This is one of the most lavish costume pictures that has come out of England. Supposed to have cost $500,000. Sets and costumes give the impression of tremendous royal wealth; entire action takes place in gorgeous palaces; one banquet scene, with ballet music, is as good as anything ever seen on the screen.
Picture has other fine qualities, too. Clive Brook does an authoriative bit of acting, and imposes lots of femme appeal; Madeleine Carroll is attractive; Emlyn Williams is a splendid young debauchee and Helen Hays (not the American actress) a tough old queen mother. There is humor, particularly in the earlier scenes.
Trouble is with the story [by Ludovico Toeplitz]. It’s a love tale of a beautiful queen and an ambitious young man – not developed in such a way as to be really dramatic.
Setting is 18th-century Danish royalty. Opens after the royal wedding, and shows the king (Williams) trying in vain to get into the bedroom of the queen (Carroll), whom he only met the day before. This, like the rest of the first dozen or so sequences, is effective. Then the king beats it to Hamburg to have a good time. Struensee, a Hamburg doctor (Brook), makes an impressive entry. He’s called to attend the king, incognito, who has passed out after too much wine and women, and he wins the young man’s favor by bringing him back to life unceremoniously.
Struensee, taken to Denmark, becomes the power behind the throne. In this he replaces the Queen mother, who, with her courtiers, sets out to get him.