Horatio Hornblower: The Frogs & the Lobsters, a.k.a. The Wrong War
directed by Andrew Grieve (A&E/ITV, 1999)

Horatio Hornblower goes from sailor to soldier when he is ordered to lead a crew of cannoneers ashore in revolutionary France to assist Loyalist troops hoping to retake the nation.

Of course, the Napoleonic wars never ended so quickly, so we know it won't go well.

Ioan Gruffudd continues to excel as Hornblower, a young officer in the British navy who is growing in maturity, experience and, most importantly, confidence as his various successes build. The only thing building here, however, is his frustration as French General Charette (John Shrapnel) and the vile French lord Colonel Moncoutant (Antony Sher) lead an incompetent invasion defined primarily by retribution and cruelty.

Hornblower also gets his first taste of romance with French peasant Mariette (Estelle Skornik), an episode that does not appear in any of C.S. Forester's Hornblower books; like Hornblower himself, the fumbling kisses are a little awkward and desperate and thankfully short-lived.

But this series is great. I just wish I knew why the producers keep watering down the British titles (in this case, The Frogs & the Lobsters) into lame American versions (The Wrong War).

review by
Tom Knapp

3 April 2010

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