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Francesca Annis is impressive as the title character here, but this standard-def re-release is a tough sell....
Acorn Media / 672 Minutes / 1979 / Unrated / Street Date: January 1, 2013
I suppose it's unfair to refer to Francesca Annis, the star of the 1979 British miniseries Lillie, as the future mom of Kyle MacLachlan in Dune, but there's no denying the familiarity in her face. Annis has been around for decades, and has been admirable in her ability to choose diverse and often left-field roles: for every scandal-ridden society mistress like Lillie Langtry she plays, she also participates in a movie like Prince's Under the Cherry Moon. She's all over the map.
And her fearlessness is what lends this miniseries its edge. This is pretty standard dramatic fare, but as a young tomboy who rises through the ranks of British society and becomes one of the more notorious lovers and muses in England as the twentieth century begins, Annis locks into the part with gusto and verve. This 13-episode affair often lingers in relatively droll biographical scenarios, but all the while, Annis lights up the screen whenever she gets a chance.
This new standard-def edition looks to be a simple repackaging of an earlier release from Acorn, so those with a soft spot for Lillie won't find much reason to upgrade here (and without a ground-floor restoration, it's unlikely the miniseries will be Blu-ray-bound any time soon). For devotees of retro British boob tube material, this one might be worth a rental, but even though that lady from Cranford does a great job in it, it's not quite in classic territory.