The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)

PG-13   |    |  Drama, History, War


The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) Poster

In 1854, during the Crimean War, poor planning leads to the British Light Brigade openly charging a Russian artillery position with tragic consequences.


6.7/10
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User Reviews


3 March 2008 | bkoganbing
8
| Noble Six Hundred
Let's make it very clear from the outset, this version of The Charge of The Light Brigade is in no way a remake of the Errol Flynn film that Warner Brothers did in 1936. This is a factual account about how several hundred of the best of that generation in the United Kingdom met their deaths in the Crimea.

Great Britain from the end of the Napoleonic Wars until the beginning of World War I was only involved in two formally declared conflicts. Although many British folks will cite various colonial enterprises, the only two major wars the British were involved in were the Crimean War and the Boer War. And it was only the Crimean War which involved them with and against other European powers, in this case Russia.

It all was about propping up the Ottoman Empire and keeping the Russians from getting a hold of Istanbul and an outlet to the Mediterranean Sea for their fleet. The problem was all the powers were woefully unprepared for such a war, British included.

The Charge of the Light Brigade as no other film explores the incredible ineptitude of the British Army at that time. Today it beggars the imagination that field grade officers simply purchased their commissions. It's true though, it's the reason why Lord Raglan, Lord Cardigan, and Lord Lucan a group of Colonel Blimps if there ever were, got in charge of things.

It's how it was done, the high army positions were reserved for their aristocracy. The Duke of Wellington had died in 1852, three years before the Crimean War and the charge. He also purchased his commission back in the day. It was just dumb luck that he happened to be a military genius. Lord Raglan who is played by John Gielgud was an able staff officer for Wellington, but as a strategist was hopelessly out of his depth.

Howewver the main two blunderers were a pair of quarreling in-laws, Lord Cardigan and Lord Lucan played by Trevor Howard and Harry Andrews. They would rather have sent their armies against each other than the Russians.

A lot of the best of that generation died charging the heights of Balaclava that day to get to Sevastapol because of these two mutts. In any kind of system based on merit these two would never have gotten to be sergeants let alone generals.

The Crimean War which basically ended as a stalemate because the Russians were as inept as the British led eventually to reform of the army. That reform came in the first ministry of William Gladstone (1868-1874)and his very able Secretary for War Lord Edward Cardwell who finally got Parliament to abolish purchase commissions and promotions were based on merit after that. Good thing too, because it staggers the imagination to think of the British Army going into World Wars I and II and the Boer War under the old system.

The charge at Balaclava gained its enduring legend through the popular poem of Alfred Lord Tennyson who was smart enough to romanticize the Noble Six Hundred instead of their inept leadership The movie that Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland starred in back in 1936 was a romantic story inspired by that poem.

What Tony Richardson and the cast he directed in 1968 bring you the real story of the charge. It's a graphically accurate account and military historians should love this film.

Critic Reviews



Did You Know?

Trivia

Sir Donald Wolfit ("Macbeth") died before release.


Quotes

Lord Cardigan: I do not propose to recount my life in any detail, what is what. No damn business of anyone's, what is what. I am Lord Cardigan. That is what.


Goofs

The character called Featherstonehaugh (played by Corin Redgrave) has his name pronounced more or less as it is written, with four syllables. An upper-class Englishman of the mid-19th century (or, indeed, today) would pronounce it "Fanshawe".


Crazy Credits

Closing credits roll over a drawing of a dead horse, with the buzzing of flies in the soundtrack.


Alternate Versions

The American release version (MGM/UA Region 1 DVD) is missing six minutes 45 seconds' worth of material present in the UK VHS tape released in 1992. The latter has a running time (adjusted to 24fps) of about 136 mins compared to the DVD which runs about 130 mins. Three sections are affected: Clarissa's wedding reception; a church service; and three consecutive scenes in the Crimea, involving a sentry failing to identify Lord Raglan at night and shooting at him, piercing his hat; the sentry being flogged but earning a reward from Lord Cardigan for his bravery; and Captains Nolan and Morris eating the breakfasts of several enlisted men while out riding. The British tape is still short of the original running times of 138 minutes 40 seconds as registered by the British Board of Film Censors in 1968, 141 minutes as listed in most reference sources, and 145 minutes as reviewed by Variety.


Soundtracks

Gallop
(uncredited)
Traditional
Arranged by
John Addison

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Drama | History | War

Box Office

Budget:

$8,000,000 (estimated)

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