HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Night Raiders
Samourai, Le
Advent Calendar, The
Champion
Merchant of Four Seasons, The
Love of Jeanne Ney, The
Blonde. Purple
Dirty Ho
Annette
Shepherd
Dying to Divorce
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
Trouble with Being Born, The
Last Matinee, The
Strings, The
Free Hand for a Tough Cop
People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan
Dear Future Children
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
Swallow
Thin Red Line, The
Petite Maman
Fast & Furious 9
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
Sweet Thing
Maelstrom
Father, The
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Night House, The
Father of Flies
80,000 Years Old
Dead & Beautiful
Bull
Censor
Sleep
Freaky
Nightbooks
Whisker Away, A
Wild Indian
Whale Island
   
 
Newest Articles
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
   
 
  Charge of the Light Brigade, The Cannon to the left of them, Cannon to the right
Year: 1968
Director: Tony Richardson
Stars: Trevor Howard, David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Harry Andrews, Jill Bennett, Peter Bowles, Ben Aris, Helen Cherry, Howard Marion-Crawford, T.P. McKenna, Donald Wolfit
Genre: Comedy, Drama, War, Weirdo, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: While the British cavalry’s ill-fated charge during the Crimean War in 1854 was famously enshrined in that poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the subject of the gung-ho (to say nothing of historically inaccurate) 1936 Hollywood movie directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn, this audacious 1968 version re-envisions the conflict for a generation mired in Vietnam and mistrustful of authority. It is a marvellously ambitious, sadly unsung and still controversial British masterpiece.

On the eve of the British empire’s entry into the war, following the Russian invasion of Turkey, dashing, young Captain Nolan (David Hemmings) attends the wedding of a close friend and is unexpectedly smitten with his wife, Clarissa (Vanessa Redgrave). While the landed gentry wrestle with romantic feelings in rural England, across the filthy slums of Victorian London a loquacious drill sergeant lures working class lads to enlist for the next “great” war. Scrubbed and suited, housed in festering barracks, they are brutalized into a fighting unit whilst elderly upper-class officers reminisce fondly about the glory days at Waterloo. The intelligent and educated Nolan instantly clashes with his superior, Lord Cardigan (Trevor Howard), a bombastic buffoon whose swaggering self-importance and sense of entitlement stems solely from class and rank. As the Victorian propaganda machine - illustrated in a series of brilliant animated sequences drawn in the vintage style of the satirical magazine Punch - whips the public into a frenzy, Lord Raglan (John Gielgud), Lord Lucan (Harry Andrews) and Lord Cardigan lead a gargantuan British force into the sweltering Turkish heat, squabbling every step of the way. Despite Nolan’s best efforts, a combination of poor judgement and sheer bloody-mindedness climaxes with Cardigan leading the Light Brigade right into disaster.

Hugely ambitious, The Charge of the Light Brigade paints a panoramic satire of an affluent, world-dominating society riding for a fall amidst a foolish, ill-managed war, and as such is certainly timely today. Tony Richardson, working from a screenplay written by Charles Wood (from a first draft penned by an uncredited John Osborne) lays the blame squarely on the aging, ego-inflated establishment embodied by Cardigan, Raglan and Lucan. The film is driven by a towering performance from Trevor Howard. He plays Cardigan as a pompous peacock, blithely ignorant all else besides his self-deluding ego, an indestructible imbecile who rides his horse over strewn corpses to a secure future while everyone sane and sensible gets blown to smithereens. John Gielgud is memorable as the half-deaf and semi-senile Lord Raglan, who has trouble remembering they’re fighting alongside and not against the French. These men treat war like a big game of toy soldiers and are still squabbling even while the blood-drenched survivors limp off the battlefield, passing guilt around like a hot potato until one nameless adjutant gets stuck with the blame.

Tony Richardson’s film failed to match the international success enjoyed by his similarly freewheeling Tom Jones (1963) and even today, opinion is divided between those who consider it a glorious failure and those for whom its broad satire and knockabout style comes too close Monty Python and risks making a mockery of an important subject. This claim is untrue, since the film is far too literate and though the romantic subplot amounts to little, its idealism is sincere and affecting. Although the screenplay comes close to portraying the historically haughty and impulsive Captain Nolan as a saint, David Hemmings conveys so much with his wounded eyes.

One oft-repeated criticism centres on the portrayal of Mrs. Fanny Dubberly (Jill Bennett), the wife of a lisping officer (Peter Bowles), who is portrayed as a twittering war groupie whom Cardigan coolly romps with in bed. Novelist George Macdonald Fraser is among those who have stressed there is no historical evidence to support such slander, but the scene is an aspect of the film’s overall indictment of Victorian hypocrisy and furthermore is a riotous bit of cracked comedy, well played by Bennett and Howard. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Dubberly’s subdued revulsion at the sight of the bedraggled cavalrymen is quietly powerful.

The musical animated sequences directed by Richard Williams - later behind the Oscar-winning A Christmas Carol (1969) and oft-underrated Raggedy Ann & Andy (1977) - are marvellous. Ranging from a ballet dancing Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, to a muscular British lion clad in the union jack punching the Russian bear on the nose, they are more than mere gimmickry and ably underline the film’s satirical intent. David Watkin’s photography ranks among the best of its era, going from the soft-focus idyll of rural England to the dust and heat of Gibraltar. Though still more celebrated for his kitchen sink dramas, Tony Richardson - whose daughter, the late Natasha Richardson made her debut in this movie at age four - brilliantly handles the battle scenes where things turn from farce to horror as all that foolish pomp and pageantry is cut down by Russian guns (ironically enough, stolen from the British side!).

And yet, history is such a nebulous thing. Revisionists now insist Lord Cardigan’s charge was neither foolhardy nor calamitous but a brave attempt to rescue the day. Which bizarrely implies the Errol Flynn movie got it right. See both versions and judge for yourself.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 5135 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
   

 

Last Updated: