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The Battle of Culloden (TV) More at IMDbPro »Culloden (original title)

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27 out of 30 people found the following review useful:


Author: Alexander Chow-Stuart ( from United States
23 September 2006

This is one of the films (even though shown on TV, it absolutely qualifies as cinema) that shaped my childhood, my politics, and my love of film-making and its true potential. I remember being simply blown away, not merely by the intensity of the violence and aggression (I had never seen war filmed like this), but by the passion and the pain of the "ordinary people" - the Scots, especially the Scottish women - as they witnessed the English brutality around them. Totally extraordinary to me also, was the fact that the camera team felt so moved as to intercede in the violence - not merely breaking the boundaries of media "objectivity" in a way that had rarely, if ever, been done before in 1964, but also breaking the boundaries of time - remember, we are in a war here that is taking place in 1746, and yet it seems perfectly natural and believable to have a camera team pushing into frame, protesting the behavior of the English troops.

Peter Watkins went on to make many groundbreaking movies, but little can touch Culloden - the closest is Punishment Park, which uses much the same techniques to follow a group of students and protesters in a slightly fictionalized and rather fascist USA, where (as I recall - I haven't seen the movie in years), they are given a "choice" between internment or a (loaded) chance to "run", with the risk/likelihood of being shot and killed by their paramilitary pursuers.

A minor personal note: I saw Culloden on TV while I was very young and at school in Britain. It is a hard film to find - at least until the recent DVD - but I came across it again at the Sydney Public Library, of all places, during a trip to Australia in the 1990s, and sat watching it on 16mm, on a Moviola in the library - as stunned and moved as I had been the first time I saw it. It was reassuring to know that its power had not diminished.

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24 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

The first true depiction of war

Author: Glenn Wade from United Kingdom
27 July 2006

Peter Watkins's much underestimated Docu-Drama that, frankly, has to be watched by the individual to have the maximum impact. This is, without doubt, the fairest and most realistic depiction of war in cinema history. Here we have no poetic licence and no particular bias, despite some claiming a strong swing in favour of the Jacobites. Men are men, war is war and blood is blood.

There are few ways in which to describe this masterpiece in a simple review. If you desire a stark wake up call to the brutality and pain that war and Civil War creates, get hold of a copy of this film.

If you are not moved, then you have no heart.

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18 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Peter Watkins' Culloden.

Author: Joseph P. Ulibas ( from Sacramento, CA
28 June 2004

Culloden (1964) (TV) was a movie that was funded by the B.B.C. They were impressed with Mr. Watkins work on the short Forgotten Faces. He was hired as a B.B.C. staff film-maker. With a shoe-string budget and a troop of amateur actors, Peter Watkins created a very controversial and grim look at the decaying Scottish clan system and the British occupation of Scotland. Whilst during the duration of the film Mr. Watkins takes no side and scathingly shows how both sides of the battlefield are morally and socially corrupt. Prince Bonnie Charles Stuart (pretender to the throne) on the battle field against the superior forces of the House of Hannover. The Jacobites didn't really stand a chance against the World's greatest army. Stupidity and jealousy ruined any chance they had.

Peter Watkins also showed the aftermath of the battle and the devastating effects the battle had on the surrounding communities. He shot this film in his trademark faux-documentary style. Even with a small budget, Mr. Watkins still manages to create a very important film. One that he spent months on researching and planning. The film also reflects how the media treated combat as we have one the field reports from the attacking army and interviews with the soldiers and their views on the enemy.

Highly recommended.

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant !!

Author: lebensraum-1 from United Kingdom
7 July 2006

Peter Watkins film "Culloden" is outstanding for all the reasons other reviewers have described and strips away the romanticism about Bonnie Prince Charlie,which began with Queen Victoria and Prince Alberts enthusiasm for anything Scottish. We all know war is brutal, but up until 1964 had film and TV portrayed it as such ? "Culloden" seems to have been the first film to show brutality and atrocities taking place. War films were still about the brave and upstanding allies fighting the nasty axis powers. Other reviewers have commented on the parallels with the Vietnam war, but it must be remembered that "Culloden" was transmitted in December 1964 and the only American troops in Vietnam at the time were advisor's. The full scale American troop deployments to Vietnam did not materialise until April 1965. It is an interesting parallel, but the scenes of US troops burning Vietnamese villages on the nightly news was still months away. But in a sense Peter Watkins previewed this. Quite simply an outstanding film.

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Vivid and chilling

Author: nosoapradio from Milwaukie, OR
27 October 2002

One of the best war films I've ever seen, as powerful as Paths of Glory and Apocalypse Now. Watkins' black-and-white "documentary" looks like it came out of a time warp. "They made a desert and called it peace". I wept. Issued by Time-Life, may be available at your local cult video shop.

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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Very dramatic historical reconstruction

Author: Chris_Docker from United Kingdom
2 February 2004

Enjoying a revival on the art-house circuit, this reconstruction of the famous last battle fought on British soil uses modern documentary-style reporting to convey immediacy. An effective and bloodthirsty film, it covers a landmark period of Scots-Anglo history, showing not only the senseless waste of human life, the total incompetence of the Bonnie Prince Charles as a military leader, but the barbaric excesses of both Scots and English, and the iniquity and the Scottish ‘clan' system. The period opened the way for the ‘clearances' where indigenous people were shipped off and the land used for (more profitable and less troublesome) sheep farming.

It really doesn't have anything very good to say about anyone, English or Scots, but this won't stop many English feeling it is racist and one-sided (just as the English critics as a whole were the only ones in the world to lambaste the magnificently spectacular but historically inaccurate, Braveheart). Watkins may well have had a political agenda – the film was likened to a social commentary on the American involvement in Vietnam (as the gutting of the Gaelic Highlands by the Noble Army was said to parallel the ‘pacification' of the Vietnamese by the U.S. Army). Culloden, however, is not only a key historical massacre but almost part of Scottish folklore. Arguing the details of the battle is still a not uncommon pub conversation, especially to the north and west of the country. My favourite version is by an elderly lady who lives near Culloden (just outside of Inverness) who ‘tells it like she was there'. The movie, although originally made for television, is also a landmark, and riveting stuff, but whether it can justifiably be used to further a pro-Scottish Independence agenda is much shakier, given that it happened a long time ago.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Tight Framing

Author: Seany-3 from London
21 October 1999

The framing in this movie is incredible. The tightness makes only 3 people look like a whole Scottish army. The acting also proves that big name stars don't just deliver academy award winning performances. This film is a must see for any low budget film makers.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

BBC News style Docudrama portraying the Battle of Culloden.

Author: dave wiles from London, England
7 September 1999

A BBC News/documentary style fictional presentation of the Last battle fought on UK Soil between the Protestant "Butcher" Duke of Cumberland's Royalist Army and the Highland Clansmen ,led fruitlessly by Catholic pretender to the throne, "Bonny" Prince Charlie.

Cumberland's "modern" troops massacre the ill-fed, ill-equipped and exhausted Clansmen army and drive Charlie out of the Country. They then proceed to rapidly "ethnically cleanse" the highlands of it's indiginous people and claim it as English soil.

More harrowing than the notorious "The War Game" by the same director.

Despite the conflict in sixties news presentation style and historical setting, still totally believable. Should be watched in preference or in accompaniment to "Braveheart".

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Raw and realistic, but a bit loose with some facts

Author: guanche from New York City
22 August 2008

This is one of the earliest examples of a "docu-drama" and one of the best. It's realism causes the viewer to feel true empathy for the participants---especially for the Scottish Jacobites.

While it's certainly true that the English and their Scottish allies were better equipped and had a more disciplined, unified command structure, the circumstances of the Highlanders weren't quite as dire as indicated. Many were indeed poor and malnourished, but generally not to the degree depicted in the film, where almost all are dressed in rags and covered in filth. It is also claimed that most didn't have firearms, yet the majority were armed with pistols or muskets of local or French manufacture. Their lack of discipline and cohesive command caused them to rely on the shock tactics that served them so well at the Battle of Prestonpens, and many dropped their muskets and charged after firing a volley. Interestingly, the English tally of captured weapons after the battle contained many more guns than swords. Swords; especially claymores; were expensive, and most of the poorer men without guns carried axes or pikes.

The contingent of French trained Scots and Irish, equipped and drilled in the same manner as the Redcoats, was larger than shown in the film. And the English forces contained significant numbers of both lowland and highland Scots. Although the English were well provided with artillery, most of their cannons were small three pounders used in urban street fighting or in the American woodlands where they were known as "grasshoppers". The standard light field gun was the six pounder. Despite these qualifications, the battle scenes are graphic and realistic.

Watkins makes it seem as if the Scots were true revolutionaries asserting their ethnic identity, when, in actual fact, Prince Charlie was simply a wannabe monarch seeking to restore the Stuarts, and probably as disdainful of the Highlanders as the Hanoverians were. The modern parallels he tries to draw simply aren't there.

Despite the above, this is a great movie that should be on every history buff and cinema enthusiast's list.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Shattering History

Author: Patrick Faulkner ( from Sydney, Australia
26 November 2001

When Peter Watkins made "Culloden" in 1964, most historical films tended to melodramatic costume dramas - this is as far from that as possible.

This is one of the early uses of "docudrama" technique, using voice-over, rapid editing, hand-held camera and interviews with the 1746 characters. Based on the John Prebble book of the same title, the film is full of terrible facts. The Highland clan system was brutal - as was the English system. None seem attractive by today's standards. The audience is introduced to the effects of cannonade, grapeshot, bayonet & claymore. The non-actors who play the Highland peasants, speak in Gaelic, emphasising the cultural divide between the Highlands and Westminster. Nearly all the dialogue is quotes from the time. Irony piles on irony - the Catholic Highlanders are fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie, a man more familiar with Polish, Italian & French than English or Gaelic. The Protestant Scots & British are fighting for a German - George II. The shaky black & white footage of the British massacre of Scots wounded, is horribly reminiscent of World War II Nazi footage (as it is meant to be). Watkins revulsion at British brutalities and sympathy for the Highlanders, caused a storm of controversy when the BBC televised it. The reaction was so strong, the BBC did not reshow it for years. Edited versions exist, with less violence. I first saw this in the 1960's and it is as strong an argument for Scottish independence as the more colourful "Braveheart". Recommended for all history & military buffs.

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