Sunday, April 12, 2009

Charge of the Light Brigade

I just finished watching the 1968 film production "Charge of the Light Brigade", directed by Tony Richardson. Beautifully filmed, it's a very odd movie, and of course with it's strongly anti-war sentiment it's bloody and shows battle to be ugly business. Unfortunately it's also very disjointed and quite hard to follow. I actually know what is supposed to happen and when, but even then it's hard to figure out just who is who and doing what and why. Small wonder then that the critics, who Richardson had blasted as "intellectual eunuchs", panned the film. But the worst of the travesties committed by Richardson in this film was that he insisted, for "creative purposes", to fly in the face of all of his advisers and put ALL of the British Light Cavalry, not just the 11th Hussars, in "Cherry Pickers" or "Cherry Bums" trousers. The 11th Hussars were the only regiment in the British Army with crimson trousers (everyone else wore blue), and thus really stood out in a crowd. But for whatever "creative" reason Richardson had, he insisted that ALL of the British Light Cavalry be so attired. Didn't make the members of any of the other regiments who had supported the making of the film very happy, either. Oh well. Interesting film to watch, even though it's often painful at times to endure.

The reason for my watching it is that I just picked up a new book on the subject, entitled "Into the Valley of Death: The Cavalry Division at Balaklava 1854" by none other than John Mollo (with his brother Boris), the gentlemen who had done so much of the research on the uniforms worn by the British forces at the time. So the research did at least result in a fascinating book, well illustrated not only with original paintings and photographs but also modern interpretations of the uniforms as well. Of note are the many sketches drawn on the spot by the French General Vanson, now housed in the musée de l'armée in Paris. Those sketches themselves are worth the price of the book, actually.

At any rate, John Mollo does rant a bit about Tony Richardson's handling of things in his forward, which definitely made me want to watch the film. Alas, though beautiful, it is disappointing in the end. Too bad, it had huge potential.

On the other hand, it has enthused me further to complete my own studies on the dress and accoutrements of British Hussars of the period. So on I go, delving further and further into the quicksand of research, from which hopefully I shall emerge eventually not only unscathed but fully dressed, armed and accoutred as a Serjeant of the 15th (King's) Light Dragoons (Hussars) in a few month's time!