DVD Review: SECRETS OF THE SIX WIVES (Wall to Wall Media/BBC on PBS Distribution)

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by Dale Reynolds on April 17, 2017



One of the most famous kings of England and his scandalous six marriages have been hotly portrayed, over and over, over the years in film and on television. Now, PBS and Wall to Wall Media/BBC have made a documentary about the six women coupled to Tudor Court’s Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon (Spanish, divorced); Anne Boleyn (English, executed); Jane Seymour (English, died in childbirth); Ann of Cleves (Danish, divorced); Katherine Howard (English, died); and Katherine Parr (English, survived Henry).

PhD historian Lucy Worsley describes these women, acting in the six episodes as a spying servant, giving us plump gossip on them all. As such, it’s interesting, if not as fascinating as the real histories would tell us. With recreated scenes relating how these women were brought down, the acting is fine, but overall, not particularly intriguing: three thespians play Henry, notably Scott Arthur as a younger King and Richard Riding as the older; the wives are played by Paola Bontempi as Aragon; Claire Cooper as Boleyn; Rebecca Dyson-Smith as Cleves; Elly Condron as Seymour; Lauren McQueen as Howard; and Alice Patton as Parr.

Director Russell England, cinematographer Ian Salvage, and editor Amanda Baxter keep it moving, but the writing is slack, with too many ideas short-changed due to the time constraints of three episodes, all of which are on one DVD. Six wives desperately need six episodes covered in a longer time-frame. Costuming and period props are proper, elegant and sumptuously detailed; for that alone, the 168 minutes are not wasted. But the telling needs more dramatic heft, not a historically accurate overview.

photos courtesy of PBS

Secrets of The Six Wives
Wall to Wall Media (in cooperation with the BBC)
Public Broadcasting Service Distribution
DVD | 1 disc | 168 minutes
released March 14, 2017
for pricing and availability,
visit PBS and Amazon

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