Fact-based historical drama about the Irish farmer rebellion against the landed and privileged class. In 1880, prominent Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell, President of the Irish Land League which represented tenants' rights, held a public speech against the landlords. In his fiery speech, Parnell urged shunning the landlords rather than killing them. One of the worst landlords, Captain Charles Boycott, lived in County Mayo and charged extortionate rents from his tenants and sharecroppers. In case of late payment, Captain Boycott forcibly evicted his tenants using the constabulary force or the army. Farmer Hugh Davin advocated the use of force rather than the passive resistance advocated by Irish politician Parnell. However, Parnell pertinently commented that use of force against the landlords will invite reprisals from the part of the army and the police. In the end, the farmers and those already evicted from their homes decide to give Parnell's idea a try. As part of their ...Written by
A year earlier Frank Launder directed the excellent 'I see a dark stranger' which concerns an Irish woman with a visceral loathing of the English.
His next film, although sympathetic towards the downtrodden Catholic peasantry, does not go so far as to point the finger at the complacent English establishment or the curse of Anglo-Irish 'absent landlords' but lays the blame solely at the door of one unscrupulous land agent, Captain Boycott.
He is played by the superlative Cecil Parker. The character is arrogant, bigoted and blinkered, as were so many of his ilk but this actor's persona makes him far more of a buffoon than an outright villian whilst the character of land-leaguer McGinty played by Noel Purcell is nothing less than a blood-lusting rabble rouser.
The voice of reason is supplied by the character of charismatic leading man Stewart Granger as Hugh Davin, whose name is perhaps suggested by that of Michael Davitt, noted land-leaguer and republican. He is inspired by a speech of Charles Stuart Parnell, a strong 'cameo' from Robert Donat who has the beard but not a trace of an Irish accent(!) who preaches the effectiveness of non-violent resistance. Davin is assisted in this by the wily Father McKeogh, played with his customary eccentricity by scene-stealer Alistair Sim.
The obligatory love interest is supplied by Kathleen Ryan but it is lacklustre and inclined to get in the way, especially as the chemistry between her and Granger is non-existent.
The eviction scenes are visceral and the sub-plot of Davin's racehorse is a delightful and much-needed diversion.
All-in all Launder has struck a good balance here and has avoided Gaelic 'quaintness'. The film is aided by full-blooded performances, the sweeping Irish landscape and a splendid score by William Alwyn.
Were this film to be made now there would be a lot of axe-grinding recriminations but we hardly need reminding of the terrible injustices committed and the lasting hatreds they created.
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