A fine, ambitious mini-series that deserves a DVD Box Set.
As a long-time history buff and Silk Road scholar, I've been enamored of the Marco Polo mystique for many years. I've had this on VHS since it first aired and finally replayed the whole thing last week for the first time in 20 years. While it holds up remarkably well, it is not without some major faults. While the international cast is fabulous, Ken Marshall in the lead role is adequate at best. The real problem lies in the stiffs in the Asian scenes. I mean horrendously badly read English by Asian actors who sound like they took their first English lesson last week. What was the director thinking in letting such amateurish work into the final cut? Or was this an attempt at cinema verite, where people are struggling with a tongue that is not their own? Whatever, it is actually painful to listen to some of this stuff. Apart from Ying Ruocheng, who is perfect as Kubilai Khan, and James Hong, as Phags-Pa, the rest of the Asian cast sounds embarrassingly inept. Maybe its just the dubbing, but this is a real obstacle to enjoying some of the scenes set in China. I'm thinking they should re-dub some of the parts if they decide to ever release a DVD of this in the States. But, that's the only negative to this fine, ambitious project that succeeds in telling the story of Marco Polo against the backdrop of some great, exotic locations and the fabled Forbidden City in Beijing. And what's the deal with that? Wasn't the Forbidden City built by the Ming Dynasty after the fall of the Mongols? Oh well, we need not split hairs here. That and the Great Wall look fabulous. There's a lot to enjoy over the many hours and Ennio Morricone's score is still beautiful. Its a shame it isn't as exalted as some of his other work. I consider it one of his best.
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