Fall of Eagles (1974– )
10/10
True Feast for History Buffs
26 February 2017
While checking certain BBC serials from TV productions' heyday, I came across this series recently. Having not heard about it before (it has never aired on Polish TV), I watched on YouTube the first episode "Death Waltz" with no expectations. Soon, however, the series involved me with its incredibly intense combination of history and screen drama. I decided to buy a DVD box available with some bonus material of interviews with Gayle Hunnicut (Alix), Charles Kay (tsar Nicholas) and one of the directors David Cunliffe. I have seen the whole series twice wince then and awed by it, I plan to see it for the third time. No wonder the daily Telegraph hailed it as "impressive."

Made in the mode of the British TV productions of the 1970s (just to mention I CLAUDIUS and EDWARD VII among some), FALL OF THE EAGLES has not dated at all. It can be well considered one of the best productions ever made for several reasons. One reason is surely the absorbing dramatization of thirteen episodes each dealing with particular story incorporated into the historical period. Indeed, the story lines are stuffed with facts and, yet, do not bore us with too documented material. Let me address this point in more details.

One big "family" of ruling dynasties at the twilight of their reigns, the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: the Habsburgs, the Hohenzolerns and the Romanovs. From "Death Waltz" and the famous story of young Franz Josef in love with sweet Elisabeth of Bavaria (nicknamed Sissi) through "The English Princess" - Vicky and Fritz's love, "The Honest Broker" and Bismarck's rising influence shadowing the Kaiser William to the growing tragedy of czarism in Russia and "Absolute Beginners" who appear to hold the power and win the people. The dynamic changes that Europe experienced at the time are accurately and memorably depicted with fine balance between sheer facts and some additional acceptable liberties taken with history. To me, one of the most memorable episodes is episode 9 "Dress Rehearsal" where we can see clearly how politicians with their incompetence may truly make history... However, from today's perspective and with modern viewers' requirements, it is not historical accuracy that appeals to the general public in the series. More captivating appear the cast.

FALL OF THE EAGLES has wonderful performers. Some of the very best acting from mainstay characters like tsar Nicholas portrayed unforgettably by Charles Kay, his wife Alexandra played by Gayle Hunnicut, Barry Foster as emperor William II, Laurence Naismith as emperor Franz Josef of Austria and Patrick Stewart as Lenin to the supporting character and even episodic ones that appear on the screen in single episodes but contribute to the quality of the production considerably. Just a few to mention lie Nora Swinburne as Katharina Schratt, Curd Juergens as Bismarck, Peter Vaugham as Izvolsky, Rosalie Crutchley as Maria Pavlovna, Carleton Hobbs as Father Gruenboeck approving of a very specific funeral for Crown Prince Rudolph's mistress, Irene Hamilton as Mrs Vetsera and many others. Acting is sheer brilliance here, a great mutual achievement.

Among many other strong points that you will notice while watching the series, one has this unusual feeling that this history which we find in unemotional pages of various books can captivate us to such extent. A very human face of those people and a very psychological approach to their psyches. Perhaps, one of the best achievements in that respect is to Barry Foster's interpretation of Kaiser William II whose development, rise and oblivion we feel to the very end game. He has the final say, indeed, both tragic and hilarious...

FALL OF THE EAGLES is a must see for all history buffs and those viewers who like old BBC productions. it's an unforgettable experience. Having seen it, you will find this history period far more vivid and inspiring.
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