Young Catherine (TV Movie 1991) Poster

(1991 TV Movie)

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Well done, and almost accurate.
iliawarlock21 January 2001
This film is rare in that it tries, and almost succeeds, in giving an accurate impression of Russian history. There are only three points on which it flounders, and unfortunately, the second one of them, at the end of the film, is quite unforgivable. The acting is excellent. Christopher Plummer is a true delight as a sardonic and kindly old diplomat, while Vannesa Redgrave is truly stunning as the mercurial and autocratic Empress Elizabeth. Julia Ormond is good, skillful and inspired in playing an intelligent young woman, who possesses a grand will and a superb mind which will not allow her to stay in the background. It is easy to see that the roles were studied well, and that the memoirs of Catherine the Great played a large part in the planning of the film. The shooting of the film was done, thankfully, on location, for a large part in the Catherine Palace at Pushkin (formerly Tsarskoe Selo). The costumes (with the exception of the black fox winter coats), were well studied and planned. All in all, this film is done well, intelligently, and it almost manages to avoid the fatal flaw of romantic hollywoodism. Almost, but not quite. Here we come to the flaws of the film. The first historical error is, I admit, a very small one. The winter coats worn in the film are made of black fox. Unfortunately, this animal was bred for the fur only in the nineteenth century, long after Catherine's death. Had bearskin coats been used, or sable, or ordinary red fox, the general effect would have been a bit smoother. The second flaw is the condensation of the film into a reasonable time period. True, I realize that this was unavoidable. But the fact remain, Catherine was married to Peter III for no less than seventeen years, and was a mature woman in her thirties when she planned her palace coup against her (very well played here) incompetent and sickening husband. Truth to tell, though, after reading her memoirs one begins to wonder why she did not poison him after the first six months. Heaven knows, any normal woman would have. And finally, the third and worst flaw of the film. Unfortunately, here, the romantic notions of the movie industry took over from historical accuracy and common sense. The scene of Peter III's death at the hands of his guards and Alexej Orlov (not Grigorij), was well described in the documents of Catherine's time. Allowing, in the script, for the "romantic" scene in which Grigorij Orlov strangles Peter, and then tells Catherine of it in bed is the largest mistake of the film. It neglects historical fact on a fairly major point in favor of cheap theatrical effect. To sum up: this is a beautifully and accurately filmed movie, with excellent acting, an intelligent (and almost accurate!) plot, and a good sense of history (something you will not see in the 1930's film). It is worth watching, but if you are a historian, or even a person interested in Russian history, try not to take it too personally.
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One of the most accurate epics concerning Russian history ever made!
Marcin Kukuczka16 November 2004
Copying with the reality of Russian royal palace for the sake of which she left her homeland and religion, hated and betrayed by her insane husband, continually insulted, accused of treason by conspiracies, deprived of normal family life, of her husband's love (a virgin for two years after getting married), not allowed to see her baby more than twice a year, living in a "golden cage". That is what young Catherine had to cope with! If you were her, wouldn't you look for some "escape" from this cruel reality?

Young Catherine is a movie that memorably shows the early years of Catherine the Great. It is very accurate historically and very well made as a movie. Moreover, it shows her private life in a way that very few films have ever encountered to. Before seeing the movie, I underestimated Catherine. There were bad voices even among some historians that she was notorious for her love affairs and immoral life. But, after such a terrible experience, what could she do? Did she have a more promising choice? Her soul and mind were hurt by her young years! That is the most important conclusion that you will draw after seeing this movie! There are other factors throughout that are impressive.

The cast are excellent. The choice of Julia Ormond for the role of Catherine is very, very accurate. She is even better than Catherine Zeta Jones in Marvyn J. Chomsky's Catherine the Great (1995). She looks gentle, intelligent, sensible, and very clever. I loved most of the moments with her in the movie. She plays naturally. The equal things can be said about Vanessa Redgrave. She has proved to be a great actress a considerable number of times, but here, as Elizabeth, she is really INCREDIBLE! It's a must to see her in this role! Changing her heart from a cruel empress, unaccepted any mercy (sending away Catherine's mother) to someone who can forgive and love. Consider the moment when Catherine comes to Elizabeth and explains her deeds that were done for the sake of royal family's safety and her little son's happiness? A masterpiece of acting! It's crucial to mention Maximilian Schell, Christopher Plummer, and Franco Nero too. However, their roles are minor ones. Maximilian Schell shone in his role as Peter the Great in 1986... but here, indeed, the names that shine are Ormond and Redgrave.

The music is also something that has to be mentioned. It is very unique, profound, and "very Russian" There is some kind of nostalgia, but balanced, not overdone like in some other films. It is a pleasure to listen, very melodious and moving. Great! The music has the best effect at the end, in the scene of Catherine's glorious coronation and Count Orlov leaving, vowing to her the lifelong faithfulness and love. Really moving and memorable!

Summing it up, if you once decide to see YOUNG CATHERINE, the movie will supply you with more Russian history than several lectures and with more pleasure than several hours in a theater. There is everything in this incredible film. History for those interested in it, good music for the music lovers, great acting for those who like real stars in movies, love scenes for those who claim it to be a must in every movie. THE FILM IS A MASTERPIECE AT MULTIPLE LEVELS!

You will start to watch it indifferently, perhaps with no special interest, but you will leave the seat in tears! 9/10!!!
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Young Catherine is superb
aussiebrisguy23 July 2006
Young Catherine is superb. It may not be totally 100% accurate but it is sweeping and powerful drama. The cast are superb and it is fantastic to see that it was actually filmed in real settings in Russia. It is wonderful to see the magnificent Catherine Palace at Tsarskoe Selo used. There are many wonderful actors in this drama. I think my favourite must be Vanessa Redgrave as the Empress Elizabeth. She is superb. Julia Ormond is also wonderful in the lead role. At the end of the film I wanted to see her continue in the role with more of Catherine II. Mark Frankel is such a dashing Gregory Orlov. It is so sad that he was killed in an accident so young. He had much to give as a performer. Reece Dinsdale is suitably made as the Grand Duke Peter while Maximilian Schell is fantastic as King Frederick the Great of Prussia. I particularly liked Marthe Keller as Catherine's mother Johanna. She is a wonderful actress. Anna Kanakis and Franco Nero are deliciously evil as Count and Countess Voronstov and Christopher Plummer is superb as the British Ambassador. Katharine Schlesinger is grotesquely wonderful as the whorish crippled mistress of Grand Duke Peter. Harmut Becker as Catherine's father and Laurie Holden as Princess Dashkova are also very good. John Shrapnel is also excellent as the Russian Orthodox Archimandrite Todorsky. All in all if you like sweeping romantic drama with lots of interesting characters, Young Catherine is well worth seeing. I know I enjoyed it.
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Great Historical Drama
skorzeny23 November 1999
This is one of my favorite videos to watch. Young Julia Ormond is beautiful and gives a fine performance, and the supporting cast is simply awesome. Christopher Plummer's English diplomat is a spectacular schemer with a heart of gold, Vanessa Redgrave is a wonderful old harridan, and the Grand Duke is crazy as a mad ferret in a sack. Some great scenes (anything with Plummer or the Grand Duke) make this a fun watch, and the liberties it takes with history are fully justified from a dramatic standpoint.
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Gorgeous 'Russian' Scenery
alicecbr6 April 2000
For all us costume drama lovers, this one really fits the bill: splendiferous castles, expensive costumes, madness and mayhem!!! When Peter squshes the rat (thankfully off-camera) you know another movie milestone has been passed: how to best express sadism without showing blood. By the time the poor maniac is murdered, you are very thankful to whomever.

One certainly gets a strange look at the German-born Catherine the Great from the nymphomaniacal pictures one has read elsewhere. She is quite righteous, but one does wonder at the truth of her standing down the Russian Army during one of the palace revolts. I would think from all these historical monarchy movies that the life of a ruler is NOT a happy one....see "Anne Boleyn", "Elisabeth and Essex", "Mary, Queen of Scots" and "Richard III" for a few examples.

It is no wonder that this movie captures top dollar on the auctions. I had to wait out the big money spenders at least 11 times to get it at my price ($17.) Really glad I did. This will be well worth my new big screen TV and will get a re-screening along with "Nicholas and Alexandria". Pick up the old 1934 Douglas Fairbanks movie of "Catherine the Great" for comparison. Then head for the Brittanica for perhaps a little closer version of the truth.,,although this hits it pretty closely.
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Worth Watching, But Not As History
atlasmb14 August 2017
Released in two episodes for television, "Young Catherine" has a lot going for it.

Young Julia Ormond plays Catherine and manages to convey both the naivete of the young German princess (named Sophie), who was selected to marry the Russian heir to the throne, and the resolution of the more experienced Catherine who must marshal all of her strength and all of her allies to overthrow her husband, Peter, and assume the throne.

Peter is wonderfully played by Reece Dimsdale as a childish, spoiled, and inept young man. In reality, Catherine met Peter when he was only age 10. This is one of many diversions from historical fact that the film includes, often for convenience.

But if one watches the film as a fairy-tale, it is quite enjoyable--at least up until the death of Empress Elizabeth (Lynn Redgrave), who sponsors Catherine and, in fact, gives her the new name. At that point, the film devolves into melodrama, though it still affords some enjoyment.

Redgrave is convincing as the imperious royal, demonstrating governance by whim so well, providing a framework for understanding the extent of royal indulgence. Another actor who shines in this piece is Christopher Plummer, as Sir Charles, a British diplomat assigned to Russia and a confidant of Catherine.

In addition to the acting, this film offers fine production values all around. The opulence and ostentation of the court and the church is on full display. The costuming is stunning.

Unfortunately, my grade must be reduced by several points for the film's divergence from fact. Its pace is courtly, allowing the viewer to really enjoy the story's unfolding; it's a shame that the producers felt that the patience of viewers could not accommodate a more accurate rendering.
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Not quite accurate, but even better than reality
iskahleah17 February 2006
I absolutely love this film! Having seen it for the first time as a pre-teen Russophile, I became enamored with the scenery, costumes, and history of imperial Russia. I got to see these things and places for real during college, and it was literally the most thrilling experience! The "empress' own sleigh" is in the Kremlin museum, as is Catherine's coronation gown, and some of Peter III's suits--he was such a tiny little man!

I must admit, however, a great disappointment when I finally, just last week, read Carolly Erikson's well-researched biography of Catherine, and found many inaccuracies in the film. For one, Catherine actually had several children, not just Paul. It does simplify the story, however, to keep him as an only child (like how in Gone With The Wind, Scarlett's children by her first two husbands are completely left out of the film). The most frustrating inaccuracy, however, was that she really did not even meet Orlov til she was nearly 30 years old, and had already had several lovers.

The love story in the film is much more screen-worthy, however, so I can forgive their decision, it was just saddening to me to have my understanding of this amazing woman altered after so many years. The film's portrayal of the struggles of Catherine's early life is true-to-life in its essence, however, as it introduces a modern audience to this bold, brave, and incredibly intelligent historical figure.
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Redgrave shines
hugobolso-121 December 2006
in this story with lot of historical mistakes. There are two big miniseries in the 90 about Catherine The Great, the second one with Catherine Zeta Jones was much better. Zeta Jones character was cult but intringuing, while Ms. Ormond (even when she shines with her beauty and acting skills) is little more than a damsel in destress. However there is a thing that save this miniseries for the total melodrama. And that's it Vanessa Redgrave as Elisabeth Petrovna. She really rules, and she looks young, the Empress Elisabeth died in her early fifties, while she met Catherine in her last thirsties. And Redgrave look young, passionated and energic, the quite opposite of the pale version of Jeanne Moreau who was too old for the role in Zeta Jones miniseries.
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good production for TV
SnoopyStyle13 May 2017
It's 1744 in a small German principality. Catherine (Julia Ormond) is selected by Prussian Frederick the Great (Maximilian Schell) and brought to St. Petersberg to marry Peter, heir to the Russian throne. The empire is ruled by his aunt Empress Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave). Peter is a failure in everything and Catherine must fight for her place. She is befriended by Sir Charles (Christopher Plummer) but few others. She maneuvers to take the throne and the empire.

In 1744, Catherine would have been 15. Julia Ormond was about 10 years older than that. It would have been more compelling to have a teen trying to deal with the political intrigue. The role does span a long time so it's a tough casting proposition. She was 33 when she took the throne. Ormond was relatively new and did a very nice job. The production is pretty high for a TV mini-series. The cast is filled with great veterans. It is better than most TV movies. As for accuracy, don't ask me. I'm no historian.
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