From director Tony Richardson (Tom Jones) comes this brilliant retelling of tragic events during the Crimean War. Starring Trevor Howard, John Gielgud, David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave, this epic political satire is an ... more »"impressive achievement" (Boxoffice) that will forever be revered as movie making at its best. British Captain Nolan (Hemmings) is a devoted officer disgusted with his commander, Lord Cardigan (Howard). Lord Raglan (Gielgud) is a foolish officer with misguided war strategies and a fading memory. Together, they are sent to Turkey in response to a Russian invasion. Driven by arrogance and ineptitude, they send hundreds of cavalry to certain death in aclimax that is both "harrowing [and] magnificent" (Time).« less
"I remember the day I stopped reading the New York Times, and also realized that most film revivers did NOT have a clue... and that?s when I read the review for Tony Richardson?s ?Charge Of The Light Brigade?. The Times Reviewer, a first stage imbecile went on and on about "how Richardson could have made such a glorification of war during the height of the View Nam conflict!" Was this man blind, or did he just sit in some bar drinking his lunch while the film was screen? For Light Brigade is perhaps the greatest ANTI-WAR movie ever made! I could go on for pages about this movie. One of the most amazing aspects is Charles Woods?s screenplay. It is without a doubt the greatest piece of film writing ever. Now that?s a big statement? but I promise you? it?s not an exaggeration. From the very first speech of Trevor Howard, through scene after scene of perfect craftsmanship and dialogue, you are bombarded with a sumptuous love affair of the English language. Add to that one of the most opulently shot period movies this side of Barry Lyndon, and the most amazing animation sequences by Richard Williams (and for the love of God? if you still think this is a pro war movie after those sequences, you really need to be locked away for your own safety!)? and you have a cinema treat the likes of which you will find hard pressed to see anywhere else. From the first bars of John Addison?s quirky emotionally charged, purposely overly blown score, to Williams animated lion?s roar? to the last staggering image of the decapitated horses, silently rotting away in the ?Valley of Death?, as only the sounds of flies can be heard? you realize you are watching greatest. You also realize you are watching history the way it really was. Never before or since has anyone dramatized ?blunders of great men? so magnificently. The parallels to today?s world (and leaders) are terrifyingly accurate and prophetic! This is a movie that doesn?t age gracefully, it ages with an explosive charge? a pressure cooker of artistic brilliance, that once uncapped, erupts in your face, grabs hold and doesn?t let go until the last credit. Tragically, this movie was way ahead of its time, and has never been given its right dues. Long before the computer generated ?tension? of Private Ryan? Richardson and crew created a scene of battle terror that digs deep into your soul and is never forgotten. This is a movie you feel, and smell and taste. From the heat of the Turkish plains, to the stench of the English ships, to the flesh ripping sting of a whipping? ?Light Brigade? is truly in a class of its own. The balance of terror, humor, intrigue and human courage? and waste? there is no equal. The only one who ?blundered? in this movie was the distributor who ignored it, and the vapid reviewers without a brain, who didn?t realize what they were seeing. But you can? rent or buy this masterpiece and see why I for one, fell in love with both the cinema, and the word."
A Satire On Hubris and the Victorian Era
Octavius | United States | 07/27/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Tony Richardson's 1968 satire of Victorian imperialism set during the Crimean War of 1854-1855. A clever film with subtle humor that is very rich in covering the details of Victorian society such as clothing, mannerisms, class structure, institutions, etc. Although it has somewhat of an uneven plot with strange editing, this film is very well acted with beautiful cinematography.
The film is primarily a satirical tragedy as opposed to being an action-drama typical of your standard war films such as 'Saving Private Ryan' for example. The film therefore mostly focuses on the characters' development within their social ranks, how they interact with each other, and what effect their interactions have on society or on them collectively. The film follows the central character, Captain Lewis Edward Nolan of the 15th Hussars. Nolan is a historical character who was a veteran of the wars in India and on very bad terms with his commander, Lord Cardigan (Howard), a boorish man with little concern for his suboordinates. Captain Nolan is also best friends with Mr. Richardson (Mark Burns) and, unfortunately, more than best friends with Mrs. Richardson(Vanessa Redgrave.) Both Nolan and Richardson are longing to see some action with their cavalry regiment and their wishes are soon fulfilled when war breaks out with Russia. Under the command of Earl Lucan and Cardigan (who both hate each other immensely), they are shipped off to the Crimea to join the French and the Turks against the Russians.
Again, the title of the film is somewhat deceptive as the legendary charge of the light brigade takes up but the last 15 minutes of the 2+ hour film. Interestingly enough, the duration of the film battle sequence is about the same length as the actual charge: less than 20 minutes. The film is pretty accurate as to the battle but omits the details of the first engagements that took place on October 25, 1854, at the battle of Balaklava. The film does show how the ill prepared British and allied forces were driven back from the Causeway Heights by the Russians and how their canons were taken. The film also shows how Lord Raglan (John Gielgud) issued a rather ambiguous order to recouperate the 'Russian guns' without saying which ones. As such, the Light Brigade headed directly through the North valley towards the furthest Russian gun emplacements to the East as opposed to charging towards the nearest gun emplacements to the South-East on the Causeway Heights. This meant an extended charge through a valley in which the enemy commanded three sides with artillery, infantry, and cavalry contingents. Although the brigade succeeded in dislodging the artillery and routing the Russian cavalry, their numbers were too few to capitalize on their gains: they instead withdrew back to their original positions in an ordered fashion. Starting with approximately 600 men, they returned with only about 200 men. Despite the blunder, their mad charge was undertaken with such order and discipline that, for the rest of the Crimean War, the Russians would often refuse to fight the British cavalry even when they had a significant numerical superiority.
In sum, this film is primarily a social and political satire on Victorian England. A viewer would probably have more of an appreciation for this film if he/she's familiar with the social and political norms of that period. This is not a war film per se as most of the plot unfolds in the peaceful and stuffy surroundings of Victorian London. I agree with the other reviewers that the animated political cartoons are a little overdone. The humor in this film being so subtle, the animation serves to expressly remind the audience that the film is more a satire and not a true drama. Overall a good satirical drama with excellent cinematography and great acting."
My favourite Military Film
Mike Salmons | Barling Magna, Southend on sea ,UK | 04/10/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Each time I see this film, I notice something else,whether it be the sailor lifting the Highlander's kilt or the correct uniform of the Royal Horse Artillery gunners at Calamity Bay. The film is a good source of information for the Military History Buff and although Tony Richardson was given the correct details of the uniforms of the Light Brigade(which he obviously chose to ignore)the accounts at The Alma and the indignities suffered by the rank and file are factural. Magnificent Battle scenes make this a far better movie than the poor Errol Flynn film.What would have made this film better would have been including the cut out footage of the Charge of the Heavy Brigade. This footage could have replaced the silly (untrue)seduction scenes of Fanny Duberly and Lord Cardigan. I look forward to seeing a further remake some day, with everything correct, including the thin red line, The Charge of the Heavy Brigade and finally The Charge of the Light Brigade, maybe titled BALAKLAVA. Much the same way as Zulu and Zulu Dawn. Let's hope its not too long."
Brilliant depiction of a military action of epic proportions
Raymond J. Elliston | Canada | 10/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Following closely on the heels of ZULU (1965), THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (1968) ushered in an era of unparalleled brilliance in war movie-making. Anyone who has read Tennyson's poem of the same name, or read John Harris' book THE GALLANT SIX HUNDRED will appreciate this film for its depiction of both the battle and of British Army life at the time. The technical detail is impeccable and, despite the obvious use of satire, the film is remarkably true to history. It vividly portrays the contrasting social circumstances of the officers and the rank and file soldiers, and the inextricable bond between them. The officers genuinely believed they had been born to lead and the soldiers followed them unquestioningly because of their personal courage and example rather than any demonstrated skill in the art of war. The courage, endurance and stoicism of the British soldier in the field is accurately rendered, carefully maintaining the simple dignity of those who were most responsible for the spread of Empire throughout the world. Everything else in the film obviously leads to the grand finale, the magnificently futile charge up the valley into the face of the Russian guns. The filming and choreography are amazing, replete with small details that have been recorded elsewhere through survivor interviews and the memoires of witnesses and participants. This is a MUST see for anyone interested in military history, or just epic war movies."
Where was Lord Look-On..?
featherstonhaugh | Southend-on-Sea, Essex United Kingdom | 08/22/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Simply put, this has got to be one of 'the' best big screen dramatisations of war in the Victorian era. It knocks spots off Zulu (how can you even think of depicting Chard and Bromhead without their characteristic handlebar moustaches? )The casting is superb. Gielgud is brilliant as the well-meaning but ineffectual & absent-minded Commander-In-Chief, Lord Raglan. Harry Andrews glowers and booms as Lord "Look-On", Lieutenant General of the Cavalry Division. Trevor Howard "is" the irrascible Lord Cardigan (quote of the month about his "cherry bums": "If they can't fornicate they can't fight, and if they can't fight I'll flog their backsides raw for all their fine looks!")David Hemmings provides the requisite "dash and fire" as the ill-fated Nolan.This movie is very clever, setting the scene in England first by illustrating the differences between the genteel and idle lives of the officers and the sordid lives of the common troopers. There is also an interesting sub-plot to do with the breaking to the ranks of a Sergeant Major.The depiction of military folly, absurd rivalries and infighting amongst Raglan's senior officers, sickness and disease whilst campaigning and of course such battle sequences as the taking of the river Alma, really make this movie. It's marred only by some very stupid sub plots concerning Lord Cardigan's supposed affair with Mrs. Duberly, as well as Hemming's own adulterous affair with the Vanessa Redgrave character, which - aside from illustrating some obscure point about Victorian morality & sexual repression - I couldn't figure out what was the point!The sequences of the actual charge "into the valley of death" could have been dealt with better and the film comes to a strange and abrupt ending right afterwards. However, minor quibbles aside, as a military history buff I was impressed by how accurate the film-maker attempted to be when depicting the sequence of events, from the heart-failure of the French commander, to Ragland's insistence on husbanding his cavalry brigades to the derision of the rest of the army, to the refusal of Sir Colin Campbell to form his men up shortly before the battle of Balaclava.And who could forget the splendid Victorian cartoon animated sequences! They really ought to make a movie of Flashman At The Charge next, I think."