on April 30, 2001
These four films, originally broadcast stateside, on A&E, brings C.S. Forrester's creation to life on a grand scale. All four are stand-alone stories, but are best watched together for maximum effect. All are based off of short stories from "Mr. Midshipman Hornblower", with some clever mixing and artistic license taken from time to time. "The Duel" tells the story of Hornblower's first assignment and a nasty clash of personaliies with a superior officer, Midshipman Jack Simpson, recently demoted from Acting Lieutenant, who sees Hornblower's obvious skill as a threat to his position on the ship. In "The Fire Ships", young Hornblower learns some of the finer qualties of leadership, from both good and bad examples, and takes part in a spectacular attempt to fend off a Spanish attack. The third film, "The duchess and the Devil" finds Hornblower captured by the Spanish while escorting a woman back to England. She is, of course, not at all what she seems, and the story ends with a death defying rescue attempt and a lesson in honor and courage. The fianl film, "The Wrong War", finds Hornblower embroiled in the wrong side of a conflict in France. Some great action and character bits in this one, as well as a touching romance story. Ioan Gruffud (who had a bit part in Titanic), makes a wonderful Hornblower, perectly capturing the "boy-becoming-a-man" persona and displaying hints of the hero he will become. Robert Lindsay is also, stunning as Captain Pellew of the Indefatigable. And all the supporting cast members do a fine job of bringing their characters to life. Fans of swashbucklers, Forrester's novels, or even fans of the original Hornblower film starring Gregory Peck should not miss these spectacular adventures. There are also two more films available, and more planned.
on July 17, 2004
I can't guess how many times in my life I'll end up watching this beautifully made TV series!
It's an inspired production. The plots are compelling, and the action and suspense are very real. The soundtrack makes many scenes absolutely glow with life ("It's the Indie, sir!" and the final credits are my favourite!!).
The character of Horatio is what takes this show to the level of great storytelling. Horatio is brave, loyal, intelligent, and compassionate; and all too human in his vulnerability and self-doubt. In these four episodes, we see him grow from an impressionable midshipman into a more confident commissioned Lieutenant, always trying to be the best he can be. He is played superbly by Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced YO-an Griffith).
The other regulars are just as enjoyable in their unaffected charm- seamen Matthews, Styles, and Aldroyd; midshipman Archie Kennedy; and especially the shrewd, noble Captain Pellew, played with great dignity by Robert Lindsay.
I hope you enjoy watching this wonderful series!
on February 21, 2004
in this second episode Horatio has already realised that he likes life in the navy, so much so that he is happy to be able to take the examination for lieutenant. Unfortunately, whenever he decides to open a book and study, there is an urgent distraction in the form of an adventure, especially at a time when the Spanish decided that they were allied of the French and they began to attack the British ships (with the infamous "fire ships"). These adventures are, in fact, a way for Horatio Hornblower to see the hardships that officials have to endure: he has to be prepared to take quick, life-or-death decissions for himself and his men; he has to be very sure of his priorities to take these decissions; and his priorities are not exactly the same as those of some other very well-regarded officials, who are considered heros and who could become new and powerful enemies. Horatio learns more about what being an official involves through these actions than what he could learn in a thousand books but, will he pass the exmination and finally launch his navy official career?
on July 11, 2003
The story is purely English, but the message is quintessentially American; succeed based upon one's own ability, regardless of class or lineage. Horatio Hornblower (played by Ioan Gruffudd) is brave, intelligent, and as we discover, a natural born leader, and the envy of every man. We all wish we could be like him.
This A&E made-for-TV series is an accurate representation of the C.S. Forester novels upon which they are based. These first four episodes deal with Hornblower's early years as a midshipman after he joins the British Navy when it was the uncontested ruler of the high seas.
Episode one sees Hornblower fall under the control of Simpson, an abusive senior midshipman. Horatio contemplates suicide and desertion, but instead challenges Simpson to a duel. A cruel twist spares his life - but takes that of his friend. He later exemplifies himself in battle, and cunningly outsmarts a rival French captain to begin earning the undying loyalty and affection of his men.
War with France breaks out in episode two, and Hornblower is transferred to the British frigate, the Indefatigable, commanded by Captain Pellew (played wonderfully by Robert Lindsay), who will become, over time, almost a second father to his young charge. Horatio will again distinguish himself towards the movie's end by risking his life to board a burning fire ship (a blazing vessel sent pilotless and kamikaze style into the British fleet) and diverting it away from the Indefatigable. Captain Pellew later congratulates him for saving his ship and the lives of everyone on board. Horatio's pride soars, as does the love we feel for him.
In episode three, Hornblower learns much about life - and women - when he and an English Duchess (who is really an actress) are taken prisoners by the Spanish. A French Captain threatens to reveal them as spies, but the Duchess gives up her honor to preserve their secret. Horatio is at first disgusted, but then respects her immeasurably once he realizes that her pragmatism has probably saved both of their lives. Hornblower later displays unquestionable bravery when he leads a rescue party to save sailors stranded offshore during a storm. His gallantry earns him his freedom, and Horatio gains the distinction of being recognized as a hero in both his own country and by his enemies.
In the final episode, the crew of the Indefatigable is asked to assist French Royalist soldiers in an ill-fated attempt to recapture the country from the Republic. The pomp & circumstance of the well-disciplined British army are used gloriously against the enemy. And a reinstated French Marquis employs the guillotine to lop off a few heads - but in the end suffers a similar fate. Horatio falls in love with a beautiful French girl only to lose her. And he painfully learns that duty -- and the responsibility of leading men in battle -- must always win out over his emotions.
This A&E series was a visual and inspirational delight. Ioan Grufford and Robert Lindsay were both superb. This four disc set is highly recommended!
on July 26, 2002
Horatio Hornblower is a brilliant recreation of the days of the wooden sailing ship, when the Royal Navy really did rule the waves. This series is an adaptation of C.S. Forrester's Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, which is chronologically speaking the first of a series of books following Hornblower's career. (Forrester actually wrote several books which come later in the series before taking up Hornblower's midshipman years, but that doesn't really matter to today's readers and watchers). The four episodes included in this series are beautifully done, and you really understand what life was like above and below decks. The soaring, spirited music further enhances the series. England and France are locked in combat, and Hornblower, a 17 year old midshipman, finds himself on the front lines. He visibly matures from a callow lad who gets sea sick when the ship is in harbor to a determined and ingenious leader. He is admired by virtually everybody on board, from his fellow midshipmen to the captains to the crew to the varied group of civilians who sometimes ride along as passengers. He faces down an angry rival, captures and is captured byFrench and Spanish enemies, and even abandons ship and escapes from prison with dash and derring do. As long as Hornblower's around the British will still rule the waves.
on February 3, 2002
If I had to pick one best DVD production, this would be it. This set and the sequel show what the medium is capable of at its best. It matches the 1995 A&E "Pride and Prejudice" set artistically, which I frankly did not expect so soon. Technically, the video and audio are unsurpassed, MUCH better than P&P. The accompanying special features, instead of being the useless afterthoughts we so often get, are lengthy, informative, well done, and constitute a real bonus almost as worthy as the episodes themselves.
Gruffudd and Lindsay lead a marvelous cast, utterly superb down to the most minor players. I often was sorry when a great supporting role ended, imagining how much could have been developed with more time. The tars and midshipmen who worked alongside Hornblower were my favorite supporting actors, along with a few crotchety captains of all nationalities, the best being perhaps the Spanish Prison governor.
"Hornblower" is superbly researched and produced, including a full-sized ship built from authentic plans and materials, and attention to every detail of costume, speech, warfare, terminology, technology, sociology, administration, whatever it took to transport us back 200 years. The video, videography, and sound are outstanding. A storm sequence (in the sequel) enveloped the whole room because I wired my DVD player's sound through my stereo (EASY to do and MUCH cheaper than home theater systems). I felt almost as though I were right on the deck myself and was glad to be warm and dry.
"Hornblower" isn't just about swashbuckling. Hollywood thinks sex means skin, but here we learn that brains, confidence, and action are sexier than hammering us with sweaty nudity. My female friends indicate reactions, especially to Gruffudd and Lindsay, that go well beyond my great appreciation of the acting. In fact, the "Hornblower" DVD's are becoming notorious for setting feminine hearts aflutter. However, guys, there are delectable tidbits for us, too. I confess to difficulty in maintaining objectivity about the "Duchess," the French schoolmarm, and the Spanish Colonel's lady. These strong, smart, courageous, women are the sort I would want at my side in any era, and are quite delicious in the bargain, which is how I imagine women react to the male players. The sexiness fits seamlessly into the proceedings, with nary a gratuitous exploitative scene to cheapen it. The original Hornblower books did include a French sweetheart, so I can forgive contriving to include the teacher.
The appeal of "Hornblower" comes from several facets. It respects our intelligence. Things make sense; they could have happened as depicted. The characters seem real - good actors make us forget they are acting. We do not have to suspend disbelief (except that after a while, it seems unlikely that one person could be so lucky). We identify with the players. Hornblower reminds me of myself as a young soldier learning to lead and occasionally having to beat the system. Pellew reminds me of myself as a professor expecting the best of students, but with respect and affection. The crewmen are so like my students, my fellow grunts in the ditches at the refinery, and my comrades in the Army. The women are my dreams. These things are what hooks me, but there is something to hook every viewer, as all my friends who have seen "Hornblower" attest.
I am brutal about a DVD's weaknesses, so take this as significant: THIS IS SOME OF THE BEST DVD STUFF. BUY IT -- YOU WILL WATCH IT AGAIN AND AGAIN.
on July 15, 2001
The four chapters consisting of the first HORAIO HORNBLOWER series is an adpation of many short stories from the book Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. As such we have several plot lines in each movie and several chances to sink or swim. The series as a whole is well acted Gruffudd does a fine job as Hornblower the man of both thought and action. Sean Gilder (Styles), Simon Sherlock (Oldroyd), Paul Copley (Matthews), did a fine job in all four epsiodes. Individual episodes had fine performances as well specifically Ian McNeice (a fine character actor) as Mr. Tapling of the diplomatic service who nearly steals every scene he's in (exam. for Lieutenant) and Samuel West who low keys Major Edrington very well (Frogs and Lobsters), If rated alone the highest marks overall would go to Exam for Lieutenant (3rd) & the Duchass and the Devil (2nd). "Even Chance" (1st) suffers in compared to an more interesting "duel" plot in the book a better screenwriter would have used it. "Frogs & Lobsters" again suffers by comparason by the totally unnecessary inclusion of the love interest to sell the series. Of course those two tape would be only rated slightly less and only suffer by their comparison to the book. In a way the use of a real ship limits the series and the writing but also rewards it. It is easily worth the money and will I hope lead to the adaption of all the books in the series.
on March 21, 2001
Horatio Hornblower fans! On Friday, April 6th, Horatio Hornblower: The Adventure Continues, will air on A&E. The two brand new episodes are titled, The Mutiny and Retribution. I'm not sure if both will air the same day. ...Producer Andrew Benson and Director Andrew Grieve who were both involved in the original four movies of the Horatio Hornblower series, also produced these two latest episodes. Additionally, both Ioan Guffudd as Lieutenant Hornblower and Robert Lindsay as Captain Pellew, star in Horatio Hornblower: The Adventure Continues.
If Mutiny and Retribution are anywhere near the quality of the first four episodes, we're in for a real treat! Looking forward to picking up ...these two latest episodes on DVD, which like the original series, have nice extras!
Happy viewing Horatio Hornblower fans! PS I was required to fill in a ranking, even though these latest episodes haven't aired yet. Based on the last four episodes, I'm giving Mutiny and Retribution 5 star ratings in advance.
on February 10, 2000
The four movies in this set (The Duel, The Fireship, The Duchess and the Devil, and The Wrong War) are adapted from C.S. Forester's "Mr. Midshipman Hornblower." The movies' writers have done an excellent job of transferring the novel to the screen. Although they have made changes that may offend some Hornblower purists, I found the changes worked well in this medium. There is plenty of action with sea and land battles, as well as individual acts of heroism. But the characters are also developed in the writing and in the superb performances by a very talented cast.
The DVDs are well done. The video looks very good, considering that this was originally made for television. The picture is sharp and the colors are true. The sound is good, though it won't strain your system. The disks are surprisingly well stocked with supplemental material. The first two movies provide a bio of Forester and a glossary of nautical terms in text. The third disk contains the "making of" documentary that was shown on A&E and the History Channel when the series was originally aired. And the last disk contains a documentary about the Royal Navy, contrasting Nelson's era with the present. This show is hosted by (Prince) Edward Windsor and originally appeared as one of the Great Ships episodes on the History Channel.
Any fan of the Hornblower novels should see this series. Any fan of historical movies should see this series. Any one who enjoys a good movie that tells a story full of heroism and honor should see this series! I can't recommend it enough.
on February 3, 2000
These four movies made from C. S. Forester's book, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, were faithful to Forester's novel. They are accurate in technical details of the French Revolution period in which they take place. The four movies show each character and each side of the conflict between the British and the French in an even handed manner. Many movies make one side out as heros and the other side as idiots or worst. These movies take pain to show both sides according to their best ideals and beliefs. They show patriotism by both the British and French. They are stories from the most important conflict of that historic period and show the best efforts of all participates. The movies show the best traits of heroic men as well as the base traits of scandals. Desperate struggles are vividly depicted with fighting men on each side trying their best to prevail. The best, but imperfect efforts, of men of war are realistically shown. The four movies are faithful to Forester's books, the historic period, and the charateristics of fighting men in desperate conflicts. The fast moving stories are a pure pleasure to watch. They make a superb collection which can be watched over and over with great anticipation. It is hoped that the makers of these Hornblower movies will continue converting the rest of the fine Hornblower books to movies.