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Winstanley (1976)

 -  Drama  -  3 August 1979 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 190 users  
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Title: Winstanley (1976)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Miles Halliwell ...
Terry Higgins ...
Phil Oliver ...
David Bramley ...
Alison Halliwell ...
Dawson France ...
Bill Petch ...
Barry Shaw ...
Sid Rawle ...
George Hawkins ...
Stanley Reed ...
Philip Stearns ...
Flora Skrine ...
George Barratt


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Release Date:

3 August 1979 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Referenced in It Happened Here Again (1976) See more »


Alexander Nevsky
Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Played by The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

A very worthy Winstanley
1 February 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Here's the synopsis bit: in the political and social ferment following the English Civil War a pamphlet called The New Law of Righteousness, was published by Gerrard Winstanley advocating a form of Christian Communism. He set up a self-sufficient commune of "Diggers" to claim back common land for the poor and dispossessed. Which didn't please the loutish locals, or the rich landlords, and especially not pious parson Platt. Cue yobbish raids on the peace-abiding commune; the humble diggers frequently beaten up, their simple settlement smashed, their small straw-bale houses burnt down.

The film was made over a period of 6/7 years on a shoe-string with mostly amateur actors picked more on authentic look (i.e bad teeth) than credible acting ability. I've noticed that the best way to direct a non- professional cast seems to be to not give them much dialogue to say or complicated feelings to emote; just get them accentuating how they normally look and ordinarily are – which in this case meant lots of dirty plaintive faces suffering misery-inducing hardship, while wearing dopey hobbit hats.

Winstanley is played by Mike Halliwell – a teacher – who, when sermonising to his illiterate peasant flock, sounded like he was tutoring posh kids at a public school; he's earnest enough (brow is set firmly to furrowed) but not entirely convincing; too nice and polite, too 20th century well-mannered – to cut it as a rough hewn 17th century charismatic visionary.

Another 20th century incursion – altho this one seemed deliberate – was the involvement of real life "diggers": Sid Rawle's bunch of anarchic 70′s squatters recast as 17th century hippy Ranters; they monkey mad- eyed and butt-naked around the camp. Winstanley's sober (True) Levellers seemed by comparison, tame – not free-spirited, but merely meekly subservient – passively yoking themselves to yet another compliant form of pious Bible puritanism.

Considering this film was more or less made for nothing it looks great; the black and white cinematography seems to crisply authenticate all the mud and misery; rain dripped off bare branches, dripping onto blank faces, squalling over sodden pixie hovels (why did they build their dwellings so small i wonder); the sooty smoke and crackle of the campfire so tangible i was warming my hands on the laptop screen.

This film – along with Bill Douglas's Comrades – would agitate any aspiring lefty activists. I felt leftily activated enough to check out Winstanley, Sid Rawle, The Ranters, The Levellers, etc on Google. I didn't go as far as Christian Communism though. That looked a bit too back breakingly dull for me.

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