In the poor, desolate northern provinces of the mountainous feudal Sunni kingdom of Afghanistan (before the Soviet-engineered republican revolutions), the status of the proud men and their ... See full summary »
People in a small German village in the last valley to remain untouched by the devastating Thirty Years' War try to exist in peace with a group of soldiers occupying the valley.Written by
George MacDonald Fraser, a screenwriter of historical and adventure stories, who, during the 1970s, was hired to write an adapted screenplay of James Clavell's Tai-Pan (1986) novel, which was not produced, once said of this movie: "The plot left me bewildered - in fact the whole bloody business is probably an excellent microcosm of the Thirty Years' War, with no clear picture of what is happening, and half the cast ending up dead to no purpose. To that extent, it must be rated a successful film . . . As a drama, The Last Valley (1971) is not remarkable; as a reminder of what happened in Central Europe, 1618 to 1648, and shaped the future of Germany, it reads an interesting lesson . . . Michael Caine . . . gives one of his best performances as the hard-bitten mercenary Captain, nicely complemented by Omar Sharif, as the personification of reason". See more »
From the Captain's reference to the sack of Magdeburg being twelve years in the past, it follows that he and his men leave the valley in the spring of 1644. He states his intention to join the army of Prince Bernard of Saxe-Weimar - but Saxe-Weimar died in 1639. See more »
This is a movie made during a time when writers, novelists, like Clavell and Crichton, were allowed to make their own films. What you have are literate, probing plots and stories, sometimes failed by low budgets or
lack of experience. With LAST VALLEY, there's an otherworldly quality to Clavell's work, steepled in strict historical fact; Clavell postulates a fantasy valley where humans live hidden from the brutality and horror of war; they are genetic angels, of a sort, but those in control are wise to the ways of a world ruled by knife. A band of soldiers, lacking a country or
home to call their home, caught in the hurricane of this war, stumble into a seeming Elysian Fields and begin to infect it with pragmatic survival and certain doom. The ways of human beings as a mass descend on the slight-populated community.
People criticize the film as dark, equating realism. Fact is, Clavell shows a contrast between the world Michael Caine, as the Captain, knows and is scarred by, and the hidden land in which beautiful women and children are protected, fed and safe. Caine's Captain has been a wanton butcher in the war, the murderer of women and children. Yet he only understands the quality of this paradise after he has nearly destroyed it.
The most telling sequences are those in which these men from outside the hidden land, knowing the damage they are causing to this one place where beautiful women can live unraped and men as equals, are forced to leave. The women in love with them wish to accompany them into the horror the men know. Caine, in particular, leaves his lover under a false sense of security, believing she will be safe. His heart-breaking understanding of this woman's loyalty to him, bred in her by a hidden land where love can be expressed devoid of force and tragedy, comes only in the end; his last touch with this lover is with a glove made of armor, outfitted for the killing he will do once he leaves the valley and rejoins the war.
There is probably the great performance of Caine's career up on screen in this film. Outside of GET CARTER, you'll never see Caine inhabit a role more fully. Even if the scope of the story gets away from Clavell at the end, and could have benefitted from the expanded format of SHOGUN say, this is a big-time view of a great actor in Caine and a literate script from Clavell that will, without doubt, remain fixed in the mind.
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