A queen, time travel and absurdity: movies and TV

So after reading The Wives of Henry VIII I rewatched 1969’s ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS (I saw it back when I was a kid) with Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn and Richard Burton as Henry. Anne’s stubborn refusal to become a disposable mistress like her sister Mary eventually impresses Henry enough to make her queen, even at the cost of breaking England from the Catholic Church; what follows of course is heartbreak when Anne fails to deliver the promised son, then accusations of adultery that send her to the headsman (to sweeten the bitter ending the film has Anne improbably realize her daughter Elizabeth will be the greatest monarch England has ever known). Overlong, and I don’t see the point of blaming Anne for Henry’s worst excesses (the most brutal part of his crackdown on the church is meant to suppress opposition to Elizabeth becoming heir) but the lead performances make up for a lot. With John Colicos as the conniving Thomas Cromwell (Colicos’ face was made to play opportunistic weasels) and Antony Quayle as Cardinal Wolsey. “I will marry Anne if it breaks the Earth in two and flings the pieces into the void!”I gave up on AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. a couple of years ago, but their final season this year sounded interesting enough I decided to catch it. The early episodes have them bouncing through time battling against the Chronacoms, an alien android race plotting to destroy SHIELD before it even exists. This leads to a 1930s ganster-movie type episode, a 1950s hardboiled yarn and adventures in the 1970s and 1980s, all fun if occasionally the details gnawed at me (stories where nobody in the past smokes — FDR doesn’t even have his cigarette holder — are as ridiculous as those old SF stories where everyone in 3,000 or whenever is still puffing on tobacco). It got a little less interesting as the time jumping stopped, but ultimately I’m glad I came back in time to see them go. “It doesn’t matter — whatever the percentages, these people always beat the odds.”

MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS hit me and pretty much everyone I knew like a mind-bomb when it started showing up on PBS in the early 1970s. I’ve no idea if a millennial audience would have the same reaction, but rewatching the first season on Netflix I was blown away as much as ever by the batshit absurdity of everything. Alexander the Great is exposed as an Attila the Hun impersonator, blancmanges from space conspire to win Wimbledon, a bicycle repairman saves Superman and a dead parrot pines for the fiords. The shots of British streets and buildings sometimes fill me with an odd nostalgia too, but the hysterical laughter remains a bigger draw. “Quite frankly, I’m against people who give vent to their loquacity by extraneous bombastic circumlocation.”

#SFWapro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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