Plot: What’s it about?
Catherine (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is not where she’s to like to be right now, but she has plans to change all that very soon, through whatever means needed. She is a German princess stuck in a loveless marriage with the nephew of the Russian empress, which was arranged just for the sake of political pawn shuffling. Although she looks innocent and docile, she has sharp claws and when she needs to, she will not hesitate to use them, even for lethal reasons. As she bides her time, Catherine takes respite in the arms of other lovers and formulates her plan, her very important plan. You see, she has no intentions of remaining by the side of her husband, she intends to surpass him on the chain of command, in fact. She pulls all of her tricks to ensure she is favored with the church, the military, and the peasants, as she soon plans to take over the throne. One of the world’s most famous and beloved rulers, this is the story of Catherine the Great’s rise to power.
If you like well made period pieces with lush production design and beautiful costumes, this release is not one you’ll want to miss. The visuals are enchanting, but this piece also displays some terrific drama and a very good cast. I was surprised at how much is covered in the running time, as this was not a miniseries, just one time shot feature film. This was a role before her massive star explosion, but Catherine Zeta-Jones still looks excellent and gives a solid turn in the end. I was stunned by how young she looks here, as this was in 1995 and as such, I assume she hasn’t weather the past few years as well. I know she still looks very good these days, but man, she looks much better circa this feature, I am sure of that. A lot and more innocent at least, if not that much different in more basic respects. I think she works very well within the role, which allows her to use her charms and sex appeal to fuel her character. I don’t think she functions well within all of her roles, but this one was a real jackpot and I was impressed indeed. Other films with Zeta-Jones include The Mask Of Zorro, Traffic, Blue Juice, Entrapment, The Phantom, and High Fidelity. This disc offers little aside from the basic presentation, but is still well worth a look, as the feature is terrific.
Video: How does it look?
Catherine the Great is shown here in full frame form, which is the intended aspect ratio. This was a made for television production and as such, lacks the refinement of true film, but I don’t think it hinders this presentation much. Some grain is presented and I saw frequent edge enhancement, but not enough of either to be that concerned, though it is worth a mention here. The colors remain natural most times, but do brighten when needed and flesh tones seem consistent. I do think the contrast is a little dark here and there, but on the whole, this is a well balanced visual effort. The film has an intentional candlelight glow at times also, so don’t fret over it when it appears.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included stereo mix produces pretty much the same experience as the televised edition, which is all you can ask from this one, I think. The music has a nice sound to it, but not as rich as a full surround track, with the same case present in terms of sound effects. But the needed range is present and since this was made for television, I can’t see lowering the score much. The dialogue is stable and sharp here, with no volume problems I could detect in the least. This disc also includes English captions, but no other languages or subtitles are offered.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains a couple slim talent files, but no real extras were included here.