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Culloden (1964)

A reconstruction of the Battle of Culloden, the last battle to take place on British soil, as if modern TV cameras were present.


Peter Watkins


Peter Watkins




Uncredited cast:
Tony Cosgrove Tony Cosgrove ... Lt. Ward / Field Interviewer (uncredited)
Olivier Espitalier-Noel Olivier Espitalier-Noel ... Prince Charles Edward Stuart (uncredited)
Don Fairservice Don Fairservice ... English Officer (uncredited)
George McBean George McBean ... Alexander McDonald (uncredited)
Robert Oates Robert Oates ... Pvt. Alexander Laing (uncredited)
Patrick Watkins Patrick Watkins ... Crying Baby (uncredited)
Peter Watkins Peter Watkins ... Field Interviewer (uncredited)


A reconstruction of the Battle of Culloden, the last battle to take place on British soil, as if modern TV cameras were present.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | War


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User Reviews

A Complex Conflict Viewed Through 20th Century Eyes
4 April 2014 | by Theo RobertsonSee all my reviews

For some ridiculous reason the battle of Culloden is often thought of as a battle between Scotland and England . As a young Scottish schoolboy I always thought of it as a battle between the Catholic Jacobite Highlanders wanting to put a Catholic Prince on the British throne with the Hanoverian British wanting to keep a Protestant King . As the years went by I found this wasn't the case since the majority of Highlanders were Episicopalian and the majority of the British forces at the battle were Anglicans , two vaguely Protestant religions that possibly owe a lot more to Catholic tradition than they'd be willing to admit . Certainly the established Church Of Scotland which is Presbyterian would describe both religions as " Anglo-Catholic " while some more extreme Presbyterians would describe them as " heretics " . Regardless of this what Peter Watkins legendary ground breaking docu-drama does is show the massive complexity and sometimes inherent contradictions that involved the conflict between the forces of the Jacobites and Hanoverian and does this brilliantly . This is the one of the few things that can be described as brilliantly done

Seconds in to the film were shown an advance guard of red coats described as " An advance battalion of an English government army of nine thousand men " Hmmm . Is it not a " British " army ? . As I said it does later point out that the Hanoverians are indeed British but it does mix British and English in a euphemistic manner . For example a Jacobite rebel " is found guilty in an English court " when perhaps the correct phrasing might have been " A court in England " which has an entirely different meaning . . That said this is an absolute eye opener who thinks the Jacobite rebellion was Scotland against England . The Jacobites are a coalition of Highland clans , Irish mercenaries and the occasional deserter whose motive is to put a Catholic on the British throne . This Catholic Prince being even less British than the Germanic Hanoverian King

" Hey Theo why would anyone want to do that ? It sounds like Hitler versus Stalin . Surely democratic secular government is the only cause worth fighting for ? "

I totally agree and this is the major failing of CULLODEN - it tends to view the mid 18th Century through 20th Century eyes . There's an obvious agenda of viewing the actions by the British on the Highlanders at the battle and afterwards as being war crimes and atrocities on a par with the holocaust . Looking on this in 21st Century zeitgeist it might be but to be totally amoral and therefore truthful it was no different from what was going on in the rest of the world . There was no such thing as democracy , the Geneva Convention or human rights therefore life in general was short , bloody and brutal and wars reflected this . Being directed by Peter Watkins we're getting an absolute sledge hammer approach to everything so much so the solemn and dead pan tone becomes unintentionally funny .. It's almost like the armies of both sides are Baldrick clones led by the Blackadders . I also instinctively feel that some of the background of the characters be taken with a large pinch of salt:

" Patrick Coleman . Three days a go a sergeant , two days ago 800 lashes for looting today a private "

What he got 800 lashes two days ago and he's still able to march in to battle ? What he get lashed with ? A feather ? I'm calling BS on that one . We also have a private called William Roache " Two years pay wouldn't buy the wig and hat of the officer marching in front of him " so it shows you how expensive wigs and hats were back then , especially when you spent your money on a defence lawyer . We also have a female character called " Annie Walker " so I kept expecting someone to say " Pass the ammunition and a packet of crisps please Mrs Walker "

Watkins also has an irritating directorial technique of constantly shooting scenes in extreme close up . It might work during the pseudo interview scenes but not during the battle scenes which gives the impression that there's a grand total of six extras taking part in the battle which we're constantly told in composed of 5,000 Jacobites and 9,000 Hanoverians but I guess that's possibly down to the lack of budget so I shouldn't be too critical and does deserve some credit since we get a good performance out of William Roach . I doubt if there's a connection between the Duke Of Cumberland being a brutal tyrant and getting 15 grand a year as this film insinuates

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English | Scottish Gaelic

Release Date:

24 May 1968 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Battle of Culloden See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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