyrics were different.

Different from Hepburn, Redgrave made a more human queen. Fresh from France, which was full of singing and dancing, she was more free-spirited than the Scottish lords. She loved all her 3 husbands, although most likely she changed her mind soon after she found out Darnley's real personality on the wedding night. Dalton portrayed very well this drunkard, who was also a coward, double-traitor, pampered boy, who wept when in trouble and did anything to save his own life. I was happy when this pest finally died on screen. Redgrave's humanity also made it convincing when Elizabeth told her how fragile she was, how she had been tricked, and her anger when she tried to hit Elizabeth with her stick. The most breath-taking moment was the execution scene, when Mary removed her cloak to show her red dress.

I think I read somewhere that Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor never met in reality. Perhaps I am wrong. The last 3 movies (2 above + Elizabeth I miniseries with Helen Mirren) I saw about them showed the meeting, though. At least those were secret meetings.

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