When I reviewed the 1982 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Witness for the Prosecution, back in July, I stated how I didn’t think I’d ever see the film. This was due to the movie’s lack of DVD or VHS release. But this is not the only Hallmark Hall of Fame production I didn’t think I would ever receive the opportunity to watch. One of these titles is the 1985 film adaptation, The Corsican Brothers. Similar to Witness for the Prosecution, the 1985 title didn’t receive a VHS or DVD release, as far as I know. Also similar to Witness for the Prosecution, I was able to locate the full movie on Youtube! Besides these similarities, both films star Donald Pleasence. In fact, Donald’s involvement in The Corsican Brothers is one of the reasons why I chose to review this film, as I’m participating in The Devilishly Delightful Donald Pleasence Blogathon!
Things I liked about the film:
The scenery: Within the movie’s introduction, there is a shot of the ocean surrounding Corsica. As the introduction continues, rocky terrains, rolling hills, and a city on a mountain are also showcased. The natural beauty of this island was captured well on film, making outdoor scenes visually appealing. When scenes took place in the town, quaint looking buildings met cobble stoned streets. A fountain was located in the town’s square. From a visual perspective, the town looked peaceful. It resembled Wanda’s hometown in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, In Love and War!
The historical accuracy: According to the film’s introduction, the story begins in 1820. Though the majority of the story revolves around Louis and Lucien’s life as adults, the film still takes place in the 19th century. While watching The Corsican Brothers, I was impressed by the historical accuracy shown on screen! Furniture is one example of this. In a scene where the camera pans over a section of a study room, a green embroidered chair with bolted upholstery was featured. An oil lamp was also included in the room. The windows boasted a lattice design, which highlighted an old-world charm to the titular characters’ home. These details provided a nice blend of the characters’ past and present!
What I didn’t like about the film:
The underutilization of Donald Pleasence: As I stated in the introduction, Donald Pleasence is one of the reasons why I chose to review this adaptation of The Corsican Brothers. As this is his second Hallmark Hall of Fame production I’ve seen and reviewed, I was eager to witness more of his acting talents. But, to my disappointment, Donald only appeared in about three and a half scenes. He did a good job with the acting material he was given. However, it made me wonder why he was cast in this movie in the first place, especially if the role didn’t allow his talents to be fully showcased?
Unexplained parts of the story: I have never read this film’s source material. Despite this, I expected The Corsican Brothers to be like other adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ stories; exciting tales full of adventure and intrigue. With the 1985 Hallmark Hall of Fame project, however, I was, more often than not, confused by what was happening on screen. At the beginning of the movie, a voice-over talks about how the region of Corsica is overruled by a multi-generational long vendetta. What this voice-over forgets to mention is how and why this vendetta started. From time to time, a mysterious woman appeared in Corsica, giving some of the characters fates. No explanations are provided for who this woman is or why she wants to get involved in the story’s events.
Little to no sense of urgency: In the adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ stories I’ve seen, a common ingredient is a sense of urgency. Since there is a sense of adventure found in these stories, an added element of urgency gives the audience a reason to stay invested in the characters and their journey. With The Corsican Brothers, though, this sense of urgency was almost non-existent. I’d say about fifty percent of this movie showed Louis attending fancy events in Paris. Even when parts of the story were meant to be exciting, they either came across as anti-climactic or were not shown on screen. A good example is the trial in Paris that Louis is a part of.
Limited use of lighting: In a few scenes, events took place at night. But because of the limited use of lighting, it was difficult to see what was happening on screen. It got to the point where I couldn’t see characters’ faces. I am aware cinematic technology in the mid-80s was not as advanced as it is today, especially when it comes to made-for-tv films. Had the creative team of The Corsican Brothers incorporated a little more light to the nighttime scenes, it would have remedied the issue.
My overall impression:
When creating a book-to-film adaption, you should strive to create a movie that satisfies both the casual viewer and readers of the source material. As I stated in this review, I have never read The Corsican Brothers. Instead of being invested in the characters and their stories, I was, more often than not, confused by the events on screen. It felt like the creative team behind the movie expected the audience to have read the book prior to watching their presentation. Story related flaws are not the only flaws that stood out to me. Limited use of lighting made nighttime scenes difficult to see. The underutilization of Donald Pleasence also didn’t help. Not all Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are created equal, as some are bound to be better than others. Sadly, The Corsican Brothers isn’t one of the better ones.
Overall score: 5.5 out of 10
Have you seen The Corsican Brothers? What’s your favorite adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ literary work? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!