A champion of the emerging Free Cinema movement of 1960's Britain, this move was Richardson's flagship project for his Woodfall Films production company. Thousands of original uniform costumes were created to make the film which was shot on location in London and Turkey. The DVD wide-screen format shows to full effect the sweeping cinematography of David Watkin, conveying a genuine sense of tactical geography as the battle of Balaclava unfolded to the final scene and subject of the film, the Charge itself.
Each Act of the final screen-play by Charles Wood is bridged with animated sequences by Richard Williams and his team, drawn from contemporary caricatures of the period (Punch magazine). Injecting the movie with satirical, often humorous political commentary, these sequences provide another level of historical background and a feel to events and is something which remains unique in cinema to this day.
|Screen shot: Howard as Cardigan leading the 11th in the final charge|
The film is supported through seminal performances from a stellar cast. Key characters and portrayals include Trevor Howard's ownership of the Lord Cardigan role in the same way that Keith Michelle owned the memory of Henry VIII and George C Scott the memory of General Patton. No less successful was the domineering delivery of Lord Lucan by Harry Andrews and the tragic, charismatic interpretation of Captain Nolan by David Hemmings. Lord Raglan is satirically yet sympathetically played by Sir John Gielgud and sound support is provided through Mark Burns (Captain Morris) and Vanessa Redgrave (Clarissa) both of whom have key but largely enabling roles within the context of this script. Seldom referenced with smaller, sometimes amusing and colourful supporting roles are Peter Bowles and Jill Bennet as Captain and Fanny Duberly and Roy Pattison as the fallen Regimental Sergeant Major of the 11th Hussars being the regiment through which Richardson looks at his subject.
If anyone has a real interest in the Charge of the Light Brigade and battle of Balaclava and has not done so, I cannot recommend more strongly that they read Cecil Woodham Smith's book The Reason Why just prior to viewing this movie for the first time. As a stand alone historical drama in it's own right, it is fine enough but with the benefit of perspective from familiarity of the subject matter upon which this movie is based, I trust you will find as I do that this movie is in fact a seminal work and the last cinematographic word on the matter.
Only one niggling and inexplicable technical flaw remains in the consistent cherry coloured breeches worn across all regiments in the Light Brigade - not just the 11th. In spite of this minor curiosity, this is a rare and intelligent movie which treats it's audience accordingly. It has for several decades remained in my personal top ten favourite movies of all time. The good news is that it is also readily available and has been in constant release on DVD for some years.