|Index||8 reviews in total|
I saw this film on late-night TV in the 1970's, a few years after doing a tour in Vietnam as a 20-year-old GI in the US Army. Even though it's a different time and a different war, I really thought "The Virgin Soldiers" captured a lot of the feeling of a young, western soldier serving in a confusing, brutal, sometimes even humorous Asian war zone. One of the most realistic things was, these guys were young, like most soldiers in most wars, kind of scared, and having to face the reality of shooting the guy in the other uniform before he shoots you. And I definitely recognized a fair number of the characters, especially the sergeants. War movies often stereotype or simplify the NCO's. In reality, and in this movie, some of them are bullies, some are flat-out cowards, and some are competent, quietly heroic people who do their best to keep their troops alive in the combat zone. War is not a good thing, but how people cope (or don't cope) with it will always be a fascinating topic. I highly recommend this film...wish it was on tape or DVD.
I remember first seeing this as a ten year old in the mid 1970s and being
very confused , you see I was under the impression that this was going to be
a war film , but was disappointed there wasn`t much fighting in it . I was
also utterly confused by the tone of the film as there was bits that I took
to be funny but didn`t make me laugh
I did see THE VIRGIN SOLDIERS a couple of more times when I was much older and understood it better , this is a black comedy , a very black one about the exploits of private Briggs a young soldier doing his national service out in Malaya during the state of emergency in the early 1950s and I guess it`s a fairly good indication of what life was like for a great number of young lads inducted into the British army at the time . If the film has a problem being viewed today it`s down to the fact that it`s difficult not to judge it against Vietnam war films like PLATOON ( Both films feature a plot between two sergeants who hate one another ) and FULL METAL JACKET ( Another black comedy dealing with a conflict in the far east ) , but THE VIRGIN SOLDIERS should be judged on its own merits . I found it as an adult both funny and scathing
Not a normal war movie, this is a well acted study about the unpredictable fortunes of life. A British Army private in Singapore during the Malaysian uprising experiences the boredom of garrison duty, the search for sex and love, and finally the terror of combat. The movie has many interesting twists and turns that illustrate the random quality of luck. The private's girlfriend finally decides to surrender her virginity - only mistakenly offers it to the wrong soldier! Soldiers die accidently, without reason. And when the private panics, and flees combat, he ends up becoming a hero! At the end of the movie the private paraphrases his discoveries - "That's life, isn't it".
As a piece of semi-biographical history of recent colonial history in
Malaya soon after World War II, you could probably do much, much worse
than to see this rollicking black comedy. But, this is not a war story
to be compared with Platoon (1986) and such like: this a young man's
story where war, although present, is something to be avoided, at all
The film is distinctive for a number of reasons: it deals with a politically painful episode in British history the communist insurgency in Malaya; it was shot on location Singapore and Malaysia barely ten years after the British departed en masse; it has a bevy of experienced actors who fill the roles of tight-lipped colonials with flair and even brilliance; it was fun to spot three bit players who went on to stardom later in life (read through the full cast list); and, above all, it's a very personal story about a young man (Hywel Bennett as Pvt. Brigg) and his coming of age while serving as a National Service conscript.
Having served, myself, in the Australian colonial administration in Papua-New Guinea in the early 1960s, I can assure viewers that much of what you see in this movie is more or less what I experienced and observed where I was. And, for what it's worth, I can also relate to Pvt. Brigg's story in many ways...
In a nutshell, Brigg is enamored by the daughter (Phillipa played by Lynn Redgrave) of RSM Raskin (Nigel Patrick, in a standout performance). But, Brigg is also very much interested in a local prostitute, Juicy Lucy (the sublimely effervescent Tsai Chin), mostly as a means to lose his virginity. Phillipa, for her part, is also determined to lose her virginity to whomever largely as a response to her father's disparaging comments about her sexual orientation. In the wings, so to speak, there is Top Sergeant Driscoll (the ever-so-suave Nigel Davenport), always ready to come to the aid of a female in, er, distress. How the shenanigans of that quartet pan out forms the substance of Brigg's story a deliciously ironic narrative that guarantees viewer satisfaction.
As a backdrop to that story, the gradual deterioration of British rule intrudes (riots, communist insurgents, a derailed train, attack and counter-attack) to show (mostly comedic) vignettes of many other characters who form the group of service men within which Brigg serves. For example, I was almost helpless with laughter as I watched the inevitable, drunken deterioration of the men and women at the local mess hall dance: déjà vu, and then some. Be sure to watch and listen carefully as officers carefully navigate the hall, ignoring and stepping over drunken, supine revelers with skill as they discuss coming action. And, quite daring for the times, the antics of two gay recruits throughout this film is a continual comedic delight.
The full color photography captures the tropics perfectly; the dialog is excellent; the action scenes and editing more than adequate; the acting is, for me, spot on and redolent of real people I mixed with, long ago; and even the bold, loud marching sound track suited the story.
If you're getting on in years, like myself, then you'll relate to those times depicted with ease, I would think; if you're young and ready to change the world, see how these young men did it sixty years ago. Either way, this is a movie I recommend highly for young and old adults alike.
Give this one a good, solid eight, for sure.
September 30, 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mother and daughter, Rachel Kempson and Lynn Redgrave, play mother and
daughter in Virgin Soldiers, a tale about a group of young British
soldiers in Malaysia doing their national service at the time of the
Communist rebellion there. The Virgin Soldiers are seen through the
eyes of Hywel Bennett who narrates the film.
His crowd are not World War II veterans, they grew up during the war and the blitz and are doing the national service in the hopes they'll never have to do any real fighting. In fact going into battle with this lot worries the hell out of the veteran British army people, the career soldiers such as Nigel Patrick the sergeant major of the regiment who Kempson is married to.
But in addition to worrying about the quality of his troops, Patrick is worried about his daughter's aloofness from the opposite sex. Her frigid behavior has him concerned so much so he commands her to attend a regimental dance.
She meets Bennett there, but their inexperience in these matters lead to a disaster. Never mind both of them get over the hump so to speak with another sergeant Nigel Davenport for her and the best whore in Singapore Juicy Lucy played by Tsai Chin.
In the meantime the Communist guerrillas have come out of the back country and are making some real war on the British. The troops get battle tested and of course some don't make it. Check out the death of Christopher Timothy, a really tragic occurrence, a needless death of an untrained man in a bad situation.
In the year of Stonewall in the USA, the British cinema acknowledged the presence of gay people in their armed services. Gregory Phillips and Wayne Sleep find each other, in fact we know about them within the first 10 minutes of the film. Funny thing is that it doesn't particularly bother their fellow king and country volunteers and the brass know they have to make due with what they have and can't worry about whom they kanoodle with.
Virgin Soldiers is a good film, remarkably funny and sad at the same time. You're not sure how you should feel and I can tell you that you will feel both at the same time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 'Virgin Soldiers' movie was quite a frank piece of theatre. It
contained all of the usual pathos of the book, but seemed to go more
for a 'straight' piece of entertainment rather than a comedy.
Nigel Davenport carries a very strong character, enduing his roles with genuine gravitas. Here, he brings a sense of military authority to the often chaotic incursions of the far-east. By the end of the second-world-war, Britain was a spent Imperial force. This was obvious to ordinary squaddies long before it dawned upon the high command. Daveport's jaded but determined character here is perfectly believable as the conscientious sergeant looking-out for his green recruits. In fact, I find the movie far more plausible than many of the American Vietnam war movies, but that may be just a cultural interpretation thing.
The original novels were a lot more bawdy and a great deal funnier than the events depicted in the movie. In fact, I think 'Onward Virgin Soldiers' is still one of the funniest books I have ever read. Some of the narrative had me in stitches.
Watch the movie, by all means. But read the books as well.
Having seen this again i must say it gets better. I view it from the perspective of a soldier serving in Malaya, as it was at the time, in the mid-1950's the period in which the film is set. So much of the behaviour is very true to the real thing. In fact i almost see it as a commentary on army life at the time. The plot is almost credible , you would have to have been there. The 'atmosphere' of the period and place is captured in the b+w format. If anyone wants to know what army life was like in mid 1950's Malaya then this film will tell you more than any academic study. It certainly reflects the peculiar fun and horrors of National Service life. The plot thins towards the end but what precedes it makes viewing worth while.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Author Leslie Thomas had a massive selling book in the 1960s with The
Virgin Soldiers, a semi-autobiographical recounting of some of his
experiences as a conscripted soldier posted unwillingly to the Far East
to carry out his National Service. Like all real-life experiences,
there was a mixture of the happy and sad, the funny and tragic. And the
title served triple duty - it was provocative (and therefore good for
sales), it was accurate (and the losing of that virginity forms one of
the episodes), and it was metaphorical (for the events of the book also
represent a coming of age, a rite of passage for the young conscripts).
Thomas was known at the time primarily as a comic novelist and it is right that the film, based solidly on his book and featuring some wonderful performances from young British actors (particular Hywel Bennett in the lead), is also often very funny. But there is also great depth to it, and it is well worth a visit. As is the book.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|