Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: The Kent Chronicles -- Part 1 (1978)

When our copies of the BBC America catalog come in the mail, my mom and I always have to look through it and see if there are any new period dramas coming out that we could watch (of course we order on Amazon since it's a lot more reasonably priced). I picked up the BBC America catalog after looking over it a few times and found on the first page a period drama that I had skipped over: The Kent Chronicles -- a collection of three movies. After reading that William Shatner was in there, I thought "Okay, we have to watch this". Then I looked over the cast list and saw there were a bunch of actors that I recognized: Lorne Green, Buddy Ebsen, Donald Pleasance, etc. and I thought, "We really need to get this movie!" So my mom ordered it and in a few days it came. We watched the first movie recently, but have yet to see the other two movies (which, of course, I will review). So, here is Part 1 of The Kent Chronicles.

Note: All three parts of the Kent Chronicles have names, but since the name of the first one might make some people uncomfortable (not anything extremely horrible and it can be heard in other period dramas, but it is a bit of a vulgar term), I'm going to refer to each part as Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Box Art (edited)
In a poor French village, a man named Phillipe Charboneau, the natural son of an English duke and a French actress, is told by his mother, Marie, that his father will leave him half his estate when he dies and produces an official document to prove it. When the Duke falls ill, Phillipe and Marie travel to the duke's estate Kentland so that Phillipe would be officially recognized as his son. However, the duchess and Phillipe's half brother, Roger, stand opposed to him and don't let Phillipe see his father. Choosing not to abandon the claim, Marie and Phillipe stay in the village, but when an altercation occurs, they flee to London and eventually Phillipe flees to America where he meets many of the Revolutionary War patriots.

There might not be the all British actors that you might easily recognize from other period dramas in this miniseries, but there are a bunch of Hollywood actors/actresses you may recognize.

Actor/ActressCharacterAlso in...
Tom BosleyBenjamin FranklinHappy Days as Howard Cunningham, Father Dowling Mysteries as Fr. Frank Dowling
Kim CattrallAnne WareMy Boy Jack as Caroline Kipling
Buddy EbsenBenjamin EdesThe Beverly Hillbillies as Jed Clampett
Lorne GreenBishop FrancisBonanza as Ben Cartwright, Battlestar Gallatica (1978) as Commander Adama
Olivia HusseyAliciaRomeo and Juliet (1968) as Juliet
Donald PleasanceSolomon SholtoThe Barchester Chronicles as Mr. Septimus Harding
William ShatnerPaul RevereStar Trek as Captain James T. Kirk, T.J. Hooker as Sgt. T.J. Hooker
John de LancieLt. StarkStar Trek: The Next Generation as Q
Alan NapierDr. BleekerBatman (1966) as Alfred
Raymond BurrNarratorPerry Mason as Perry Mason

Phillipe Charboneau/Philip Kent
I wasn't quite sure what to make of Phillipe (who eventually becomes Phillip Kent in America). I didn't exactly like him, but I didn't really hate him either. I did think that he was too much of a ladies man and that he could have controlled his temper a little bit better, but he really cared for his mother and Spoiler when his mother died on her way to America End of Spoiler he took an interest in fighting in the Revolutionary War. He was trusted by many of the historical figures and was able to listen in on the Sons of Liberty's secret meetings (But that was something was a little unrealistic about his life; my dad said that he had read the original book and he always thought it a little odd that whoever was anyone in Colonial America, Philip happened to run into. Could it be just luck? Maybe, but the chances of it happening in real life? Slim.). But anyways, I guess he was an okay main character, but there were parts of his personality that I didn't like.

We don't get to see too much of the Amberlies, Phillipe's father's family. They are often talked about, but they get relatively short screen time. After Phillipe and Marie leave England to go to America, we do get to see Roger as a British officer, Spoiler but we don't get to see him much before he is killed. End of Spoiler So, while the Amberlies are the main adversaries to Phillipe (not counting the British soldiers that he encounters), we don't get to see them all that much.

I liked how there were a lot of historical characters in this movie along with fictional characters. You get a sense of that the historical characters possibly were like. However, I felt like while I got to see a lot of historical figures, I didn't really get a chance to get to know them. It would have been nice if there was more time to see Phillipe interact with the historical figures one on one, but it sadly didn't happen.

Paul Revere
William Shatner as Paul Revere acted... well, like William Shatner. While I don't dislike William Shatner as an actor (I do like seeing him in TV shows and movies), he's not all that great of an actor. The way he spoke and his speaking pattern was the same in anything I ever saw him in. Pretty much he acts every single one of his roles the same way. It could have just as easily been Captain Kirk from Star Trek as Paul Revere. So, maybe he could have acted more like Paul Revere would have acted, but nevertheless, I was still disappointed that he wasn't in there enough.

Ben Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was one of the more important historical figures in Part 1, but even his screen time was limited. He met Phillipe while Phillipe and Marie were staying in London. Ben Franklin was very influential on Phillipe to go to America, and even gave him his book and wrote him a letter of recommendation to get him a job as a print maker. He was a little strange, though, but I've heard that the real Ben Franklin was. I've read that he is going to be in Part 2, so I guess I'll have to see if he has a bigger part later.

There's a wide range of scenery in this part of The Kent Chronicles. The story takes place from a poor village in France, to an estate used for Kentland in England, to the colonies that would become the United States of America. The filmography itself wasn't anything amazing (it was a 70s TV movie after all), but it was good enough. The film quality, I would say, is better than BBC miniseries from the same time.

Poor costumes, rich costumes, and middle class costumes are present throughout the movie. This movie takes place in the 1770s and leads up to the start of the Revolutionary War. So plenty of Georgian fashions to be sure. For the most part, I didn't have too much to complain about as far as accuracy goes. Though I'm not sure that some of the women were wearing the proper stays from the era. Other than that, the costuming was nice to look it.

Phillipe starts out with poorer clothes, but his clothes become nicer as the movie progresses. His clothes only get really fancy once when the character Alicia buys him some nice clothes, but other than that since he went into a trade in America he doesn't have the fanciest clothes.

The Duchess.
Phillipe's father's wife, the duchess, wears very high fashion clothing: a blue, powdered wig, fancy gowns, and it looks like she had panniers or side hoops on for the fullness of her dress. The story takes place in the 1770s when panniers were starting to go out of fashion (or on their way out), but since she is not quite young, maybe she wore older gowns because she liked them better; this still seems a little strange to me that she would wear panniers. Roger Amberly was dressed like an overdressed dandy: powdered wig, a possibly fake mole, fancy clothes, makeup (let's put it this way, Sir Percy from The Scarlet Pimpernel was dressed like a bum compared to this guy). Unfortunately, I couldn't find a picture of Roger! So, for now, you'll have to take my word on it.

Alicia, put up your hair like a Georgian
What really irritated me was the way Alicia's (Roger's fiance/wife and one of Phillip's loves) hair was dressed... it wasn't. Her hair for almost all of her screen time, even when she supposedly became a duchess, was down. Wasn't really styled in any way, just down. Straight with some curl at the tips of her hair. Pulled back slightly at the top of her head, but the rest of her hair hung down. Does anyone else find this inaccurate considering that during the course of the 1700s hair styles/wigs were complex? Or did anyone else think that it was weird that she was even outside without a hat on?  Yeah, I thought so. For a lady, she sure if making an awful lot of fashion faux pas.
Anne Ware

The American fashions were simpler than the European fashions. Anne Ware's (Phillip's fiance) gowns were plainer, but they were still nice. Her hair was actually up (Alicia, take notice). Though I thought she looked pretty young to be someone past marrying age. The American men had on middle class clothes: they weren't fancy like the English fashions, but they weren't poor either.

The music was okay, though not really memorable. If it was on a CD, I probably wouldn't get the CD. A lot of harpsichord music was used to keep with the time period and give the setting a 1700s feel to it.

Overall: 3.75/5
I enjoyed Part 1. The story line was an interesting one and gave me a little insight into the Revolutionary War. The cast had a lot of easily recognizable actors, which made the opening credits fun. They probably could have done without a couple of unnecessary scenes, though. But I still enjoyed Part 1. Keep an eye out for my Part 2 review.

While there is no rating, I would say that part 1 of The Kent Chronicles is PG-13... easily. There is some violence where some people get killed (though the acting in those parts is not very good, so it's not as realistic as it could have been). There is also some adult themes (with some scenes) scattered throughout the movie. There is some swearing throughout the movie. Also, there is one scene where we realize that Benjamin Franklin was a little strange...not a horrible scene, but he was an odd fellow.

The Kent Chronicles is available on DVD. Part 1 runs for 240 minutes with an intermission in the middle.

And okay, for those who wanted to know what Lorne Green and Donald Pleasance looked like, here are some pictures of them in Part 1:
Lorne Green (Ben Cartwright from Bonanza) as Bishop Francis). He was only in there for one scene, though, so he shouldn't really be considered a star or anything.

Donald Pleasance (Mr. Harding from The Barchester Chronicles) as Solomon Sholto. He was a sweet, old man in here like he was in The Barchester Chronicles (though, from what I understand, he got mostly creepy roles as an actor).

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