The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936 and 1968

Both of these are disappointing. The 1936 movie stars Erroll Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. It’s not a bad adventure movie of the time, but it’s mostly about India. Probably eighty percent of the story involves a colonial war on the northwest frontier, and two brothers in love with the same woman. This back-story provides an entirely fictional motivation for the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. David Niven and Nigel Bruce do well in supporting roles.

The 1968 movie is about the charge and the events leading up to it, and it seems reasonably accurate, though following it requires some familiarity with the basic history. It does paint a rich picture of barracks life in Victorian England. The acting is mostly solid, though Trevor Howard’s portrayal of Lord Cardigan is over done. Unfortunately, this movie is too much a product of its time, and that time is 1968. The story is episodic and disconnected, punctuated by Pythonesque animations. The filming is self-consciously “artistic.” It’s gratuitously grisly, tries hard to be “hilariously irreverent,” and manages to seem preachy without having a clear idea what to preach about. It’s Flashman without Flashman.

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