The epic mini-series tells the story of the legendary Italian-born explorer Diego de Geona Taino, later known as Christopher Columbus, from his birth in c.1450 Genoa, Italy, to his young adult years as an expert sailor and navigator who, with money funded from the monarchy of Spain, sailed to the unknown West to find Asia in 1492, and instead found a 'New World' of the modern day West Indies to South America, and then follows his later years in his 50's as a tired, ailing man whose dreams of exploration and discovery to which he passed onto his son, and other followers, just before his death in 1506. Written by
I saw this in late 1985 on TV and was pleasantly surprised by its very high quality and by the presence of so many recognizable names and faces (Faye Dunaway, Gabriel Byrne, Rosanno Brazzi, Raf Vallone, Eli Wallach, Max von Sydow, Oliver Reed, Virna Lisi, Nicol Williamson, Elpidia Carrillo,etc.) in the supporting cast.
In 1992 there were these two films on Columbus and neither holds a candle to this superb TV miniseries. They are almost a travesty to the great achievement of the Genoese explorer. This TV movie on the other hand properly does him justice.
Gabriel Byrne as Columbus and Faye Dunaway as Queen Isabela of Spain give memorable performances. It was good that this series did not imply that there was a romance or romantic attraction between the two, unlike in the two 1992 films, as that has never been established for sure by historians.
The script is also balanced in that it shows important facets about the story and the period: Colombus' drive and determination against all odds; Spanish religious zeal after the expulsion of the Moors; the vision of the Spanish monarchs in supporting Colombus when the Portuguese King did not; the courage of the seamen who sailed with Colombus, but also, their cruelty to the Indians who were just defending their land; Columbus' skills as a seaman but ineptness as an administrator; the beauty of both Renaissance Europe and pre-Columbian America. It's all here.
This is clearly a high-budget affair, with its expensive sets and costumes. And remember, this was in the days before CG, so the ships you see here are real.
The music is also inspiring and for opera fans, you get the bonus of hearing the great Plácido Domingo sing Italian-language lyrics to the main theme at the end credits.
THIS TV FILM SHOULD BE MORE POPULAR THAN IT IS!
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