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A movie about the First World War based on a stage musical of the same name, portraying the "Game of War" and focusing mainly on the members of the Smith family who go off to war. Much of the action in the movie revolves around the words of the marching songs of the soldiers, and many scenes portray some of the more famous (and infamous) incidents of the war, including the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the Christmas meeting between British and German soldiers in no-man's-land, and the wiping out by their own side of a force of Irish soldiers newly arrived at the front, after successfully capturing a ridge that had been contested for some time. Written by
Sonya Roberts <email@example.com>
Sir Edward Grey (Ralph Richardson) is shown early in the film being accompanied by his wife, described in the credits as Lady Pamela Grey. In fact, Grey did not marry Pamela (nee Wyndham, and the widow of Lord Glenconer) until 1922. See more »
[to a stretcher case with a bandaged head]
Don't worry. We'll soon have you back at the front.
See more »
Opening credits prologue: The principal statements made by the historical characters in this film are based on documentary evidence and the words of the songs are those sung by the troops during the First World War See more »
It is a mystery to me why this film isn't on everybody's top ten films listing. It is truly a masterpiece of acting and direction, and without doubt the best anti-war film I have ever seen. Yet it was never released on video, and it took over 20 years of waiting to see it repeated on television and tape it for my collection.
It is all the more telling for its simplicity - none of the many great actors taking part delivers a weighty pronouncement on the evils - or otherwise - of war; it is enough to see the awful toll posted on the cricket scoreboard that keeps the daily tally of dead. The ordinariness of the Smith family, who lose every last one of their young men to the conflict, the cheerful patriotism of the proud families waving their loved ones off to war, and the stupid banalities of the officers who daily send their men out to be killed only serve to highlight the absolute futility and waste of WWI and all the wars that followed.
Scenes of upper class twits at play while their servants are dying to preserve their privileges; the officers' ball where military leaders try to score points off each other, concerned only with protocol and promotion; and the brilliant black humor of the outdoor church service are juxtaposed with scenes from the trenches as we watch the young men die one by one, all the more harrowing for their cheeky humor and fatalism.
Why this brilliant film has been allowed to sink without trace is baffling; I first saw it in the early seventies, and today it still has the same impact. And sadly, it is just as relevant now as it was then - a testimony to our inability to learn from our mistakes.
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