The Devil's Whore (TV Mini-Series 2008) Poster

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Surprised by how much I loved it...
mampele30 November 2008
I wasn't much of a fan of the English Civil War during History lessons at school. It was always difficult trying to decide which side to support. The glamorous, party loving Cavaliers or the serious, democratically minded, fair but boring round-heads....Watching The Devil's Whore I found my self switching sides again. However, kudos to Peter Flannery for making this period of history really interesting. This difficult period has never really been covered in movies or TV.

The whole cast is absolutely amazing. Peter Capaldi is great as a doomed king, Michael Fassbender is intense and stunning as Rainsborough but my favourites are John Simm and Andrea Riseborough. Both act their socks off and make me want to keep watching. The chemistry, sparring and respect between Sexby and Angelica is fascinating! Almost perfect...
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Civil War Drama
freemantle_uk26 September 2009
The English Civil War has often been over looked as a subject for drama, with most films being very inaccurate. The Civil War was a important watershed moment in English history, showing a king can be overthrown, strengthen Parliament, reformed the English army and in the end limits power the power of kings and a tyrant. The Devil's Whore is also a new step for Channel Four, because they don't normally make costume dramas (BBC normally makes them). Channel Four focus has often been documentaries, buying good American programmes, and make comedy series like Peep Show and the Inbetweeners.

The Devil's Whore has a similar approach to Rome, focusing on a fictional character who becomes involved in historical events and meets famous historical people.

The focus of the programme is on Angelica Fanshawe (Andrea Riseborough), an aristocratic woman from a Catholic background. She has rejected God and sees the Devil because her mother ran off to become a nun. The show starts off with Angelica being a member of the Queen's household just before the English Civil War. But as the Civil War starts and Angelica is forced out King Charles I's camp she allies her herself with political radicals like the Levellers. She also falls in love with soldier and political radical Edward Sexby (John Sims). Angelica also gets very close to honest John Lilburne (Tom Goodman-Hill), a popular political radical, and she acts as his champion to Charles I (Peter Capaldi) and Oliver Cromwell (Dominic West).

If you are excepting an action-packed war drama, you will be disappointed because they are few battle scenes. But there is some good sword fights which are more realistic then others in visual media. The strength of the show is the character drama, about Angelica and her struggles. The other main strength is the political background, from Charles I's struggles to Parliament, to Oliver Cromwell becoming no more then a military dictator. The history is actuate for the most part, for example, in English culture some people like to idealise Oliver Cromwell as a great liberator: in real life he took over through a military coup, oppressed dissenting voices and enforced his puritan views on the nation, as well being a butcher to Irish Catholics in Drogheda and Wexford.

They is a excellent cast, having talented actors like John Sim, Dominic West, Michael Fassbender and Peter Capaldi (who I was particularly impressed with). Anglea Riseborough is a strong newcomer, who is able to hold her own with all these talented people. She turns her character from a lost young woman to a powerful voice of dissent. John Sim, Dominic West, Tom Goodman-Hill and Maxine Peake are also very good in their roles. The production values were excellent, and with a budget of £7 Million, it was put to good use. The set designer and historical scenes were created really well, showing that towns, cities and even important building like Parliament were not very grant. They was an earthy feel to show. Marc Munden was a good director, able to combine all the elements together. He gets the best out of his actors and does some good scenes. He makes the violence realistic and characters like Sexby were heavily scared.

This show was not perfect, they were some problems. Some of the subplots did not lead anywhere, the surreal elements did not work for me, especially because of the realistic sitting, and there were historical inaccuracies, such as the omissions of characters like John Pym and Sir Thomas Fairfax. But the programme does show the complex political background with the different schools of thought during the mid-17th century.

It is worthy viewing.
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Inspiring historical drama.
jhsteel12 December 2008
I can't believe that I know so little about the English Civil War and this series has stimulated me to learn more. The characters were portrayed so well that I feel I want to know so much more about those who were real people. John Simm's performance as Edward Sexby haunts me because he spent so much time longing for a relationship with Angelica, then finally reached his goal, only to move away from her again towards another greater goal. It was inspiring, and I was captivated by the visual impact and the political power of the plot. Like the West Wing, the Devil's Whore managed to make me interested in political issues that may seem dull elsewhere. Oliver Cromwell came across as a real man and most of the real historical figures were 3-dimensional. Angelica was fascinating and powerful, and it doesn't matter that she was not real historically - she held the story together. The details of the struggle between the monarch and the parliamentarians is very gripping and is at the roots of our present system of democracy - probably the model for all democracies.

As a Quaker, I need to know as much as possible about this period in English history, because out of the many religious and political groups which grew up in the turbulence of the 17th century, the Society of Friends is one that has survived adapted to modern life - something that the Ranters and Levellers were unable to do.

Overall, my main impression was one of fascination with the story of Angelica's life and Sexby's devotion to her - it was a great inspiring tale. Such a shame that it had to be cut down from 12 episodes to 4 - how much more would we have gained if we could have seen all that was planned?
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Excellent series but . . .
katepearson194921 September 2012
Excellently entertaining series with some interesting slants on the history but I appreciate that the writers did not set out to create a drama-documentary. Although they did incorporate some historical accuracy, anyone not knowing the real history of the Civil War could/would be very confused by some of the content. The real Thomas Rainsborough did not marry someone called Angelica Fanshawe and he is buried in the now disappeared graveyard of St John's, Wapping.

Pity that IMD have posted a picture of John Simm/Sexby's stand-in rather than JS/Sexby himself!!!!!

I am also totally stunned that the makers of the series insisted that they could not find suitable filming locations in the UK. I could have suggested any number of suitable locations both privately owned (but the owners have allowed filming) and NT or English Heritage. It seems amazing that with so much Tudor and Jacobean property here, not to mention forests etc that they deemed it necessary to ship cast and crew several thousand miles away to South Africa.
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Compelling, Poignant, Profound
steven-22220 September 2011
An amazingly compact narrative packs a remarkable amount of emotion and philosophical musing into a sweeping narrative; this is television that delivers all the satisfactions of the old-fashioned novel.

With a title like "The Devil's Whore" we are prepared for a rip-roaring bodice-ripper...and while bodices are indeed ripped...nay, shredded!...there is oh so much more going on here. Love long-denied over decades of tumultuous civil war, labyrinthine tests of loyalty, vengeance played out over decades, and various other devices create a nonstop narrative drive; try coming to the end of one episode without wanting to watch the next one at once. But at the very heart of this story is an inquiry into the deepest questions of existence: who are we amid our fellow humans, what force or forces rule the universe, and what does freedom really mean? A restless intelligence moves through this story, suffusing it with heartbreaking insight.

Kudos to the whole cast, to a counter-intuitive musical track, and to the splendid visual sense that informs the whole production.

The only thing that stops me from giving 10 stars is a certain dissatisfaction with the ending. Granted, the filmmakers face an almost impossible task to create a moment of transcendence to match all that has come before. Maybe on a second viewing I will change my mind about that.
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Enjoyably convoluted
superjaneyjane8 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
English period productions have a reputation for restraint. While it doesn't go as far as the almost-soap-opera The Tudors, restraint is not the watch-word in The Devil's Whore. Instead we have plenty of sex, violence and even a few demonic visions, with some history thrown in.

Concerning the events of the English Civil War, the story is told through the eyes of a fictional young noblewoman, Angelica Fanshawe, played by Andrea Riseborough. Angelica somehow ends up experiencing almost every aspect of the civil war, born into privilege and a prominent place in Charles I's court, only to lose it all when her husband is executed. With her sympathy switched to the Levellers, Angelica becomes some sort of highwayman (sorry, highwaywoman) for a time, before marrying a senior figure of the Levellers, Thomas Rainsborough, (Michael Fassbender), only for her criminal past to catch up with her. When her husband is assassinated, Angelica herself narrowly escapes execution. And that's only the half of it.

If you think this sounds far too convoluted to believe, well, you're right. Angelica's situation is far too convenient, to marry not one but two important figures of the English Civil war, to be on close terms with both the King and Cromwell, to consort with all manner of nobles, cavaliers, roundheads and puritans. It doesn't help that Angelica is firmly in the mold of other 'swashbuckling' heroines of pop culture such as Elizabeth of Pirates of the Caribbean and Arwen of LOTR, who, when not looking utterly ravishing in their gorgeous frocks are brandishing swords and smiting enemies. She also has a few politically correct orations of truth, justice and freedom to deliver. Riseborough delivers a passionate and sympathetic heroine, but at some point, her efforts are not enough to keep an eyebrow from being raised, particularly when Angelica storms into a church and begins pontificating about heaven and hell. Maxine Peake's portrayal of real-life figure Elizabeth Lilburne, wife of agitator John Lilburne, is a much more historically accurate figure: she is a wife utterly devoted to her husband and to his cause, and breaks a few conventions herself.

When we do get round to the factual events they are impressively acted. Dominic West may look nothing like Oliver Cromwell but he makes him into a fascinatingly ambiguous character. In the first few episodes he seems willing to compromise with his fellow men, from Charles to his fellow revolutionaries, but as he gains more power he becomes a more ruthless, shadowy figure. Michael Fassbender and Tim Goodman-Hill are both excellent in their portrayal of men who passionately promote their causes. But who could forget the ever-versatile John Simm as Edward Sexby. Sexby is driven by obsessions, first for blood, which he is soon cured of, then by the cause of the Levellers which is soon corrupted, and finally in his determination to assassinate a tyrant. But his enduring obsession is with Angelica, and their romantic plot-line is probably the best distraction from fact that the drama has to offer. Simm and Riseborough have an excellent chemistry which the writers draw out through the series.

Ultimately, should you wish to know more about the English Civil War you would be better to start with wikipedia than the Devil's Whore. But for those who like their dramas saucy, sordid and striking, The Devil's Whore has much in store.
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Superior, if not perfect, historical drama
Zagreb-111 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
An extremely-engaging and well-acted drama about the period 1642-1660 covering the English Civil War and the subsequent execution of King Charles I and his replacement with England's only republican government. Whilst the history has been simplified with many important characters left-out, this nonetheless sticks to the history quite well. As with HBO's "Rome" fictional characters are invented and their own stories are told alongside those based on historical fact; some historical incidents are also embellished or altered slightly to make them more dramatic.

Screenwriter Peter Flannery focuses on the politics of the wars for much of the time and helps scotch the myth deliberately built-up in the aftermath of the 1660 restoration that what happened in England was not a revolution but instead a temporary falling-out leading to an "interregnum". It's true that many of the parliamentary forces were never interested in overthrowing the monarchy but events overtook them and they found themselves embroiled in civil strife as radical forces such as the Levellers and the Diggers threatened to overwhelm not just the monarchy but the Parlimentary landed aristocracy. Whilst England was a republic following the King's execution it was no democracy and the conditions that lead to the betrayal of Cromwell's allies and his own rise of near unassailable-power are simplistically but dramatically detailed.

The acting was, in general, of a very high quality with the best performances coming from Peter Capaldi as Charles I and Dominic West as Cromwell. Both managed to portray these deeply-flawed men as more than the monstrous caricatures history can present them as. Tellingly, two of the most emotionally engaging moments in the series for me were King Charles, sentenced to death and stripped of his arrogant autocracy, saying goodbye to his children and Cromwell preparing to be installed as Lord Protector talking to his old comrades in arms who had become his honour guard and reflecting on the fact he had betrayed his own revolution.

For me, there were only a few flaws with this series. Edward Saxby, whilst well-played by John Simm, often felt like too much of a "modern" man with his tendency to attack what we can now see as inconsistencies on the Cromwellian side. Similarly, Angelica appeared too much of a modern woman and the scene where she addressed a church and told them there was no heaven and hell (something that would probably have seen her attacked by a mob in the 1650s) was slightly farcical. I also felt that the ending was too optimistic. Yes, Angelica had defeated her personal demons but all that her loved ones had fought for remained in tatters with the restoration simply turning the clock back and I felt that this should have been reflecting in a more sombre conclusion.

Overall, though, this is a highly-enjoyable piece of historical drama and an excellent introduction to an important and much-misrepresented period of English history.
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Flimsy Flannery
paul2001sw-123 January 2009
Peter Flannery wrote one of the finest dramatic accounts of recent history, the epic television series 'Our Friends in the North', but sadly, his attempt to write about the English Civil War is a far inferior affair. To me, the essence of good historical drama is that it distances us from our own times, and allows us to see how others could have held positions that seem to us indefensible; but 'The Devil's Whore' invents a fictitious female heroine, beautiful and anachronistically feisty (and involved in a story line that could have been borrowed from 'Thelma and Lousie'!) who seems to exist for the sole purpose of allowing us to judge the past through a modern pair of eyes. The writer also clearly wanted a share of the market for posh-frock romances, and the possibility of a happy end, while also putting this unlikely figure on the "right" side of the conflict - hence, wholly implausibly, our heroine is rendered as an aristocratic Leveller. The drama's general sympathy for the Levellers (and associated proto-socialist movements) is also overdone, in that the characters with attractive politics are consistently shows to be morally superior, and more likable, than those without. Against, the contrast with 'Our Friends', whose general sympathies for the Labour cause did not reduce the story to a black and white tale, is clear. The only really interesting character in this story is the Charles I, knowledge of whose execution perhaps invokes a certain involuntary sympathy on the part of the viewer, and who is suavely played by Peter Capaldi. But overall, 'The Devils Whore' is part Hollywood narrative , part Jane Austen and a sprinkling of socialism: an odd combination, and a disappointment compared with Flannery's best.
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"Cold Mountain" for Brits.
Blueghost12 December 2009
Well, I had high hopes for this mini series from across the Atlantic, and some of those expectations were met, but, as I should have expected, others were dashed.

The production values are of high caliber. Costumes, sets and locations, particularly for a British mini series, are all exceptional. There's very little in the way of criticism when it comes to poking at the amount of money and care that went into the recreation of late renaissance Britain. Truly, a first rate production where all imagery is concerned.

So where does this small collection of films fall flat? This is going to sound sexist, but it truly isn't, it's a comment aimed at the continued market trend for television; the series was aimed specifically at a female audience with only the superficiality of placating to masculine interests. Every male in this series of films is portrayed as boorish on some level. From Royalists to Parliamentarians, and shades of gray in-between, few of these men have a spine.

Additionally, they're all sex starved. They either are biding their time for sexual favors, or are so wanton as to be willing to force themselves on he fairer sex. They seem to have little else on their minds. And when they are granted female accompaniment, they then squander their "victory" in some sort of stupidity.

That's not really a comment on what I think of society as I think of what TV producers think their audiences want to see. Again, as I've written in other reviews, the TV producer thinking is that since women buy things for the home, it is therefore that audience that the shows must cater to.

"The Devil's Whore" is no different. The concepts and ideals for which both sides of the English Civil War fought are hardly ever mentioned. It seems to be the assumption that said notions have no place within the female psyche, and therefore are not worth exposition. Female concerns are for family, friends and young ones.

So what does one do? The man who watches this can do little but shake his head, and maybe say "Huh, the 60's film with Richard Harris was a bit more entertaining..." Which, in my view, it was.

But the film with Harris had the benefit of being a high budget major theatrical film. It wasn't some one off made for TV mini series that had to compete with "Dancing with the Stars" or other sub-IQ fodder that masks for entertainment.

You may say, "Mister Blueghost, what were you expecting?" Look, I knew this was going to be a TV miniseries about a woman during the English Civil War, but I expected the Powers-that-Be in the UK to do their usual bucking of American market research, and make a film for both sexes and most ages. Something intelligent. Something with a little more purposeful action than the banal placation presented in this film's battle-sequences.

In short, it was a pleasure to see something not made by and for American house-wives and professional women, but it was equally disappointing to see something made for British house-wives and professional women.


Well, maybe I'll whip out my copy of Cromwell tonight, and grin as I see Richard Harris give a high energy performance in his Irish-thesping style of portraying a historic figure who didn't like the Irish a great deal.

Well, I think I've learned my lesson about splurging on a UK TV series of which I know nothing.

Watch at your risk.
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Very pretty, but confusing, historical fact debatable
littlemonk20 November 2008
This is a confusing historical period; the cavaliers were not bad or good the roundheads were not good or bad. Neither was there a single cause - religion, unfair tax and national debt, autocracy and trying to debase parliamentary powers, (sounds like Gordon Brown!!) . Puritains, church of England, Catholics, Levellers the causes were numerous. Nor can we say it was aristocracy against common people. In the end Oliver Cromwell had his head cut of his dead body, and the people welcomed back Charles II with open arms.

This series is very pretty, but it is going to fast to set up the story properly. If you want to see a period romp, it may be enjoyable. If you want to learn about history and the lessons we can learn today from it, read a good book.
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