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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Well done, and almost accurate.

Author: iliawarlock (iliawarlock@yahoo.com) from San Mateo, CA
21 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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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

One of the most accurate epics concerning Russian history ever made!

9/10
Author: Marcin Kukuczka from Cieszyn, Poland
16 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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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Young Catherine is superb

10/10
Author: aussiebrisguy from Australia
23 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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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Gorgeous 'Russian' Scenery

Author: alicecbr from United States
6 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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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Not quite accurate, but even better than reality

9/10
Author: iskahleah from United States
17 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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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Great Historical Drama

Author: Martin A. Hohner (simnjestr@aol.com) from Chicago, IL
23 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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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Redgrave shines

Author: hugobolso-1 from Uruguay
21 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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8 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

young Catherine?

2/10
Author: duckykier from United States
28 March 2005

The reviewer from Poland must be a feminist, for she finds "Young Catherine" to be a great film and historically accurate. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a practicing Russian historian for many, many years I took exception with YC at almost every turn, and in particular the politically correct depiction of her as the boss who single-handed moved Russia into a direction of dominance. The truth? She was only brought to St.Petersburg to be a wife and mother, and found she had to "bond" with the dvoriane, the boyars, and the military just to survive. So long as she did not challenge them she was able/ permitted to indulge her cultural wishes (filling up the Hermitage with art treasures, etc.). There are so many proofs that she was not "great," but in this area of post-modern revisionism proof is not very popular. YC is only a costume drama, a bit of fluff from Ted Turner that, like "Peter the Great" in 1986, is one more example of how badly Russia is portrayed in the West.

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