Royal biopics are a tricky thing to pull off. Rarely, if ever, do they tell us anything about the person behind the crown. And let's face it, with Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette just around the corner, it serves to reminds us that royals are very well-trodden ground.

W.S. Van Dyke's 1938 extravaganza, Marie Antoinette, has just been released on DVD. The film was one of the most expensive costume/period pictures made during the studio days, coming in around seven figures ... gasp! (I know, but it was the 1930's). The movie was a bit over-dramatic and had Hollywood glamor dripping from the lens. Frankly it was more than a little boring, but it was 1938, so what do I know. Maybe for audiences back then, it was the height of excitement. Starring Norma Shearer as Marie Antoinette and John Barrymore as Louis XVI, the film covers the familiar points of her life: Lonely Austrian princess isolated by the crown, unloved and misunderstood, and so on and so forth. This film was a romantic tragedy about the love between Marie Antoinette and her childhood friend (played by Tyrone Power) and how the once-tender princess was ruined by power. Now fast-forward almost 20 years -- the Queen is dead! Long Live the Queen!

Not much has changed, because we're about to get the next installment of "Tragic Princesses and the Peasants Who Hate Them." Coppola's Marie Antoinette has received a pretty cold reception; the film got middling reviews, and was booed at Cannes. Even Coppola's defense of the film was a little timid: "Hopefully some people will enjoy it -- it is not for everybody." This film takes a more liberal attempt at a portrait of a royal, trying to draw comparisons between royals and celebrities and the isolation that the lifestyles of the rich and famous create. It's a fine line between showing us shallow and vapid and being shallow and vapid so here's hoping Coppola can pull it off -- I have my fingers crossed on this one.

Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette opens Oct. 20 in most cites. If you can't wait to get your fix of the teen queen, you can check out the 1938 version mentioned above, or perhaps David Grubin's PBS documentary.

[via Yahoo! Movies]