(Review originally written at 24 June 2006)

The movie starts of as your average period drama with a love triangle and formulaic, typical '30's dramatic moments. However about halve way through the movie its story takes a turn and turns into a delicious action filled epic, with the charge of the light brigade at the ending as the icing on the cake.

I watched this film without really knowing what to expect of it. I knew Errol Flynn was in it, so I expected an adventurous movie with lots of memorable action sequence. The movie started of just like Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor", with a love triangle story between the Errol Flynn character, his brother played by Patric Knowles and Olivia de Havilland. Flynn and de Havilland surely are one of the best screen couples of all time, so those moments are still better and more enjoyable than your average '30's love filled drama. But just like "Pearl Harbor" the best moments of the movie are in the second part, in the action sequences. The movie takes epic proportions in its action sequences, which are big and spectacularly brought to the screen. It makes the first part of the movie feel kind of obsolete and yes, it is definitely true that you can basically skip the whole first part of the movie, with the exceptions of a few sequences maybe, which are important for the development of the story and certain characters.

The story itself is quite fascinating, with the exception of the whole love triangle thing of course. It's based on true events, although the movie takes lots of liberties with the story but this really does the movie no harm. It doesn't make the actions of the light brigade seem any less noble or heroic, so the movie does the true story justice in my opinion. The several plot lines of the story are well developed in the story. I especially like the sequences with the political game between Surat Khan and the Russians with the British. There are some subtle sequences with some very well written and clever dialog. The drama in the movie is also surprisingly heavy. When you watch an Errol Flynn action flick you expect to see some lighthearted fun action sequences but in this movie the action is heavy, powerful and dramatic.

The cast is great! Errol Flynn is in his element as the popular and noble gentleman Maj. Geoffrey Vickers. Olivia de Havilland is also fine as always and it also was great to see David Niven in one of his first roles before he received real fame as an actor. It's amazing to see that he basically already looked the same in this movie as he did in movies that were made 40 years later. His role is quite small and not really significant but his presence is notable. Also really great was C. Henry Gordon as the cold-hearted villain Surat Khan, which starts of like a much warmer character. As the movie progresses he becomes more and more ruthless and he turns into almost a James Bond like villain, which works actually very well for such an adventurous action filled epic like this movie.

Based purely on all those things I just mentioned I would had rated this movie an 7 out of 10. But then came the ending...

Quite honestly, I was blown away by the ending. I simply did not expected to see such a large scale, complex action sequence in a 1936 movie. The charge in which literally hundreds of cavalry men, attack a Russian stronghold which is supported with numerous cannons is impressive to say the very least. Seeing all those hundreds of cavalry men, with Errol Flynn of course in front, riding up through the valley of death to an almost certain doom is extremely powerful. These are not CGI horses like for most part was the cast in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this is the real thing! Horses and men flying around by the firing cannons and Errol's friends dying around him, as they come more and more closer to the Russians and Surat Khan. It such a arousing and spectacular filmed sequence that it still holds up by todays standards. Unfortunately also hundreds of horses and one stunt person got killed during the filming of the end charge. But to be honest, 1 person seems so few when you look at that sequences. I mean, men are flying and dropping from their horses like puppets, while horses ride around them within close range!

A classic epic. See this movie, if already alone for the unforgettable, arousing end charge of the light brigade.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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