Monday, 29 July 2013

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) - ★★★

Director: Michael Curtiz
Writers: Michael Jacoby, Rowland Leigh, Alfred Lord Tennyson
Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia DeHavilland, Patric Knowles, Donald Crisp, Nigel Bruce, David Niven, C. Henry Gordon, Spring Byington

The Charge of the Light Brigade is such an epic, sweeping film. It's entertaining, thrilling, and has its moments of humour and sadness. I adore Errol Flynn in this film. This is one of his most underrated roles, for he had so many ferocious and tender moments. The love-triangle romance is executed in a most cheesy fashion, but the scenes of war and strategy were truly masterful. There were two things I didn't like. One being the shaky and unconvincing performances by Olivia DeHavilland and Patric Knowles. The other reason being the despicable display of cruelty to horses in the final scene. It produced a very thrilling finale, but at the cost of causing unnecessary pain, suffering, and death to horses. If I put that out of my mind, then I'd call this a good film.

Major Geoffrey Vickers (Errol Flynn) is a handsome, brave, charming, wonderful man. He's engaged to Elsa Campbell (Olivia DeHavilland), who is secretly in love with his brother, Captain Perry Vickers (Patric Knowles). That's the love triangle sub-plot. The REAL story is that Surat Kahn (C. Henry Gordon) attacked and slaughtered the men, women and children of an English army barracks. In retaliation, Geoffrey leads a cavalry charge of 600 men to kill Kahn, but it's practically a suicide mission. For there were, "Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them." 

The cinematography and Flynn were fantastic.
I think Errol Flynn gave a terrific performance. This man pulls at my heart strings better than any other actor. He's such a handsome, strong, charismatic character. I'd call this Flynn's third greatest performance, behind Captain Blood (1935) and Robin Hood (1938). However, DeHavilland's character was extremely underdeveloped. All we know is that she loves Geoffrey's brother, but she can't bring herself to tell him. Her crying scenes were really overdramatic, as was the style of the 1930s cinema. She had very little chemistry with Patric Knowles either... I just couldn't see WHY she'd pick him over Flynn, who had it all. Looks, bravery, a magnificent personality, and all the love in the world for her. They say love is blind, but they couldn't convince me that they were in love. The whole love triangle fiasco could have been cut out in my opinion.

Flynn and DeHavilland had chemistry, but there was no true passion from Knowles. 
The supporting cast really stole the show though. I was really impressed with Spring Byington's performance as Lady Octavia Warrenton, who was a really talkative gossip-monster. Up until today, I thought Donald Crisp was Irish, because I've only seen him in one other movie, the Best Picture winning How Green Was My Valley (1941). In this his accent was regal and very much English, which just goes to show how versatile an actor he is. Nigel Bruce was fantastic too, he played a high-ranking officer and the husband of the nagging Lady Warrenton. 

The biggest drawback for me was knowing full-well that many horses were killed. In fact, at least 25 horses were killed in total. They used trip wires which broke the legs of many horses, and they detonated explosives near them. All this for the sake of a masterful, suspenseful, convincing, and thrilling climax. I say to hell with the climax, and to hell with those who said it was OK to kill horses. I think it's majorly fucked up that people injured and murdered innocent horses for entertainment purposes. I wonder how the cinematographers, stunt men, the cast, and director Michael Curtiz could sleep at night.

As you can tell, I'm furious at the abuse they inflicted on the animals. If I look at this movie as a whole, it's technically a really good film. The performances are good, the cinematography is stunning, the music is epic, and the story is riveting. I don't like The Charge of the Light Brigade. I enjoyed a lot of the film, but I can't help but shake my head in disgust at the whole production. If you enjoy classic movies, Errol Flynn, and don't mind animal cruelty, then you may like this movie. As for me, I never want to watch it again.

1 comment:

  1. Flynn was disgusted at the treatment of horses in this film and made a big stink about it. I don't remember what the organization is but he helped form it and it has been protecting animals ever since.