In October 1854 a brigade of British cavalry launched a near-suicidal assault against Russian troops at Balaclava in the Crimea and was immortalised in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Tony Richardson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) is a bit of a hybrid being part satire, part social commentary and part actioner but it is, nevertheless, an intriguing piece of British cinema boasting a stellar cast of talent; Sir John Gielgud as Lord Raglan, the befuddled aristocratic commander; Trevor Howard as the pompous glory hunting popinjay, Lord Cardigan; the excellent Harry Andrews, all jutting bottom jaw and utter inflexibility as the headstrong Lord Lucan; while David Hemmings plays the idealistic Captain Nolan.
It’s a film that portrays the elitist officer class as privileged idiots detached and immune to the impact of their decisions on ordinary men. Biased and romanticised much of its satire is lost due to its ambling pace but as a costume spectacle it is a winner and the climactic charge conveys the futility of the action well. If you are looking for Errol Flynn-style derring-do you’ll be disappointed but as an epitaph to a time when Britain had a vibrant film industry, this picture still stands tall. Set your PVR if you don’t fancy staying up.
The Charge of the Light Brigade is on Movies4Men at 9pm