Bette Davis' 2nd Elizabeth
There are plenty of reviews which will tell you about the historical inaccuracies of "The Virgin Queen", this isn't one of them as I am no historian and have no idea how factual this movie is. There are also plenty of reviews which compare "The Virgin Queen" to "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" Bette Davis' previous outing as the Queen but without having watched that movie I can not comment. What I can say is that "The Virgin Queen" is mostly a dull movie with a storyline which isn't that interesting and moments of action which are clunky. But whilst as a movie "The Virgin Queen" struggles it does have entertaining performances and characters which thankfully keep your attention.
With great plans and a desire to sail to the new world Sir Walter Raleigh (Richard Todd - The Dam Busters) takes upon a chance encounter with Lord Leicester (Herbert Marshall) to gain an audience with Queen Elizabeth I (Bette Davis - All About Eve). Despite already having Sir Christopher Hatton (Robert Douglas) as her lap dog takes a shine to Walter who is not just handsome but forth right in his opinions. But Walter in turn grows fond of Beth Throgmorton (Joan Collins - Land of the Pharaohs) a ward of the Queen's court. With the Queen showing her desire for Walter he uses his wits to gain what he desires whilst still in love with Beth.
So as I said what actually happens in "The Virgin Queen" is not that interesting in fact the whole story of Sir Walter Raleigh meeting the Queen in order to get her permission for his expedition is really quite dull. In fact the whole love triangle and rivalry as Walter finds himself in the Queen's affections whilst being fond of Beth whilst also having to deal with Sir Christopher is also quite dull. And further more the moments of action such as an opening swordfight is uncomfortably clunky, lacking the flare of those great Hollywood swashbuckling action scenes.
But despite this "The Virgin Queen" keeps your attention thanks to the characters and performances. It is the opening battle of wits between Walter and the Queen which sets the mood as he tries to out smart her and Sir Christopher whilst she playfully toys with him and all those in her court. It sets up for what is an entertaining battle of minds as Sir Walter uses his charm and mind to work his way to his ultimate desire which is to set off on expedition.
As such it is also the performances which makes this battle of wits so entertaining and Bette Davis is simply wonderful as the Queen, cunning and coy as Elizabeth I who constantly connives to get her way. And Richard Todd makes for a worthy adversary in this battle of wits between two very smart people both with a desire and a passion to get what they want. Plus there is Joan Collins who is solid as the attractive Beth who Walter truly loves, in fact Collins' opening scenes as Beth as she toys with Walter sets up an entertaining love triangle.
What this all boils down to is that "The Virgin Queen" isn't a very good movie, it suffers from a dull storyline but thankfully has an interesting characters and good performances to counter act the dullness of the narrative.