These movies are fantastic. It is refreshing to see a heroic character who works hard and treats others fairly, in contrast with today's more common "gritty" anti-heroes. (don't get me wrong, I enjoy these as well!)
A note about the set. There are, to the best of my knowledge, eight Horatio Hornblower movies. This set contains the first four. There's another set which includes all eight. In retrospect, I would have (should have) gotten the other. But, that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of these movies and this specific set. "Special Features" are few, but interesting and added value here.
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 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 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.
on August 28, 1999
This is one of the finest historical adventure dramas I have ever seen on television. As a historian, I tend to review historical films with a magnifying glass. These four films certainly passed my tests, but also peaked my interests enough to read all eleven Honblower novels. I have just finished the fifth of the novels. This film is not only historically accurate, but it is thoroughly exciting and entertaining to watch. I think it also teaches lessons about a time when honor, duty, and loyalty were a lot more than just words, they were a way of life. I liked all of the performances in the film, and all of the parts were written very well. I also wanted to take an opportunity to clarify one criticism made by another reviewer I saw on this web site. One viewer stated that the part where Captain Pellew went in and rowed one of the boats himself when trying to move the ship, was silly and not realistic. I beg to differ. First, Pellew was a real naval officer from that era that C.S. Forrester merely decided to add into his novels (which he did with several other historical figures). The real Pellew once jumped into the ocean in full dress uniform to save a man who had fallen into the water and could not swim. Pellew was the type of leader who would not ask a man to do something he himself would not do. Second, the greatest military leaders in history have often been hands on leaders, right up at the front in the mud with his soldiers. Why should Pellew be any different? To conclude, I would like to recommend The Hornblower miniseries (which has been nominated for four emmy awards this year, i.e. 1999) to Hornblower enthusiasts or to anyone who has never even heard of the Hornblower character. After you see these films, you may find yourself more intersted in the age of fighting sail. From Ian in Orlando, Florida, USA.
on July 27, 1999
If you have any familiarity with the age of sail or have read the Hornblower books this movie will certainly annoy you. Compared to the usual butcher job that screenwriters do on novels this movie stayed true enough to the original so that you won't hate it. On the other hand, the changes that were made have turned the protagonist from a calculating and efficient, though insecure, officer into a bumbling, pretty boy who gets ahead by playing the captains favorite. The captain's frantic desperation to save his young protege in the final tape makes one wonder if the directors haven't purposfully decided to add a homoerotic undertone to the relationship that was never a feature of the novels.
Beyond the weakening of the central character there are many little bits that have been added that are blatently out of period or unrealistic. In battle scenes Hornblower jumps from gun to gun, standing directly behind them where he would be crushed by the recoil of a real cannon and yelling fire. He uses a ruse de guerre of running up a french flag and then almost decides to fire on the enemy without first showing British colors, only being disuaded by his crew since they are outgunned 100 to 1. When Hornblower is trapped on the beach with French forces advancing and no ship in sight, the Indie suddenly appears with the speed of a jet fighter to save the day. Oh yes, to accomplish this feat the captain has gotten down in the ships boat to row with the crewmen even though the ship is fully manned. These are just a few of the many bits of silliness that were added to no good effect by the writers.
These descrepencies probably won't bother the average modern viewer, that's why hollywood keeps putting out this sort of half as... baked fare. I still weakly recommend this movie, even to those with a knowledge of history, literature or physics. It's not as bunged up as most hollywood attemps at period drama are.
on July 9, 1999
I can't express with what anticipation I look forward to this dramatization of C. S. Forester's superb Hornblower novels or the equally crushing disappointment with which I viewed the result. Once again, a masterpiece of literature has been destroyed by a screen dramatists attempt to "improve" it. Again and again, plots, incidents and characters have been altered from those set forth in Forester's novel "Mr. Midshipman Hornblower" and in every instance the screenwriter's decision has cheapened or weakened the end product. Worst of all have been the attempts at "political correctness." I can never remember Hornblower being portrayed as being so buddy-buddy with the common seaman, Forester (accurately) depicted the distant if respectful relationship between the two seafaring classes. And Hornblower never never NEVER expressed any sympathy for the French Revolution! The scene where the French villagers sing the Marseillese while their compatriots are executed never appeared in the novel and was of course blatantly stolen from "Casablanca." (I might add that in my opinion that cretins who burn works of art for firewood and use rare books to prop up table legs deserve anything they get!) Bottom line, avoid this abomination like the plague. Even the Gregory Peck version is superior!
on July 6, 1999
Every so often we are lucky enough to discover a work-of-art that is the result of creative and energetic people taking the time and effort to bring into being the product of their vision. This is such a film. Every element from the choice of original story, script writing, filming, directing, sound-track, actors, staging, costumes and props have been carefully chosen and created. The result is a movie that provides historical insight, character development, humour and edge-of-the-seat action. Horatio (Ioan Gruffudd) begins as a naive young land-lubber, growing into a sea-worthy leader of wit and wiles under the worldly-wise eye of Captain Sir Edward Pellew (Robert Lindsay). Guffudd brings a wide range of emotions to the screen, pulling the audience into his battles with the sea, the enemy and worst of all, the weaknesses of his fellow beings. The sagacious Captain Sir Edward Pellew, in contrast, is played by Lindsay with a stealy discipline that manages to provides insights into a man of great depth. Like a meal prepared by a gourmet chef using only the best ingredients, the movie leaves us fulfilled but, still we ask, "Please sir, can we have s'more?"
on July 1, 1999
When I first saw the ads on A&E for this series, I thought - I certainly can't commit to 8 hours of television viewing so I stuck the old tape in and set the VCR to record the series. Since I had nothing better to do that first Sunday back in the spring, I watched the first episode and it was so compelling, I watched its replay then again.
Once you get hooked on this series, it's difficult to "let go" (which I've since discovered is 18th century term for dropping anchor). You get a hero with flaws, swash and buckling both, a captain who turns into a mentor, honorable and dishonorable characters, action, drama, crisis, love - the whole ball of wax.
This is truly entertainment for all generations and genders. I ordered this series of tapes because I knew that I would be viewing them over and over again. I've not disappointed myself.
The acting is superb, the sets and costumes are wonderful, the stories are exciting - you won't be able to get enough of this series. I recommend the accompanying "Making of HH" book that Amazon also carries - well "worth the powder" (insiders will understand the reference - jump on the bandwagon!)
on June 15, 1999
This is one great story, very exceptional. I'd give it at least ten stars. I've only seen the last two episodes (as of yet), and I really loved them. It seems like modern TV and movies can't get through a story line, not to mention a little romance, without trashing it up. But this series seems to have left out the supposed "glamour" of an affair or the like, which seems to be so popular at the current time, without sacrificing the story line. I find it rather irritating when a historic movie, set in a time of honor and propriety, sacrifices the values of the time to satisfy a shallow desire for cheap "romance" and trash. But this series is completely in keeping with the time and its system of respect and morality.
Every one of the actors was excellent (particularly Ioan Gruffudd, whom I've never seen before in anything, and who, in my opinion, could not have improved on his interpretation of the character), the scenes and ships and dialogue were authentic, and the episodes were exciting, putting an occasional unexpected twist on the story line--particularly in the Duchess and the Devil.
This series is a breath of fresh air--it is made of historic situations, respect, romance, the unchangeable sea, and, most refreshing and magnatizing of all, it is made of honor.