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Details At A Glance

Category Historical Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 118:17  Other Extras Main Menu Audio
Featurette - Cast And Crew Interviews (7:13)
Featurette - The Making Of Elizabeth (11:00)
Featurette - Behind The Scenes (5:42)
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (78:57)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 2, 4 Director Shekhar Kapur

Starring Cate Blanchett
Geoffrey Rush
Christopher Eccleston
Joseph Fiennes
Richard Attenborough
RRP $34.95 Music David Hirschfelder
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Like a lot of historical figures from this period in time, Queen Elizabeth I's history is hard to verify simply because she was an editor of her own legend. This is something the booklet provided with Elizabeth warns us of early on in the proceedings. The film begins in England during the middle of the 15th Century, a time that doubtlessly makes a lot of people glad that most Western societies now keep their churches and state separate when they look at its events. King Henry VIII has just died and left his eldest daughter, Mary (Kathy Burke), to reign over England in his place. In keeping with the kingdom's combined religious prejudices, Mary steps up a long-running campaign of repression and persecution against the Protestants. As the opening credits state, Mary is childless and close to death, and the greatest fear of the Catholic hierachy is the succession of her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth. Said sister, Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), having been declared illegitimate just a couple of years after birth, is in hiding. Soon, however, Queen Mary's army comes and takes her to the Tower Of London. While there, she exercises her ability to resist interrogation and is eventually freed. Soon, Queen Mary is dead, and the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth faces the difficulties of ruling an England in religious chaos, and dealing with calls for her to marry potential suitors such as Lord Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) for political reasons. She is also escorted by her personal bodyguard and assassin, Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), who carries out most of her dirty work in the shadows. According to the titles inserted before the ending credits, Walsingham was one of the few people who remained loyal to the Queen throughout her long reign.

    In dramatic terms, this film follows a similar tone to Braveheart, in that it explores the heroic and beautiful side of its main character, but tries hard to avoid her negatives. This, however, does not work with Queen Elizabeth because she is a product of her times (ever wonder where the expression "Elizabethean attitudes" came from?), times when religious persecution was not only accepted, but also positively encouraged. However, most of the sequences in the film do not do a very good job of telling a story, and seem to be small snippets of footage thrown together with only consideration for sequential order. From the word go, the viewer is pretty much lost without knowing the story which it is trying to tell. Given that this story concerns a relatively unknown historical figure, the truth of whose life can only be guessed at, this is a very poor move on the part of the filmmakers. Compared to similar films based on historical figures around whom legends are built, such as Braveheart, this film is a rather unsatisfying peek back into the past. However, the cinematography and acting from most of the major players goes a long way to make up for this.

Transfer Quality


    Well, I've mentioned before that Columbia's theatrical exhibits contain photographic quality to an inversely proportional degree with the entertainment value of the film. It appears that PolyGram have decided to follow suit in this arena. The picture stays razor-sharp and clearly focused from start to finish, although there's a moment here and there in which the subject of the shot is blurred. Given that these subjects are typically shot through a window or a fog, however, there's reason to believe that these shots weren't meant to be crystal clear. Remi Adefarasin's photography is definitely the best thing going for this DVD, because the story tends to move at an awfully sluggish pace. The film is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, complete with the beauty of 16x9 enhancement. I tend to think that maybe a wider ratio would have suited the film better, but I'll let that slide for now.

    This disc is in the RSDL format, with the layer change occuring at 78:57. At least Polygram had the decency to make this dual-layered instead of dual-sided this time around. The layer change, however, comes right in the middle of an action (a Catholic preist raising a letter stamp), rather than between the two scenes that interchange near this point. This is not an acceptable position as there are plenty of other places in which such a transition could be made without any interruption to the film. Although it is much better than putting it halfway through one of Queen Elizabeth's rather interesting statements. Still, having the pause just a few seconds earlier would have been so much better.


    The audio transfer on this disc is one of the best I have ever heard. Two languages are presented - English and German, both encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 with what sounds like extreme faithfulness to the original audio portion of the theatrical exhibition. The disc defaults to English, which is the track that I listened to because I am still having trouble with German. Audio sync on this disc does not appear to be a problem in English, which is just as well because you can imagine how it'd look if a British period-drama suffered such problems. The dialogue was easy to follow at most times, although most of the male voices suffer a little in this area because the sound mix certainly favours high-pitched sounds. Whispered or muttered dialogue also presents something of a problem at times in the film, especially during the final half hour.

    David Hirschfelder's score music is very appropriate to the story depicted on screen, but I think that's the best that can be said for it. It does not appear to have much relevance to the characters depicted, and it often becomes just a little too obtrusive into the dialogue. It also sounds too modern to match the theme of the film, with heavy use of a synthesiser in the lower registers of some cues taking much from the overall effect. Some of the music seemed too dull for the action it accompanied, while other parts seemed to be too powerful for the slow, reflective moments of the film which they were placed with. There is definitely too much general use of a choir for my liking, as well, as the vocals soon become tiresome.


    The extras are 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Clips from the film are presented within said extras at 1.78:1, also with 16x9 enhancement. However, the extras are very ordinary, even by the standards of a viewer who would happily forgo extras on discs such as this in favour of better formatting.


    The menu is themed around the film, presented in what appears to be full-screen. I have severe doubts that it is 16x9 enhanced, but that's a minor complaint compared to something else I found. The chapter selection menu on my copy of the disc will not move past chapter six, the scene in which Elizabeth and Mary are face to face for the last time. For some reason, whenever the "next" arrow is selected, the film begins playing at the start of this chapter. Navigation on this menu is impossible past this point. Given that there are scenes well past this point that I'd rather select from this menu, this is patently unacceptable.


    Three featurettes are on this disc - Cast And Crew Interviews, The Making Of Elizabeth, and Behind The Scenes. These extras stretch for approximately twenty-five minutes in total. They are pretty much the same sort of extras that are used to comprise documentary-style advertisements that have been broadcast on television for much worthier films (The Phantom Menace comes to mind).


    As is typical with PolyGram DVDs, a booklet is also provided, although this one is a monumentally hard read with small printing and too many pages to facilitate easy removal from the case.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Although the Region 4 extras are practically worthless, and the Director's Commentary would really help this film to make more sense through an explanation of the actual storyline used, I see no reason to recommend one over the other, as the film certainly does not justify the cost of sourcing overseas in my view.


    Elizabeth, while a competent piece of historical drama, suffers from the malady of having much better examples out there. It is, however, presented on an excellent DVD.

    The video quality is excellent, and shows off the photography quite admirably.

    The audio quality is almost reference quality except for the way in which lower-pitched dialogue suffers from a very upper-register favouring mix.

    The extras may as well not be there.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
January 14, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D
Display Panasonic 51cm and 68 cm models, via RCA inputs. Sony 90 cm model, via RCA inputs.
Audio Decoder None
Amplification Sony STR-DE535
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D front speakers, Sharp CP-303A back speakers, Sony SS-CN120 centre speaker, Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer