Catherine the Great (2006)

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Released 6-Jul-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 98:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Paul Burgess
John-Paul Davidson

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Emily Bruni
Diana Dumbrava
Dan Chiriac
Claudiu Bleont
Adrian Anghel
John Burgess
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Catherine the Great ruled Russia for 34 years from 1762 until her death in 1796. As befits an old Russian leader, she was autocratic and sometimes ruthless however her reign was one also one of enlightenment and education.

    Catherine the Great is a two part BBC docudrama. It was written, produced and directed by Paul Burgess and John Paul Davidson, who direct the episodes respectively.

    It consists of direct to camera monologues by the actors, recreations of key moments in the monarch's life and interviews with noted authorities on her reign. Catherine is acted with some flair by Emily Bruni although it is worth pointing out that the acted scenes are in French, apparently the language of the Russian Court. The French scenes are not subtitled and generally overlaid with commentary.

    The series is narrated by John Burgess working from a clear and concise script which goes a long way towards making sense of the sometimes complicated court politics.

    The most remarkable part of the Catherine story was how it began. The young Sophie Augusta Frederica was only remotely connected to royalty at all, let alone the Russian throne. Through some diplomatic wrangling she was brought to Russia at the tender age of 14 as a possible match for the future emperor Grand Duke Peter. She dedicated herself to making herself an ideal marriage prospect and impressed the Grand Empress by spending the time to study the Russian language. She converted to the Russian Orthodox church and was renamed Catherine.

    The marriage took place in 1742 and Catherine was suddenly in line for the Russian throne. By any calculation Peter was an unworthy leader and Catherine bade her time in their loveless marriage before ousting Peter from power and taking his place. The mysterious death of Peter in 1762 shortly after the coup stood as a reminder of the ruthlessness of the woman who would be Empress of all Mother Russia.

    Part 1 of the series is devoted to her rise to power and Part 2 chronicles the various loves of her life and her territorial expansion. Despite being married to Peter, she bore three children to three different fathers all during her husbands life!

    Catherine was an educated woman and engaged in lengthy and erudite correspondence with some of the great minds of the age, including Voltaire. She steered Russia through some of the most challenging times including the regular wars against the Turks.

    The programme tries to portray both parts of the woman although the limited length of approximately 98 minutes means that huge parts of her life story are glossed over. Alternately glorified and vilified after her death, she was regarded as a saint by many and a nymphomaniac despot by others, who created bestial rumours regarding her death. These persist as urban myth today.

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Transfer Quality


   Catherine the Great is presented on DVD in 1.78:1, in keeping with its original TV aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The series was filmed partly in Romania and also at the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg, where Catherine spent much of her time. The location photography gives an extra boost to the authenticity of the piece. The snow covered palace is a beauty to behold and the transfer does it justice. The image is clear and crisp and there is no edge enhancement or aliasing to be seen.

    The flesh tones for the acted scenes and the monologues are true to life.

    The interior scenes, whether in the royal bedroom or the courtly dances, are nicely lit and shot and transferred colourfully to DVD.

    There are English subtitles for the hearing impaired which give a good account of the on-screen action but, as said, there is no subtitling of the French scenes.

    There are no artefacts to be seen.

    Although the series stops just short of being lavish this is always pleasing to watch and the transfer is commendable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sound for Catherine the Great is English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s).

    This is perfectly adequate for the series. The voice over narration is clear as are the monologues from the actors.

    The music is wholly appropriate for the period and is cleanly transferred.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The DVD does not contain any extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD is available in Region 1. It appears that the Region 1 version is not 16x9 enhanced. However, according to published specifications it has an extra 10 minutes per episode. It is always difficult to know whether the additional minutes were worthy. It becomes a trade-off for visual quality as opposed to thoroughness. It's a personal choice, but I would probably opt for the extra time.

    Neither version has any extras.


    Catherine the Great is an interesting and well acted docudrama. It gets about as deep into the character of Catherine as you can in 98 minutes.

    The transfer quality is commendable both sonically and visually.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX - SR603
SpeakersOnkyo 6.1 Surround

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